Despite being a portion of the trip that featured my other favorite sight in Ireland, the city of Cork itself was underwhelming and frankly, super sketchy. I got off the bus from Galway only to realize I won’t be going out at night while I’m here. Keep that in mind: if you stay in Cork city, make plans outside of it.
I walked up the steep hill to Sheila’s Hostel. I couldn’t tell you who Sheila is, but she might want to update the place a bit. As I walked inside, thoughts of The Shining kept creeping into my head. I thought I'd legit run out screaming if I happened to come across a pair of child twins. "What the 'redrum' is going on here?" I kept asking myself. There’s something truly creepy about these older buildings, and this was definitely my least favorite of the hostels. They didn’t have lockers in the rooms. Instead, you could rent one on the bottom floor, so basically, I had to run up and down four flights of stairs anytime I needed to grab something from my locker. It was a great workout but a pain in the butt. I was only here two nights though, so at least it was a short stay.
The good news is that the two places I was planning to check out weren’t actually in the city of Cork anyway. My first full day I went to see the famous Blarney Castle. In addition to the Cliffs of Moher, this was one of my favorite places I saw on the trip. I really lucked out in terms of weather. It was a perfect, sunny day.
I took the 215 city bus for just under 3 euros over to the village of Blarney where the castle is at. To see the castle and grounds it’ll cost you 18 euros, and I’m telling you it’s totally worth it. Once you pay, you have free range to explore. The castle itself is surrounded by these incredibly beautiful gardens that’ll leave you feeling as if you wandered into a fairy tale.
My first stop was the castle itself. I first checked out some caves below the castle. While a cool experience, if you’re claustrophobic, avoid them. There's only one way in and out too, so you definitely get up and close and personal with your fellow travelers.
After that, I went up and throughout the castle. It’s one of the biggest castles I saw in Ireland. Now, if you’re wondering about the Blarney Stone, you’ll find it at the very top. I was fortunate that it wasn’t a busy travel season, so while the line to kiss the Blarney Stone may usually be very long, this time around it was a really quick wait. For reference, my trip was at the end of September and into the beginning of October.
Kissing the Blarney Stone is just one of those things you have to do in Ireland, but even the adventurer in me got a little nervous while doing it. They lay you down and push you over the edge at the top of this massively high castle. You’re there looking down at the ground below, then they tell you to lift your head and kiss the stone. The thing is though, you have to lean far enough over the edge to be able to it, so you’re counting on these people to not let go. One slip up and it’s a big ol’ Blarney splat. I will say it was a memorable kiss to say the least.
I then made my way into the gardens. It’s such a pretty area that it truly takes your breath away, and I don’t doubt that it was even more stunning with the sun out. Also on the grounds is the Blarney House, which looks like a castle itself, but rather one from the 1700s. In the high tourist season you can even go inside the house, but unfortunately it was closed until spring.
While I may have been lucky with the weather my first full day in the Cork area, my second day was the complete opposite. I got up early and my plan was to visit the seaside town of Cobh. Not only was it known for having a beautiful cathedral, but it was also where the Titanic made its final stop before heading out to sea. I had also heard there was a Titanic museum there as well that I was hoping to see.
I couldn’t help but notice the clouds setting in as I was on the bus to Cobh and like clockwork, then came the rain – and plenty of it. I got off the bus and was hit with heavy winds, cold weather, and rain. I walked over to Cobh Cathedral while simultaneously trying not to get blown out to sea. What was initially meant to just be a sightseeing stop, became a literal shelter from the storm.
The church itself was beautiful inside. Catholic churches are definitely known for having some exquisite architecture. There were a few other people inside but other than that it was pretty empty. I gave myself a good 20-25 minutes inside there, hoping the storm would let up a bit. After all, I didn’t want to spend my entire day inside there. No such luck. The rain seemed to get heavier and the winds stronger as the morning went on. Oh well. I figured I’ll fight it out and still walk around the town. Not even 10 minutes out in the elements and I was soaking wet, shivering, and utterly miserable. I decided my trip to Cobh was going to be much more brief than I anticipated. I went back to the bus stop and headed back to Cork city. I soon realized the rain was going to remain for the rest of the day, but I also didn’t want to stay cooped up in my hostel. I hit up a coffee shop to do some writing and checked out shops in the area. I was still soaking wet and cold, so I figured I could at least treat myself to a nice warm sweater.
I eventually made it back to the hostel on haunted hill as I began referring to it, where I got to meet one of my roommates. She is from Ireland and was in Cork for a short visit. It was really cool talking with her because I got to learn more about the history between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. While I knew about it somewhat, hearing about it from her and the real-life ramifications that Irish people have experienced was incredibly poignant to listen to. It’s easy to get caught up in seeing new places, but some of the most memorable moments are the people you meet and learn from while you're there.
The next morning it was time to head back to Dublin for one more day of exploring and of course, an epic final night out in Ireland. Stay tuned for the final portion of my Ireland adventure...
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer, comedian, and television producer who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com