Our overnight stay in Cobh, gave us the unique opportunity to plan two days. We knew exploring Cobh would be a day’s activity, and it made sense for us to “play it by ear,” and do that on our first day, depending on our arrival time and knowing we had later flexibility. I had made the most of my shooting the day before, and as we had an early appointment that morning, I elected not to try to go ashore for the early morning sun. But I was able to make some images from the ship. The military (naval, I think) facility was actually an island directly across from our stateroom balcony.
I work hard most of the time to keep people either completely out of the image, or just a small – perspective-giving – part of the image. But the opening image of the camera-wielding tourist (no, not a selfie 🙂 ) underscores that as hard as I work to isolate images and find quiet places, tourism is a huge business and there are very few places like this in the world where there aren’t people – from all over the world – everywhere.
The two primary attractions for us in County Cork (after Cobh) were Cork City and Blarney Castle. Unfortunately, we did not do Cork the way we should have and learned later that we had missed a very neat part of the city. We did find a couple local pubs, a candy factory, and a nice church.
But Blarney Castle was our primary destination. My wife has become a pretty seasoned and expert travel planner, and based on her research, we knew there would be long lines to get into this very popular attraction. And, once inside, there would be additionally long lines to climb to the top, and to kiss the famous “Blarney Stone.” Her intel told us the best plan was to get to the Castle just before it opened. We didn’t want to depend on the train or finding our way to the castle from the Cork station, so she arranged for a taxi to pick us up at the Cobh port and take us to Blarney Castle. It was a well-informed decision, and we only waited about 10 minutes before we were inside the grounds. We headed straight for the turret and there was no wait to climb the steep, circular stone stairs to the top, and only about a 5 minute wait for the one person in our group who actually kissed the stone. I am told that one of the “blessings” the stone gives is “the gift of gab.” Most who know me will attest to the fact that I didn’t need that blessing :-). Of course, in order to see and kiss it you have to lay on your back while two “spotters” hold you nearly upside down, from a considerable height.
From the top of the castle, the vantage point gave a pretty good “birds-eye” view (see what I did there? 🙂 ) of the surrounding countryside.
The details and construction of these thousand-plus year old castles is amazing, right down to the use of stained glass windows.
We spent a few hours walking the grounds, which included a beautiful Gothic Stone house (which is actually owned and occasionally occupied by a private family), nice gardens, stables, and lawns. I was able to make (I think) some nice images of the grounds and the castle.
As I noted at the beginning, we really didn’t get to see much of the city of Cork. We only really had a couple hours following the Blarney Castle tour to get back to the ship. Our taxi driver happened to know the owners of a confectionary and took us there, just a few blocks from the city center. Unfortunately, the owner – though there – was not actively making candy at the time. After buying some sweets, we made our way back to the city center.
We walked around a bit. It was like many others that we have visited, with pubs, coffee shops (of course, a Starbucks), and other touristy things. We learned later that there was a city tour of part of the old city of Cork that was pretty nice. Perhaps next trip.
Returning to the ship was a bit of an adventure. The walk to the rail station turned out to be much longer than we had anticipated, and we then had to figure out which train to board. Fortunately the crowds were small and we were in the company of lots of other folks heading the same direction. It was raining steadily when we arrived, and fortunately, the train platform was almost directly across the dock from the ship. Another good day in Ireland, and our last. We would head now to London, Paris, Bruges and Amsterdam.
As we returned to the ship the previous night, I was able to make a nice image of the approach to our Cruise Ship mooring. Tourism has certainly become an economic boon to many places and has grown (in some cases out of control) exponentially in the last 10 years. Cobh was clearly no exception and they made it clear that they welcomed the influx.
In my mind Ireland was the best part of the trip and even a little bit magical. I have little doubt that we will return to Ireland one day very soon!