Friday, June 14 – Kiss the Blarney Stone – Not

Today was our last port in Ireland and a short day. We didn’t arrive until 11:00 and all aboard was 5:30. We were able get up later, have a coffee from the Coffee Bar, and have a nice breakfast in the main dining room. All good.

Today we were meeting the group in the Ocean Bar at 11:00 for a tour that would take us to the Blarney Castle and grounds in Cork.

Cobh (formerly known as Queenstown) was a major embarkation port for men, women and children who were deported to penal colonies such as Australia.  Later, the town was the departure point for 2.5 million of the six million Irish people who emigrated to North America between 1848 and 1950. On 11 April 1912, it was the final port of call for the RMS Titanic before she set out across the Atlantic on the last leg of her maiden voyage. Some stories suggest that a Titanic crew member, John Coffey, a native of Cobh, left the ship at this time, thereby saving his life.  But, 123 passengers boarded at Cobh, with only 44 surviving the sinking. Today, it is home to Ireland’s only dedicated cruise terminal.

Because it is a cruise ship terminal and not an industrial terminal, we were allowed to walk off the ship, through the terminal, and out of the gates. Took a few minutes but we finally saw our guide holding a sign with our tour name. His name was Jerry and he had a very nice mini-bus for today.

Unlike the other two guides, Jerry talked almost non-stop giving us information about the area and answering questions. He had a different accent from other parts of Ireland. I thought he sounded like a leprechaun would sound. Very lilting.

The sun was out when we got to the Castle. We only had 2 hours here to explore the Castle, its grounds, and the small village. We knew the line to kiss the Blarney stone was too long for us to do it and I would not have done it even if I could have had the time.

According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with great eloquence or skill at flattery. The stone was set into a tower of the castle in 1446.

So you want to kiss the stone? First, you have to wait in line and then when you get to the front, start climbing 127 steps to reach the top. Then, with the help of an attendant you have to lie on your back with the edge of the platform mid-way in your back, 100 ft above the ground. You have to keep bending your back and neck to reach the iron bars next to the stone. Once you have grasped the bars, now you can kiss the stone. The attendant is supposed to have wiped the stone with disinfectant, and you can wear chap stick as a barrier. People have kissed the stone since the 1800’s. Just gross.

The line to the Blarney Castle looked long too so we just decided to concentrate on the grounds which had a lot of beautiful flowers and plants and then go across the street to the town. We admired the regular gardens and then decided to check out the Poison Garden. Back in the day, the garden would have been called the “physics garden” and the plants featured might have been used for medicinal purposes (or to get rid of your enemy). I recognized the mandrake which was featured in several Harry Potter books and films – I didn’t hear any roots screaming though.

We walked over to the town and looked through the Blarney Woolen Mill store. There actually was a mill that started in 1823 but it shut its doors in 1973. It re-opened as a store-only in 1975.

Once everyone arrived back at the mini-bus, we drove to the town of Kinsale. Again, you could either shop or eat. Chuck and I chose to eat. It was raining now and pretty hard so we made our way as fast as we could to a pub that Jerry recommended. Another couple came too but the rest decided to shop and/or take pictures of the town.

It was crowded but the service was quick. What did we have? Fish chowder and brown bread, of course. It was good but not as good as the other places. However, it was thick and hot and filled me up.

Kinsale is a pretty town and is said to be popular with the yachting crowd. We did see a number of high-end boats docked near where the bus parked. We also got to take a few pictures of what remains of Charles Fort. It and James Fort guarded the narrow sea entrance to Kinsale. Kinsale also begins/ends the Wild Atlantic Way at the southern-most tip.

Once we were back on the bus, we made our way back to Cobh. We had time for a short photo stop at Saint Colman’s Cathedral which was celebrating its 100th anniversary. I thought it was the prettiest Cathedral we have seen all trip.

Construction started on this Cathedral in 1868 but it was not completely finished and consecrated until 1919. Its structure features a .062-mile spire and a tower that contains a 42-bell carillon, the largest in Ireland. We were lucky to get to hear it play at the top of the hour.

Jerry said that you cannot name your Church a Cathedral unless the Bishop lives in the same town. He pointed out the current Catholic Bishop’s house which was across the street from the Cathedral. It was a very large house.

It was time to get back to the ship. The last photo I was able to get was that of the statue of Annie Moore and her brothers. She is said to be the first person to be processed through the newly opened federal immigration office at Ellis Island in New York. She travelled to America on the ship Nevada in 1892. Her brothers, Anthony and Philip, who journeyed with her, had just turned 15 and 12.

Tonight was the last formal night and I just didn’t know if I was up to getting fixed up for the gala meal. Checked the menu and found out one of the choices for the main course would be steak and a lobster tail. Okay, I’ll put on my dress, and fix my make-up and hair. Doesn’t take much to twist my arm.

We played trivia with another couple. Did Ok but still didn’t win. Got a cute HAL lapel pin though.

It was a very good meal. I’m glad I went to the trouble. Tonight’s show was featuring the Prinsendam dancers which had been delayed when the waves were high. We didn’t go.

We had to turn in our disembarkation papers today. We also made a deposit on a future cruise. We didn’t have to specify a certain cruise. The deposit is good for 4 years. We already have 2 future cruises booked but I’m sure they won’t be the last ones with Holland America.

Tomorrow is St. Peter’s Port, Guernsey. We don’t arrive until noon but we stay until 9:00 pm. It is another tender port. Yippee.

Tonight’s towel animal is a swan.

Cork Trivia –

The first potato in Ireland was planted here by Sir Walter Raleigh, near his home in Youghal, Cork, around 1588.

The first factory that Ford Motor Company built outside of America was in Cork, where owner Henry Ford’s ancestors had lived.

Someone getting ready to kiss the stone.

Author: mmmtravelmemories

A retired college administrator who loves to travel. I write to remember the experiences and, I hope, to inspire others to make their own travel memories.

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