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May 23, 2006: Ireland Trip - Kinsale, Blarney

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It was kind of a relief to leave Cork this morning, especially since we could do it without having to actually go through the town center again. We headed south at first, toward the coast, and just past Kinsale we found Charles Fort. It's a star-shaped fort that was built right on the edge of a cliff in the 16th century, but it's in amazingly good shape because it was actually in use until the early 1900's, when it was torched during the civil war in Ireland.

It started raining pretty hard when we got there, so our tour guide spent quite a bit of time going over the history of the fort, as well as the history of some of the politics of Ireland, back to the whole skirmish between William of Orange and James the First. It was quite interesting, although I couldn't even begin to remember all the details of the whole history, but the important thing is that the whole schism between the Protestants and the Catholics, all leading up to the civil war in the early 1900's and the continuing skirmishes are all finally making sense, especially considering that there are hundreds of years of history involved in their making.

Our guide had a dry, quiet sense of humor, and was quite entertaining to listen to. He led us around the fort a bit once the rain had subsided to just a drizzle and walked us through the building where they kept the gunpowder, the barracks, the officer's quarters, and even the hospital, which had a maternity wing that was birthing babies up until 1922.

We ended up spending pretty much all morning there, but it was definitely worth it. There was an interactive exhibit about how the fort was designed and built, and also how it was defeated. We also got to wander around the fort quite a bit on our own, finding dark, damp storerooms and sallyports and climbing up on the bastions to look out over the water below.

We headed back north, toward Blarney, figuring that since we were going that way we might as well swing by the castle and see what all the fuss is about. It's privately owned, so not covered by our handy Heritage cards, and while it's a nice big tower of a castle and the grounds were pretty, we were actually a bit disappointed because the whole focus seems to be on climbing to the top in order to kiss that ridiculous stone (we didn't kiss it, in case that wasn't obvious). There was a cave and some dungeons open to go into, but they weren't lit, so anyone without a flashlight was out of luck (that included us, unfortunately), and there were no guided tours, so we didn't get any sense of history or background about the place at all, unlike at the other castles we've seen. Ah well.

So after that we just headed straight for Killarney, where we managed to find our B&B with a minimum of trouble. Killarney is obviously a tourist town, since most of the stores in the town center were open even by the time we got there, which was after 7pm. We ate dinner at a place recommended by one of our guidebooks, and I had a boxty, which is sort of like a thick crepe made from grated potatoes, stuffed with chicken and veggies, and then sticky toffee pudding cake, because this is the first place I've seen it and I was really curious to see if the one I made for our impromptu Saint Patrick's day dinner back in March was anything like the 'real thing'. If taste and appearance is anything to go by, the recipe I used was the real deal. Yay for me!

Pictures are available from Charles Fort and from Blarney.

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