ireland road trip: adare to tralee
After a late dinner in Limerick, we made our way into Adare, through Adare, and down a windy and increasingly dark (read: pitch black) road to our next Airbnb. Situated in an area remote enough to remain uncharted by the folks at Google, we had to rely on written instructions from our host noting landmarks such as "small pink house on left," "turn in black iron gate," and "v long avenue...keep going to the end." Like a great scavenger hunt, all clues materialized just as promised and we pulled up to a renovated coach house around 11 p.m., lit within by inviting lights, and were met with a warm welcome from the host's wife, who emerged from the main house next door. Snapshots on the Airbnb listing belied the quaint beauty and extreme comfy-coziness of this coach house. In short, we were floored. The space was perfect for our group of four, and you can catch our reactions at the end of The Way Away's video, here.
The next morning, I awoke before the rest and ventured downstairs to enjoy a cup of tea. As I sat in the morning stillness, I caught out of the corner of my eye a swift movement through the window. Shortly thereafter, not one, not two, but about 11 springer spaniels came bounding past the window on the heels of their master, our host. The presence of puppies was enough to get the rest of the gang out of bed, and we began preparing breakfast in true farm fashion with eggs fresh from the chicken coop (adorned with a few stray feathers), homemade Irish soda bread and apple juice made by our host. After eating, we explored the property a bit (which was covered in daffodils, by the way), snuggled some puppies and packed up the car for our second day of driving.
Before heading to Blarney, we stopped briefly in Adare to admire the tidy little town's incredible beauty and history, popping into a local tea salon for scones and beverages. Then, it was back on the road toward Blarney Castle.
The drive from Adare to Blarney isn't long, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes, so we arrived by early afternoon and grabbed a quick tea on the grounds after picking up the tickets we'd purchased in advance (€12.50 vs €13 per adult). The third keep to be built on the property, Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold built by the MacCarthy of Muskerry dynasty in 1446, and it houses the Stone of Eloquence, or the Blarney Stone. Visitors to the castle may venture to the top of the keep to kiss the Blarney Stone and receive the "gift of gab," but in order to do so, they must hang upside-down and backwards over a sheer drop. Eloquence isn't for the faint of heart, apparently. Fortunately, a kind gentleman assists every visitor in kissing the stone, and he happens to be the same man who's helped me kiss the stone now on three occasions since 2006. (To see more from two previous trips to Ireland, follow the links here and here). I was shocked to see him there after so many years, but have to imagine that his post at the castle provides constant entertainment and a bit of exercise as he hoists countless tourists down toward the stone every day. After touring the castle, we ventured around the property, which includes gardens, a lake and Blarney House, a baronial mansion that was built in 1874.
For dinner that evening, we drove a short 15 minutes into Cork in search of pizza and brews at Franciscan Well, purportedly one of Ireland's oldest and most highly regarded craft breweries. Not a fan of beer myself, I enjoyed a delicious cider alongside our fresh-from-the-oven pizzas, but my companions did speak highly of the beer. I was intrigued to learn that Franciscan Well is known for its emphasis on collaborations, and the brewery has teamed up with Jameson to create the award-winning Jameson-Aged Stout, and Jameson-Aged Pale Ale.
Not quite ready to leave Cork without seeing a bit more of the city, we decided to end the day with a dessert crawl, wherein we'd park the car, choose a direction, and walk into the nearest dining establishment for desserts to share amongst the four of us. In the end, we ran out of steam after two stops before deciding it was time to begin the hour and 45 minute drive to Tralee, where we'd stay for the evening.
Looking back, I wish I had taken more pictures this day, and during our trip in general! In truth, I was hugely out of practice and hadn't picked up my camera in about nine months. This coupled with the fact that the bulk of my energy has been funneled into professional pursuits and career-ism during the past few years, I frequently found myself just soaking in the moment without the distraction of an iPhone or Canon viewfinder in my face. Creative deficit is real folks, but for myself at least, I think the way back begins with learning to see and experience the world firsthand again.