We finally made our first trip to Ireland! Trying to see a representative portion of the country in six short days took a considerable amount of planning. We considered a road trip, but I was a bit nervous about driving on the opposite side of the road. After a lot of discussion, we decided to base ourselves out of Dublin and take a day trip from Dublin to other parts of the country every other day and leave the driving to someone else. We could get a taste of what Ireland had to offer and maybe even discover places we wanted to visit again.
One of the things everyone said we HAD to do while in Ireland was to kiss the Blarney Stone. My first thought was “why do people kiss the blarney stone?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to put my lips on something thousands of other people have kissed, but as a veteran traveler you have to be game for almost anything. Besides, we would be visiting a castle to kiss it and that is one place I think all kids like to explore.
The day after arriving in Dublin, we jumped on board a comfortable coach with Extreme Ireland to visit Blarney Castle and Cork. The day started off EARLY – with the bus leaving at 6:50am! We had a lot to pack into one day.
Our guide, Jennifer, greeted us and gave a brief itinerary for the day. I was thrilled to learn of a coffee stop planned about an hour into our drive as I was in desperate need of my morning caffeine. The apartment we rented didn’t have a coffee maker and none of the coffee shops opened before 7am. You do NOT want to be around me when I haven’t had coffee!
As we drove out of the city, Jennifer gave us a bit of Dublin history. Of course, some of that history included Guinness. In 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease. I thought maybe I had heard that number wrong. Who in their right mind signsa lease for 9,000 years? I did a google search the next day and sure enough, Mr. Guinness was an optimistic man. Only 8743 years left!
During our drive we passed through County Kildare, the flat lands that are the home of Ireland’s premier race course. We were lucky enough to see two jockey’s running their horses through the open fields. We even drove under a bridge built specifically for the horses.
Our first stop of the tour (after coffee) was to Cashel to visit the Rock of Cashel, also known as St. Patrick’s Rock.
Legend has it there was a face-off between St. Patrick and the Devil in the 5th century A.D. During the epic battle, the devil took a bite out of a mountain about 20 miles north of Cashel and dropped the bit of rock in the middle of the plains of Cashel, creating St. Patrick’s Rock.
Part of the structures, dating back from the 12th and 13th centuries, are still being restored. During the tour we were able to roam the grounds and see many examples of Irish high crosses. We also explored the Medieval buildings, including the 15th century Hall of the Vicars Choral, the Cathedral and round tower. Our guide explained why the restoration was taking so long. The high winds on the rock and frequent rain mean the workers can’t always work. Bad weather prevents any kind of labor for almost 300 days a year, so you can imagine how long it takes to get something done. I’m not sure if she was exaggerating or not, but the weather did seem rather uncooperative.
You can see the rain moving in behind us as the kids and I pose for a quick picture before running back into the cathedral to escape the, thankfully, brief storm. For the most part, we were pretty lucky with weather that day. The rain would roll in for 5-15 minutes then move off leaving sunshine and rainbows. It was just important to keep your eye on the sky and be ready to duck in somewhere to wait out the showers.
The online itinerary showed us visiting Cashel last, but I think it was a nice stop earlier in the day. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much late in the afternoon. I was worn out by the time we headed back to Dublin!
The Blarney Castle was probably my favorite stop. I loved seeing the castle and strolling around the expansive grounds.
There is a lot of history surrounding the famous Blarney Stone. It is said to be half of the “Stone of Destiny.” In 1314, the King of Munster, Cormac MacCarthy, sent five thousand men to support Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English at Bannockburn. It is said that a portion of the historic Stone was returned to Ireland in a show of gratitude by the Scots.
Kissing the Blarney stone has been a tradition for over 200 years. To kiss the stone, you must lean backwards and hold on to an iron railing from the parapet walk. It’s not exactly easy but you are helped into position and someone is holding onto you the entire time. The kids even kissed the stone – after we all generously applied lipstick/chapstick to provide a bit of a barrier between our lips and the stone. I didn’t think it would be well received to wipe it down with Clorox first 🙂
It is said that if you kiss the stone, you will gain knowledge and get the gift of gab. I told Derrick the kiddos did NOT need the gift of gab, they talk enough as it is 😉
Blarney Castle is so much more than the stone, though. Take beautiful woodland walks, investigate the Poison Garden or walk to the Blarney House. In the Poison Garden we saw plants such as Wolfsbane and Mandrake – famous from the Harry Potter series. It was interesting to read up on the plants. Many plants that we now know to be toxic were once used as herbal remedies for a variety of ailments.
I would have loved to bring a picnic and just enjoy the grounds of the estate. You could easily spend a good half day here. The tour left us enough time to see the castle, kiss the stone and explore a small portion of the impressive grounds. While I didn’t feel too rushed, you could definitely benefit from a longer stay.
So where is the Blarney Castle? Blarney Castle is located in Southern Ireland just 8km northwest of Cork. The short distance was great as we were starving by the time we arrived in Cork. There were so many places I wanted to explore in the city, but all I could think of was food. The kids really wanted a chance to ring the bells at St Anne’s Church, but after we finished eating, we didn’t have much time left. We took our time getting back to the coach, wandering around a few of the streets before crossing back over the River Lee via St Patrick’s Bridge. Sadly, our day trip from Dublin had come to an end.
A few interesting facts we learned about about Cork:
- Cork means “Island of the Swamp” – The Irish name for Cork is ‘Corcaigh’ meaning ‘a marsh’.
- Cork is the 2nd largest city in Ireland.
- Beamish beer is made in Cork.
- Everyone is called “boy” regardless of gender.
We had an incredible first day in Ireland! I couldn’t believe how gorgeous the country is and how it had taken us so long to visit.
If you’re looking for Dublin castle tours or want to take a day trip from Dublin, I highly recommend Extreme Ireland. The tour pick up and drop off was a breeze, our guide was friendly and knowledgable, and the itinerary was perfect for getting to see the beautiful country.
We were able to learn more than just information about the places we were visiting. We learned history of Ireland as well and were given visuals to pass around the bus and even listened to Irish music. I also found their website to be extremely user friendly. I didn’t have a problem navigating their site and the detailed itinerary was a huge plus while I was planning our day.
For kids, the day is extremely long. I was exhausted by the end of our tour and just wanted to curl up and go to sleep. We didn’t arrive back in Dublin until after 7pm, making this a 12 hour plus day. You need to be sure the kids can handle such a long day on the road. Lucy slept most of the way back, so for us it didn’t end up being much of an issue.
See more tips for visiting Ireland with kids to help plan the perfect family vacation.
Take a look at our adventure:
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More Information on Extreme Ireland/Irish Day Tours:
ADULT : €55
STUDENT / SENIOR : €50 ( 13yrs-16yrs / 65 yrs + )
CHILD : €27.50 ( 5yrs-12yrs )
DEPARTURE TIME: 6:50 AM ( Arrive 10mins before )
DEPARTURE LOCATION: Suffolk Street near Old Stone Church/Molly Malone Statue
+353 86 4113326
If you plan to visit Dublin and don’t know which tours are available, head over to Viator to see all the options available. Don’t miss all the opportunities that Ireland has to offer!
Have you taken a day trip from Dublin? What was your favorite?