I stayed at the best hostel the other night. I stayed in a castle. With ghosts. And secret passageways. AND PUPPIES!!! Foulksrath Castle is just outside of Kilkenny, it was built in 1320 and modified in 1525. Since then its basically remained the same with very few modifications (although I’m happy to note that bathrooms and heating were two modifications I appreciated!). I rocked up on the last bus out to the castle (5.30pm, if you miss it you have to catch a taxi, expensive!), only to find no-one about. A couple of other travelers were hanging about, desperate to check in, but turns out that the caretaker, Jack, had decided to go fishing for the day. We amused ourselves until 8pm, when he rocked up, looked us over and said, “Right then, who’s for fish?”. Jack was happy to tell tales of the history of the castle over a whiskey or two, he told us about the tunnel that lead from the bottom of the dining room all the way down to the river (about a kilometre away) amongst other things. I didn’t hear or see any ghosts, but was more than happy to play with Jack’s dog’s puppies, cute little lab-cross-something-or-others.
While in Cork I took some time out to visit Blarney Castle. Arrived nice and early, I was one of about 8 people in the castle, which I’m told is unusual – when I got to the top I was the only one there, no lines at all. Kissed the Blarney Stone and had an absolutely horrid photo taken. I mean, really, how can you look half decent when you’re dangling umpteen thousand metres above the ground, over the side of the top of a castle, attempting to kiss a bloody rock whilst upside down? You can’t, although the models in the castle brochures do a pretty good attempt. People have been kissing the Blarney Stone for over 500 years, in the belief it will bestow the gift of eloquence on all those who kiss it. The grounds of Blarney castle are fantastic, boasting caves, fairy glades and even witches kitchens. It’d be awesome to be an 8 year old girl playing in these gardens, I know a certain 20 year old who had a blast.
Ventry was a heap of fun. I keep telling myself so I don’t notice the pain. From the beginning… I decided that the only way to really experience the Irish countryside was to go out to the middle of nowhere and hire a bike. Great in theory, not quite so good in practice. When I arrived at the cute little hostel late at night, it was pouring. My host tried to point out the sights as we drove into town, “that’s where the bay… usually is. And thats where the pub/grocery store/restaurant is”. Hmm. Luckily the next morning the rain had cleared up, so I borrowed one of the bikes and set off. The scenery was beautiful. I saw wild foxes, sheep grazing and heard the ocean crashing against the rocks. And then I came to the first small incline. They say you never forget how to ride a bike, but they fail to mention how hard it is if you try to do it after nearly 5 years of no riding. I pushed on, seeing all sorts of sights. I stopped at a Celtic museum, saw an old fort and watched a ferry come into dock in between huge cliffs and dangerous rocks. I nearly gave up, but then decided that I’d find a pub for lunch, have a pint, and all would be good. So I kept going and going and going. Unfortunately, there were no pubs. None. Eventually I gave up and rode back to town, stopping at the pub to have a well-deserved pint. The day after I had a 6 hour bus trip. Very. Painful.
Apart from all that I’ve just been seeing the beautiful Irish country-side. One fun-filled day was spent on a tour bus, a very full tour bus, going around the Burren and the Cliffs of Mohair (pronounced ‘More’). Although everyone proclaims that the cliffs are spectacular and breath-taking, I found it more breath-taking just watching the tourists climbing over the rails, standing on the edge of the cliffs, just to get that ‘perfect’ photo. The burren was amazing, an area completely covered in rock, completely in contrast to what Ireland is perceived to be. I also spent a day at the Waterford Crystal Factory, which was great fun watching the visitors spend upwards of 600 euro (about $1100) on glass vases. Well that’s it for this side of Europe. Now we are going to go camp out at Glasgow airport and next stop… Paris!