It’s not very often you’ll find me in the south or the west of the country, but this week i spent a few days down in Cork with my girlfriend…

Where did i stay?

We stayed in the Radisson Blu Hotel (Ditchley House) on Thursday & Friday night.

Radisson Blu Hotel Cork
Radisson Blu Hotel Cork

Things wrong:

  • one lightbulb missing on one of our bedside lamps which left one side of the room very dark
  • no air conditioning in room, but a misleading thermostat on the wall
  • noisy neighbours on first night (could hear TV, doors closing, talking etc..)

Radisson Blu Hotel Cork

Things right;

  • free wifi all over hotel (in rooms too)
  • nice staff
  • nice grounds / location (only if you’re driving!)

Would i stay here again? Probably not but i’ve stayed in a lot worse ūüôā

Where did i go?

The original plan was to call in to Butler’s Chocolate Factory in Dublin and get a guided tour on the way down, but it was booked out. We’d then head to Blarney Castle and possibly Fota Wildlife Park and in the evening go to the cinema in Mahon Point. Day 2 we’d head to Kerry, stay in Killarney and catch a boat out to Skellig Michael, then just drive around. Day 3 we’d be coming home and call in to the Rock of Cashel on the way…¬†The Irish Open kind of messed up those plans though as it was hard to find a¬†reasonably¬†priced hotel in Kerry, so we ended up spending the 2 nights in Cork and here’s what we seen / did;

  • Fota Wildlife Park
  • Blarney Castle
  • Mahon Point / Cinema
  • Douglas Court Shopping Center
  • Drove around Cork City at 5pm on Friday (big mistake, but i’d lost track of time!)
  • Drove around Cobh
  • Drove around Kinsale
  • Stopped off at Cork Airport
  • Rock of Cashel

Fota Wildlife Park

First thing you’ll notice about this place is that it’s expensive. ‚ā¨14 each per adult, ‚ā¨3 for parking, ‚ā¨1 for a map etc… then there’s a train which takes you around the park which costs extra, duck feed at 50c a pop… the entrance fee is quite literally the entrance fee, everything else comes at a price ūüôā

Fota Wildlife Park

Then again, it’s not your average zoo. It’s big, the animals have tonnes of space and some roam wild like kangaroos & lemurs although¬†strangely¬†enough they don’t seem to venture too far beyond their allocated areas.¬†We arrived at 10am (just a few minutes after it opened) and there was a handful or cars and people around. By the time we left (1pm), the car parks were full so it’s probably best to go early if you want to see all the animals and feeding times properly without having to look over shoulders.

The animals know when it’s feed time and know what to expect. The ‘cheetah run’ is probably the most popular attraction. That consists of cheetahs running around after a dead rabbit which is tied to a moving overhead cable. It’s a bit like¬†greyhound racing only with cheetahs and ‘real’ rabbits. The cheetahs aren’t stupid though and some will just wait at the corners of the enclosure where it’s easier to pounce on the rabbit and anticipate it coming. Still, you can get some kind of idea of the speed these guys can move at…

Fota Wildlife Park

The ‘scruffy penguins’ are also pretty smart when it comes to feeding time. We got down to them at about 10.30am. Feeding time was 10.45am. There wasn’t many people around at that time and they were literally staring at us and following us as we moved step by step. A jeep drove past and they were waddling quickly around their enclosure, anticipating it would stop… but it didn’t and kept going so the penguins came back to us.¬†At 10.45am a golf buggy drove past and again the penguins flocked over to it. They knew it was feeding time and i started recording soon after…

Blarney Castle

This was one of those famous Irish attractions i’d never been to. Now i can say i’ve been & kissed the Blarney stone. If you drive to Blarney Castle, the first thing you’ll notice is that parking is free. Yes, FREE. Free parking on site. Rare for any tourist magnet site. It’s ‚ā¨10 to enter the grounds though so maybe that’s why the parking can afford to be free. If you want a picture of yourself kissing the blarney stone, that’s another ‚ā¨10.

Blarney Castle

Is it worth visiting blarney castle? I’d say yes. Initially i as disappointed… upon entry i could see the castle… i was expecting a big long walk up to it but that immediately destroyed the element of suspense or surprise and you say to yourself “Is this it?”. However once up and around the castle you begin to see just how much greenery and land there is around the place. Caves, old towers, gardens, streams, walks… you could spend a few hours walking around the grounds whilst completely ignoring the castle itself.

Of course the main draw is the Castle and more precisely the Blarney Stone which is right up at the top. Anyone scared of heights or claustrophobic will probably struggle up walking up the small winding steps and moving in and out of rooms with head-chopping entrances (were there not 6ft+ people around when they built castles?!). Having said that, plaques on the walls around the castle were eager to boast that the likes of Winston Churchill and Oliver Hardy are amongst the famous names to climb the steps and kiss the stone.

I made it to the top, alone, having lost my other half to the narrow castle steps half way up. There were plenty of people up at the top slowly nudging there way over to the stone whilst pretending to enjoy the views when really they were keeping an eye on people kissing the stone and wondering “will i be able to do that?”. Many passed up the opportunity when they seen what was involved but what’s the worst that could happen? You’d fall on to two metal bars and if you were really unlucky they’d collapse and you’d fall to the ground without anyone managing to sense danger and grab you by the legs (there’s two guys at the stone – one to direct you / hang on to you as you kiss the stone, one to take your photo). I did kiss the stone, but you’ll have to just take my word for it because i’ve no photographic evidence.

Rock of Cashel

Before anyone mentions the fact that Cashel is in Tipperary, not Cork, i know… it was just convenient for us on the way home, so we stopped there. The Rock of Cashel pales in comparison to Blarney Castle in my opinion.¬†Firstly, there’s a ‚ā¨4 parking charge in the official car park. It’s ‚ā¨6 in but there’s no turn-style entrance as you’d expect. It’s a bit like a shop with a till in the corner and a few rooms branching off it. Not very well laid out in my opinion and not very clear as to where you pay / how you get access to the castle etc…

Rock of Cashel

Before you even get to that stage you’ll see the castle from a distance with some ugly looking scaffolding around it. Scaffolding. On an old castle. Restoration work required or not, it just completely destroys the look and appeal of the place. Not very castle-like and that was an instant disappointment… one which¬†immediately¬†had me in ‘negative review’ thinking mode before i’d even set foot in the place.

Had we wandered around the castle grounds ourselves, we’d have been very disappointed. Just a few old rocks and monuments and the withered shell of a castle. That would have been it. That’s exactly what it is too, but the guided tour at least helped us use our imaginations to visualise what the place would have been like or how it was used etc… if i was doing Art History for the leaving cert all over again, this would have been interesting but the whole Rock of Cashel experience for me was average at best. There’s just nothing magical about the place because you can’t get inside rooms and climb up stairs etc… like in Blarney Castle. It doesn’t even have the consolation of¬†magnificent¬†grounds and gardens etc… In my view, you shouldn’t go out of your way to visit this place, you’ll just be disappointed unless you’re very interested in Irish history / art.

More pictures & video on the way…

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