My Celtic Adventure | Blarney Castle and Last Days in Dublin

The next morning, the time came to leave Annascaul. We boarded the bus after an early breakfast at the hostel for our last day with our tour. Today’s agenda: the Blarney Castle and Guinness Storehouse.

Guinness Storehouse
The Guinness Storehouse opened to the public as a tourist attraction in 2000.

We spent much of the morning at the Blarney Castle, and it’s a testament to the castle’s size and intricacy that we all wanted more time there. We first glimpsed the castle from afar while walking the footpath up to it, enjoying the streams and gardens of the castle grounds. The castle that visitors see today was built in the 1400s, though historians estimate that the first structure built on the spot dates back to the 900s.

However, as fascinating as the castle itself is, it owes its millions of annual visitors to a single stone held in its topmost wall. The Blarney Stone, thought to bring the “gift of the gab” to anyone who kisses it, holds about as much legend as it does germs. (Just kidding, they clean it every now and then. I hope.)

One story says that long ago, one of the castle’s residents got into a bit of legal trouble. Cormac Laidir MacCarthy took his case to the Celtic goddess Clíodhna before taking it to court. She told him that if he kissed the first stone he saw the next morning, he’d be eloquent enough to present his case successfully. So, he did. And he won his case. He saved the stone and brought it to his castle where it would be safe forevermore.

Other stories lean more Biblical in origin. Speculators tie it to Moses, David, Jacob, Jeremiah and St. Columba. Yet another story tells of a witch saved from drowning by the MacCarthy family. As a gift of thanks, she enchanted the stone to bring eloquence to the whomever kissed it.

I first heard about the stone many years ago on a TV program about Ireland. I remember thinking how cool it would be to see it in person, but how impossible such a journey seemed. Funny how those things work out sometimes.

Blarney Castle
Maybe this is where Mr. MacCarthy saved the witch from drowning?
Blarney Castle
There it is!
Blarney Castle
This part of the castle was built in 1446.
Blarney Castle
We stumbled upon a little watch tower, just outside the main castle.
Blarney Castle
There was plenty to explore inside the castle. Many of the old bedrooms and personal apartments, as well as the kitchen, dining rooms, and priest’s quarters are incredibly well preserved. Here, we can see what would have been the second floor of the great hall. The floor has since deteriorated, but you can see where the fireplace would have been.
Blarney Castle
The view from the earl’s bedroom.
Blarney Castle
Overlooking the poison garden, where plants used to make medicines were grown.
Blarney Castle
We did it! We kissed the Blarney Stone!
Blarney Castle
Not too shabby for a poison garden.
Blarney Castle
The castle’s south-facing wall.
Blarney Castle
We took a walk into the castle’s non-poison garden, too. I would have been happy to spend hours wandering its winding paths.
Blarney Castle
We got a vibrant taste of fall in southern Ireland.
Blarney Castle
One of the many curious elements of the castle’s gardens.
Blarney Castle
The perfect place to get a little lost.

After a quick lunch break near the Blarney Woolen Mills we headed toward Dublin for the final stop on the tour – the Guinness Storehouse.

Guinness Storehouse
The Guinness Storehouse, located in the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin, was leased to Arthur Guinness in 1759. After several additions, it became the largest brewery in the world in 1886.
Guinness Storehouse
The Guinness Storehouse opened to the public as a tourist attraction in 2000.
Guinness Storehouse
The seven-story complex includes exhibitions on the brewing process, ingredients, and history of Guinness. This barley is part of the “ingredients” exhibit.
Guinness Storehouse
I thought the design of the complex was quite modern and engaging. As visitors enter, they find themselves in a massive atrium shaped like a pint of Guinness. This waterfall was part of the ingredients exhibit.
Guinness Storehouse
We learned about the history of the brew and the people who made it…
Guinness Storehouse
…and about the equipment used in the process.
Guinness Storehouse
While much of the complex had been re-done to accommodate the exhibit, some places had been left as they were to give visitors a more authentic experience.
Guinness Storehouse
All seven floors offered new takes on the Irish brew.
Guinness Storehouse
Here, we learned about the special modes of transportation necessary to ship Guinness all over the world.
Guinness Storehouse
And here, we learned about the many advertising campaigns launched by the company over the years.
Guinness Storehouse
At the Guinness Academy, we learned about the 6-step pouring process and the specific 119.5 seconds necessary for the foam to settle. Then, we put our knowledge to the test!
Guinness Storehouse
Lastly, on the seventh floor, we enjoyed the Guinness we’d just learned all about with a panoramic view of Dublin at night.

Sadly, that concluded our time on the tour. What a wonderful 6 days it had been! We saw so many places, met so many wonderful and fascinating people, and had a great time.

Our tour bus dropped us off back in Dublin. We dropped our luggage off at the hostel and headed out to enjoy one last dinner at a local pub with some of our new friends from the tour.

As sad as we were to be done with the tour, Camilla and I were still looking forward to our last day in Dublin. Our plane didn’t leave ’til later in the evening and we had plans to make the most out of those last hours.

First stop: St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland, is built on the spot where St. Patrick is believed to have baptized believers as early as 450.
St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin
The building itself was built much later, though, in the 13th century.
St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin
Now, over a half a million people visit the cathedral annually.
St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin
And to manage all those visitors, the church employs a staff of over 50 people.
St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin
In its lifetime, the building has served as a court house and a university as well as a cathedral. These are the choir pews inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin
The Lady Chapel, behind the high altar of the cathedral.
St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin
Staircase to the sky.
St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin
The beautiful high altar.
St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin
From the front looking toward the back.
St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin
From the back looking toward the front.

Then it was off to the National Museum of Ireland, but not before a detour into St. Stephen’s Green!

St. Stephen's Green
St. Stephen’s Green is a Georgian garden square, open to the public since 1880.
St. Stephen's Green
It was full of beautiful flora and fauna.
St. Stephen's Green
Perfect day for a crisp autumn walk.
National Museum of Ireland Archaeology
The National Museum of Ireland has several branches, including natural history, country life, and decorative arts. We went to the archaeology branch.
National Museum of Ireland Archaeology
Inside the National Museum of Ireland Archaeology.
National Museum of Ireland Archaeology
We learned all about Ireland’s history through the artifacts that archaeologists have found throughout the years.

By what felt like nothing short of a miracle at the time, we made it to the bus that took us to the airplane that took us to Pisa where we were just in time for a bus back to Florence. We were tired, but so, so, so grateful for the entire week.

I’d wanted to go to Ireland for as long as I can remember, and now, I’d finally done it. It was so sad to leave, and not just because it was over. It’s a very strange feeling to have lived out the one dream you’ve held onto forever. A wonderful feeling, but a bit odd at the same time. Like finally climbing the tallest mountain, except in this case, it was more like the tallest cliffs.

Leaving Ireland left a bit of an empty spot where the dream of going once was.

But of course, that empty spot was the perfect place to put the memories I’d made.

I once read an old Irish blessing that went a little something like this:

May your joys be as deep as the oceans,
Your troubles as light as its foam.
And may you find, sweet peace of mind,
Wherever you may roam.

I might have left a little piece of my heart in Ireland. But I know there’s roaming left to do.

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