Wednesday, September 9, 1998
This was the first day that we got to try Black Pudding. Now, Black Pudding is not chocolate pudding. Black Pudding is made from pig's blood. We each tried it and each decided that we could do without. After a filling breakfast we quickly loaded our car and left. I think we had all been spoiled by our night spent in Cashel. And we all felt deceived by the ad for the farmhouse.
This was also the first day that we split company. While Sallie and Jody went horseback riding Mom and I decided to drive to Bantry House. After filling the car with gas we dropped Sallie and Jody off at the stables. We would meet back at the Old Forge Pub at 3:30 p.m.. The pub was less than a mile from the stables so they would walk there. From what I heard of their ride they had a great time. It included a visit to two different ruins of castles and a ride along the beach. In fact, they did ride by the farmhouse where we stayed.
Mom and I left for Bantry House. I had thought about taking the "Michael Collins" tour since we were near his birthplace and the site where he was assassinated. I also wanted to go out to Mizen Head, the southwestern point of Ireland. Mizen Head won the contest and I am glad that it did. The drive to Mizen Head was wonderful. This small peninsula doesn't share the fame of Dingle or Kerry.
The drive takes you through many small villages along country lanes. We took the eastern road out to the Mizen Head. Eventually the road turned into a one lane road halfway to the top of a hill overlooking the ocean. At Mizen Head there is a large parking lot and there is a minimal fee to walk out the path to the lighthouse and museum. There is also a gift shop and toilets available.
The path leads to a series of switchbacks that leads down the cliff. There is also the "99 Stairs". The stairs (99 of them) can be taken instead of the more gentle switchbacks. The path at this point is still several hundred feet above the ocean. The view was spectacular. In fact, this was one of the most beautiful spots we saw in Ireland. The waves coming in would splash twenty and thirty feet into the air. There were several caves that had been dug into the sides of the cliffs by the action of the water. At one point, the wind would take the foam from the water creating a foam whirlwind thirty to forty feet into the air.
The path comes to a bridge linking the mainland with the end of the peninsula. Beneath, the waves would break against the cliffs. There is a wonderful view looking through this chasm. On the southwestern most point of Ireland is a lighthouse. The lighthouse is now automatic as are all the lighthouses in Ireland. The old buildings now contain a museum to Irish lighthouses. The VIDEO was interesting and the tour was very informative. At the very tip of the Peninsula the wind was blowing so strong that it would literally push you backwards.
According to the guide, in 1997 there were 50 thousand visitors to Mizen Head. While the number is growing each year that still averages less than 500 a day during the summer months. This makes Mizen Head a nice getaway from the usual tourist destinations. Mom enjoyed Mizen Head so much that when we got out to go to the lighthouse she forgot to close the sunroof on the car. We had several bags of souvenirs in the back seat. It also rained briefly soaking the inside. Nothing was missing when we got back so there was no harm.
Leaving Mizen Head we took the western road along the peninsula to Bantry. This is a small one lane country road that hugs the coastline. Once again the views are spectacular. In several places we saw blow holes. A blow hole is a place in the cliffs where the waves break. When the wave enters the blow hole the force shoots the water through the top of the hole thirty to forty feet into the air. We also passed several ancient ruins of castles and cathedrals. The mountains on the Mizen Peninsula are very unusual. They seem to be solid rock that is barren of plants leaving them exposed.
We finally arrived in Bantry at 2:30 p.m. Now remember, we were suppose to be back at Rosscarbery to get Sallie and Jody at 3 p.m.. We decided to spend thirty minutes at Bantry House. At Bantry House there is a charge to visit the gardens, an additional charge to visit the house, and a third charge to visit a maritime museum on the property. We decided just to visit the gardens. We were very disappointed.
The Gardens were mostly being bare. It seemed they were preparing to plant for the following year. Considering it was September at this point this was not unexpected. However, I felt they should waive the fee or at least reduce the amount to visit the gardens when they are in this condition. We walk around the gardens and peeped into the ground floor windows of the house. I will say the house looked like it would be worth touring. We also took the "Staircase to the Sky". This is a flight of stairs on the hill behind the house. At the top is a nice view of the house, the gardens, and Bantry Bay.
As time was growing short we hurried back to the car and sped back towards Rosscarbery. The road between the two cities is modern without the claustrophobic rock walls so we made good time. When we reached the Town of Leap, I decided to take a quick detour to view the Drombeg Stone Circle. After driving along this narrow road for several miles we were beginning to think we had made a wrong turn. Finally we saw a small sign pointing to the circles.
At the Drombeg Stone Circle is a small parking lot. A portable trailer is located there where a young man was collecting 50 pence apiece. Of all the people in Ireland he was the only one that I was not able to understand. When he was talking it sounded to me like, "mumble mumble mumble 50 pence mumble mumble mumble." We paid him and quickly made our way down the trail.
The stone circles are exactly that - several stones set in a circle. There were also several other interesting prehistoric formations. We walked around quickly and snapped a picture or two. At this point we were LATE!
Back into the car. Fortunately, the road came out just a mile or so from Rosscarbery. We pulled into the pub to find Sallie and Jody sitting at a picnic table patiently waiting. I walked over to the hotel and made us reservations at a B&B in Blarney for that night. If you go by Rosscarbery and have time to stop, the lobby of the hotel has a huge tree in the middle that is worth seeing.
We decided to eat at the pub again. This time we were at a table that had been made out of an old iron frame bed. So we had dinner in bed. We all ordered sandwiches which were very good. On the way to Blarney we stopped at a grocery store in Clonakilty. We bought several snacks. I bought some cheese which later proved to be a mistake.
Driving through Cork we soon found ourselves in the small town of Blarney. The Ashcroft B&B advertised itself as "overlooking" Blarney Castle. Well, it was a mile or so away and you could see it - barely - so I guess they were telling the truth. This was the only night that Mom and I had to spend in a double bed. Suffice it to say neither of us slept very well.
The room did have a shower but no toilet. The shower was very small and was not in a separate room. So I used the shower off the hall. The B&B was ok but needed a good cleaning. There were several bugs (dead and alive) and one HUGE HAIRY SPIDER (silver dollar size).
It was also at this B&B that we watched "Last Action Hero". From this movie I got the line, "No one likes a smartass", which became my motto for the trip. We also enjoyed a couple of Simpson episodes on Ireland's All Simpson All The Time channel. Well, it seemed that way. One channel had a Simpsons show on everytime we tuned it in.