Irish Heritage Tour As Seen Through the Eyes of a Student: Day 7

The Honors Program just completed its Irish Heritage Tour, where twenty-one students and two staff members traveled to the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland from May 8th through the 19th. We have asked a number of students to blog about the journey, so each day is written from the perspective of a different student or staff member.  Today's post was written by Cillian Donahue, an Honors Program freshman majoring in Forensic Biology and Toxicology.  We hope you enjoy reading about our journey!

The Rock of Cashel
Day 7: Sunday, May 14th

Following the very enjoyable and eventful day exploring the Ring of Kerry, spirits were high as we began to make our way back to Dublin. The itinerary for today included stopping at Blarney Castle and the Rock of Cashel, which many were excited for since castles are an iconic and picturesque element of Ireland. We boarded the bus in Killarney and prepared to depart for our castle-filled day.

Students exploring Blarney Castle
At Blarney Castle, we were given 3 hours to explore the grounds. We thought at first that we would be bored during this long time, but we all found that the three hours passed quickly because there was so much to see. Most groups headed straight for the castle since that is where the legendary Blarney Stone lies. The Blarney Stone is really a very large stone attached to Blarney Castle, and legend tells us that those who kiss the stone will be blessed with the gift of gab. The castle is extremely tall and narrow, which means getting to the top of the castle to kiss the stone involves a tall, winding staircase. The stairs are narrow and slightly scary, however it is all worth it when you get to the top.

A view from Blarney Castle
The view from the top of the castle is breathtaking as you can see the beautiful grounds the castle is settled on. The line to kiss the Blarney Stone moves fast, especially considering what you have to do. In order to kiss the stone, you must lay on your back, grab two metal handles fastened to the castle specifically for this purpose, and lean back underneath and out of the castle while a worker holds your torso. It's not for the faint of heart, but it is a fun tradition and if you're brave enough to look down while hanging over the edge, the view is pretty spectacular.
Alex is brave enough to lean back and out to kiss the Blarney Stone
After kissing the stone, my small group decided to wander the grounds. The castle is surrounded by well-manicured gardens and forest areas which are indescribably gorgeous. When walking through these scenic areas, beautiful flowers, trees, and waterfalls became points of interest. When looking at the waterfalls, you could see that the ground was covered in loose change so we all pulled out some euros and partook as well. There was even a Poison Garden where every plant was poisonous to humans in some way! After our walk, we went to the small cafe on the grounds to have lunch. We were quickly surrounded by an entire family of birds, which some of the boys in our group had great fun feeding.
There were many hidden gems on the grounds of Blarney Castle
After Blarney Castle, we headed to the Rock of Cashel. The Rock of Cashel is a large, open style castle. It was originally built as the seat of the kings of Muenster for several hundred years and the buildings date back to the 12th and 13th century. The castle is seated on top of a hill that overlooks green plains that many imagine when they think of Ireland.

The original St. Patrick's cross, now kept inside to protect it from further weather damage.
Also surrounding the castle is a small cemetery with original headstones which provides a cool and eerie experience. There is also St. Patrick’s Cross, which has an urban legend surrounding it. Supposedly, if you can wrap your arms around the width of the cross, you will never experience another hangover from drinking. As you can imagine, many people were trying to achieve this victory.
Cemetery on the hillside near the Rock of Cashel

When we were done exploring the castle and the grounds, we headed back to Dublin. Our trip initially began in Dublin so it was nice to return to a familiar spot. A group of us tried to get dinner at The Brazen Head, which is the oldest pub in Dublin, however there were no tables available. Instead, we headed to another pub nearby and were able to enjoy dinner there. Following dinner, we took a walk towards the River Liffey, which was nice since the bridges crossing the river are often lit up with lights at night. After some scenic pictures of the river and town, we headed back to the hotel so we could get some sleep and prepare for another fun day in Dublin.

Ha'Penny Bridge over the River Liffey at night


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