Day 3: Blarney Castle, Cliffs of Moher, & Galway

Day 3, we set off from Cork for our first stop of the day: Blarney Castle.

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We got here early and were some of the first people in, so naturally we raced to beat the soon-coming crowds at the lineup to kiss the Blarney Stone. After a short climb up a very narrow spiral staircase, and a short wait, I kissed the stone! Kissing the stone itself was an odd experience – you have to lay down and then lean far, far back, while a guy supports you and makes sure you don’t fall to your doom. But according to legend, I now possess the gift of the gab, so it was worth it.

After kissing the stone, we spent some time exploring the castle and grounds, which were quite lovely. The grounds included a poison garden, caves, the old dungeon, and a fern garden with its own waterfall.

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Next up was the drive to the Cliffs of Moher, which were seriously awesome. They’re the ones that appear on so many the desktop backgrounds and Ireland travel pictures, and you know they’re going to be good, but you don’t expect how incredible they are in real life. We only had two hours there; some of our group went on to the gift shop and cafe after seeing the cliffs, but I literally couldn’t take my eyes off them. They were seriously so, so beautiful, from all angles. I’d go about ten feet and then stop and admire the new view of them. Had a good, long look, but still could have spent all day there, looking at the cliffs, the way the light hit them, the sea birds circling around, and the waves crashing below.

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We finished off the evening by driving on to Galway. Here we had a short walking tour from our guide before splitting off for dinner. Our whole group met up again later that night to enjoy more live music and drinks at one of Galway’s many lively pubs.

 

Day 2: Kilkenny, Middleton, & Cork

Day 2 was the first day with our entire Contiki group, and we headed out early from Dublin.

First stop of the day was Kilkenny, where most of us opted in for the additional bicycle tour. The tour lasted 2 hours and took us all over the cute town of Kilkenny. We visited Kilkenny Castle and saw one of Kilkenny’s famed black cats at St. Canice’s Cathedral.

Kilkenny Castle:

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St. Canice’s Cathedral (black cat visible in the bushes below):

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As well, our tour guide taught us some Gaelic phrases and a traditional Irish song about Molly Malone. Later on, he led us in a rousing chorus of Molly Malone while standing near the city centre; a passer-by mistook us for buskers and put money into our guide’s outstretched cap! It was a hefty few coins, or as our guide put it, “almost enough for a pint!” The bike tour was a really fun and efficient way to get a feel of Kilkenny.

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After the bike tour, we left Kilkenny to move on to Middleton, where I’d opted in for the next activity, a tour of Jameson’s Whiskey Distillery.

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Here we got a thorough explanation of how the whiskey is made, the aging process, and what makes it different from other, non-Irish whiskeys. The tour ended with a whiskey tasting for everybody, and then a bonus whiskey cocktail (Jameson’s, ginger ale, and lime – very refreshing and delicious!) in their Jameson’s bar.

Whiskeys at different stages of the aging process (note how the older & darker it gets, the less remains in the barrel):

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We finished the day by driving on to Cork, where we had dinner and spent a relatively quiet night recovering from our day of adventuring.