Last time we left off in Waterford. Time to keep heading west to the famous Blarney Castle!
We started off with our favorite breakfast experience of the whole trip at Faithlegg House Hotel & Golf Club. We were able to order a proper Irish Breakfast: the best bacon ever, sausage, baked beans, eggs (which I didn’t eat), mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, roasted potatoes, and toast. They also brought a lovely pastry tower to our table with homemade pastries, small cups of fresh yogurt with fruit and preserves. Of course, no breakfast in Ireland is complete without tea!
For all of our castle hotels, breakfast was included as part of our package, so it was nice to be able to eat a hearty breakfast and then be pretty well satisfied until dinner. It saved us some money and time not having to stop for lunch.
After breakfast it was time to check out and head to Blarney Castle! This was our first real day of country driving, and we learned a few things:
- There are a lot of REALLY narrow roads in Ireland–like just wide enough for one car.
- Many roads are lined with stone walls–mind your side view mirrors!
- There aren’t very many straight roads to be found in Ireland.
Blarney Castle was about 1.5 hours away from Faithlegg. Some friends had recommended we get there as early as possible to avoid having to wait in a really long queue to kiss the Blarney Stone. We got a later start than planned, so we were concerned we’d be wasting a lot of time waiting in line. God was looking out for us, and even though we didn’t get there until about 11am, we managed to get there just before a tour bus arrived, so our wait was less than 5 minutes. Perfection! It probably helped that it was a Monday, but I’m not questioning it.
Travel Tip: Buy your tickets online ahead of time and receive a discount. They are valid for 6 months from the date of purchase and can be used any day you like within that 6 month period.
We didn’t really realize before we got there how much more there is to Blarney Castle than just the castle itself and the Stone. There’s a Poison Garden, which was interesting, acres of beautiful grounds, Blarney House (not open to the public year-round), miles of walking trails, a lake, and even a small cave under the castle. We also wandered around Rock Close, and of course we had to make sure we made a wish and walked down the Wishing Steps (backwards with our eyes closed) then back up again with our eyes closed, as the superstition requires. The greenery everywhere was absolutely stunning; we ended up spending a total of about 4 hours here before getting back on the road.
Ring of Kerry/Killarney National Park
For the sake of time and safety, we chose to just drive the short portion of the famous Ring of Kerry. We had been warned that tour buses plus absent-minded tourists and narrow roads made the drive somewhat dangerous for those unfamiliar with the area. From Blarney we headed 1.5 hours west to Kenmare and then took the Ring of Kerry through Killarney National Park to the town of Killarney.
Now we were starting to see some REAL mountains–and some rain. I will say that while we were in Ireland it never poured rain like it does in Florida, but it would be a fairly constant mist that lasted the majority of the day. The intermittent light rain didn’t stop us from making a few stop along the way through the park, though.
We stopped at a few of the lookout points along the way (driving the ring counterclockwise meant it was easier to pull off to admire the view and then get back on the road.) We also stopped at Torc Waterfall, which was breathtaking. There were some stairs nearby, so of course we had to climb them to see where they led and to see if we could get a top view of the waterfall. There were a lot more stairs than we anticipated, and I had hyper-extended my knee in Silks class a week and a half before, so it was mad at me. What can I say, though? I’m determined (and a little bit stubborn.) We made it to the top of the stairs only to find that they led to multiple hiking trails with no top view of the waterfall. It was starting to get dark, and we still had a bit of a way to go to our hotel, so we headed back to the car.
We made it to Killarney (fun fact: there’s a roundabout there called The Haha), but we pressed on to our hotel outside of Tralee, Ballyseede Castle. We thought we’d be able to check in, then go get something to eat nearby, but that didn’t work out according to plan. It was raining, getting dark, and the hotel was in the middle of nowhere via some very narrow and winding country roads. Plan B: despite the fact that we were way under-dressed, we nabbed the last dinner reservation in the hotel restaurant and had a 5-course dinner. It was definitely more than we had planned on spending on dinner, but it was delicious!
Ballyseede was our favorite hotel because of its charm. They have a resident wolfhound, Mr. Higgins, and it’s easy to see from the pictures why it’s such a popular wedding venue. It looks like an actual castle, and our room was absolutely beautiful. Instead of being numbered, the 44 rooms are named for famous Irish people. Different groups of rooms had different themes (poets, presidents, etc.) We stayed in the Hyde room, named for Douglas Hyde, the first president of Ireland. After an adventure-filled day (about 5 hours of drive time) and that delicious dinner, we slept like babies.
Coming Up Next: Cliffs of Moher and Kylemore Abbey. The adventure continues!
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