Daily Archives: August 5, 2012

Day 6 – Bunratty Castle and Adare Manor

Rob, Tom & Winnie went to Bunratty Castle in the morning and I decided to sit this one out.  I was ready for some time to myself (as I so often am), so I enjoyed a wonderful nap, downloaded pictures from my camera, and took the opportunity to jot down some notes for blogging purposes later.  The 3 of them had a really nice time at Bunratty Castle and they were very happy they went (that stop was almost crossed off the list due to bad reviews by Rick Steves.  What does he know anyway!).  I don’t know all of the details of their visit, but apparently it involved a donkey, a pig, Irish sheepdogs, and an arm wrestling match.  Photos courtesy of Tom’s camera.

After the crew returned from Bunratty we walked into town for lunch.  We sat outside at a cute little place called the Good Room Cafe.  Everyone was very pleased with their meals and Winnie and I raved about the carrot soup.  After lunch, we went back to the villa and then it was just about time for our scheduled tour of Adare Manor.  They let me drive to the manor and I really don’t see what all the fuss is about.  Seemed easy enough to me! ; )

The tour and story of Adare Manor was fascinating.  Owned by the Earl of Dunraven, Adare Manor was once a typical Georgian house.  Lord Dunraven was an active outdoors man until he was affected by gout which left him an invalid.  His wife, Lady Caroline, tried to keep Lord Dunraven occupied after succumbing to his disease by suggesting he redesign the manor.  This new project gave the Lord a sense of purpose since he could no longer enjoy his outdoor sporting activities.  The result of this project is the gorgeous Neo-Gothic Manor that still stands today.  The transformation from the old Georgian house to the new Adare Manor took 30 years to complete and Lord Dunraven didn’t get to see the completely finished project.  He died just a couple of years before it was finished.

Adare Manor is known as a calendar house.  It has 365 stained glass windows and 52 chimneys to represent the number of days and weeks in a year.  There are also other references throughout the manor to the 7 days of the week, 12 months of the year and the 4 seasons.  There are other such calendar houses, but they are very rare and nobody is quite sure why Lord Dunraven selected this type of symbolism.  The manor remained in the family until 1982 when the 7th Earl of Dunraven put it on the market.  It was purchased by a consortium of investors that did nothing at all with property the entire time they owned it.  Five years later, it was purchased (sight unseen) by an American (former Marine) named Thomas Kane.  As the story goes, the manor was in desperate need of repair, but the gardens and grounds were absolutely immaculate.  It is thought that the people of Adare had such a wonderful relationship with the Dunravens and such pride for the manor that they kept the grounds from being overgrown on their own accord.

Realizing that the 12 bedrooms (calendar reference) of the manor would not be enough for a successful resort, Thomas Kane added a new wing to the manor with 50 additional bedrooms.  The new wing of the manor was built in the same style and is even made of stone from the same exact quarry.  After it was pointed out, you could see the slight difference in color in the limestone (from age), but had it not been pointed out, I never would have noticed the difference and assumed it was all part of the original manor.

After our tour was complete we decided it would be fun to have afternoon tea in the manor.  The tea room was quite fancy and it had been so long since I had scones with real clotted cream!


Categories: Destinations, Ireland | 2 Comments

Day 5 – Blarney Castle and Cobh

The plan for today was to drive to Cobh (pronounced “cove”) which is a small harbor town south of Cork.  Blarney Castle just so happened to be along the way, so it seemed appropriate to make a pit stop there for the obligatory kissing of the Blarney Stone.  As it turned out, Tom and Winnie didn’t really feel obliged to kiss the stone and weren’t really interested in seeing this castle in general.  So they set off to do some walking around the town while Rob and I ventured onto the castle grounds.

Rob had no interest in kissing the stone, but he went along to keep me company.  In fact, he was actually kind of grossed out by the fact that I wanted to kiss the stone.  Everyday, countless tourists plant a wet one on this stone and Rob wasn’t keen on swapping spit with any of these random people.  I can’t say I blame him.  I almost backed out of doing it myself because the thought of that was somewhat disturbing.  But, in the end, this was something that I just felt I had to cross off my bucket list.  So I laid on my back, grabbed the hand rails and then tilted my head back and smooched the Blarney Stone.  This, apparently, is supposed to give me the gift of gab.

And at that point, Rob might as well have kissed the stone too because I was surely going to pass on those cooties to him anyway!  But he held his ground and made me go wash my lips off at the nearest restroom.  Even after that, he was hesitant to give me a kiss.

With my bucket list a little shorter, we finished the drive to Cobh.  Cobh was a really pretty town, but unfortunately, it was a dreary day outside.  The skies were grey and it rained quite a bit.  Unwilling to let the weather deter us, we started to explore the town which has quite a fascinating history.  The town was first called Cobh in 1750 and kept that name for one-hundred years until it was changed to Queenstown to commemorate a visit by Queen Victoria.  It kept the name Queenstown until 1922 when the name was changed back to Cobh with the foundation of the Irish Free State.

Cobh is a major transatlantic port and it is where nearly half of the Irish emigrants departed from Ireland on their way to North America.  This statue along the waterfront is of Annie Moore and her brothers.  They emigrated from this port in 1892 and Annie Moore was the first recorded immigrant to process through Ellis Island.

Cobh was also the final port of the Titanic before it set sail to cross the Atlantic.  123 passengers boarded the ship from this port.  They entered through the White Star Line building and then boarded tenders which took them to the ship.  Only 44 of these passengers survived.  The White Star Line building is now home to a Titanic Museum.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

Titanic Memorial

Plaques like these can be found outside businesses (and inside souvenir shops) all over Cobh.

Another tragedy, the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat off the Old Head of Kinsale while en route to Liverpool in 1915. 1,198 passengers died, while 700 were rescued. The survivors and victims were brought to Cobh, and over one hundred lie buried in the Old Church Cemetery just north of the town. The Lusitania Peace memorial is located in Casement Square.

St. Colman’s Cathedral sits on a high point in the town and it is one of the tallest buildings in Ireland.  While we were there, we were able to hear the carillon church bells being played.  The music was wonderful and after a short walk up the hill and into the church we were able to watch the woman playing the carillon live via a video screen.  The batons (keys) of the carillon are arranged similar to the keys on a piano.  However, she had to exert far more energy to strike the batons than a pianist would have to, to hit the keys of a piano.  It required the palms of her hands or even fists to press the batons.

After the carillon was doing being played, we left Cobh and headed back to Adare.  Rather than going out to a pub again, we decided to find out what Chinese food tasted like in Ireland.  For some silly reason, I have always gotten a kick out of the fact that they call it “take-away” rather than “take-out.”  So, in order to get the full experience, I wanted to order take-away.  We found a menu online for the Golden Dragon in Adare and then we went to pick up our take-away.  It was pretty similar to Chinese food at home, but I think I like our Chinese take-out a bit more.  Besides, they didn’t give us any fortune cookies; just these weird styrofoam-looking cracker things.  Now that I think about it, we probably should have taken a picture of those.

Categories: Destinations, Ireland | 3 Comments

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