**Note: This is being posted today, Thursday, but it was the days activities from Wednesday that I started in draft form**
We started off today in Cork with an early wake up. We planned to drive to Ballycotton first thing in the morning, so that we would have plenty of time to do the cliff walk. It was about a two hour drive to Ballycotton, which was an experience. You see, when you get into the backwoods of Ireland, the roads go from a two lane road to a one lane road that is shared by all traffic. What this means is that there are winding, hilly roads that only one car can fit on with lots of corkscrew turns and blind hills. Needless to say this was a nerve racking drive, but it was also very fun not knowing what was around the corner. When we got to Ballycotton, we were both happy to be out of the car and to have successfully navigated to the cliffs properly.
The cliff walk itself is a trail that follows the coast through both improved trails and private farmland. Having a look from the starting point, it really does not look that far. From the start of the walk, we thought we could see the end of the trail. It turns out that what we were looking at was only the halfway point, which still left much more to go. This walk definitely brought my father out in me. Each time there was somewhat of a side path, I had to follow it to see where it would lead. We came up to one such side path which we found to lead to a very steep set of stairs. Lindsey, being the trooper that she is, only required a small amount of prodding to convince her to have a look. The stairs themselves were very small and took some dexterity to manage to get down. They lead all the way to the bottom of the cliff to the large rocks by the water. I could only get Lindsey to the bottom of the stairs, which left me to explore the rocks on my own. I was hoping to find some creatures in the tide pool, but I was not so lucky and it just allowed me some good pictures.
We made our way back up to the top and found that this may not have been the best idea to use up precious energy this early in our trek. The weather looked like typical September weather in Ireland, overcast and with a fairly persistent wind. For much of our time at the cliffs, it looked like it could rain at any moment. This would really get old if I ever lived here because I would never want to go out to do anything with the fear of rain ruining the fun.
We made our way up and down the hills and cliffs for what seemed like hours. During our time there, we only ran into a handful of people, which made this little adventure seem that much more exclusive (even though it is one of the top ten items on Trip Advisor). The main path eventually lead into some private farmlands. At each intersection there was a very small concrete walk way that we could only barely fit through. It is a great thing that Lindsey and I have both lost so much weight, as this would have been difficult to maneuver through without it. The paths themselves are dirt paths that have been well maintained and cleared of any plants. Throughout most of the walk, the pathways were flanked by either blackberry bushes or huge thorns that I swear were only put there to hurt Americans (I say this since I only saw Americans being hurt by them – mainly only me).
At about the half way point we found a very secluded rock covered beach that was just breathtaking. If felt like a secret place that only the locals knew about. I was expecting someone to be standing there kicking anyone out that did not have the last name of O’Malley. We were able to take some great pictures and I had a chance to play before we headed back onto the trail. As we made our way through the trail, we came to a spot that was more exposed to the elements than the rest of our walk. It was like a little peninsula that had a small rocky hill on top that the locals call “The Hump.” As we approached the hill, we found that this is where the two currents meet. It was by far the most windy place I have ever been in my life. It was much windier than any hurricane I have been in and I was having to lean forward just to keep from being pushed over. Lindsey could not stand the wind for long and swiftly made her way down the cliff and away from it all.
Video: On the Hump. Very windy – sorry about the finger in the view, was just trying not to fall over.
After hurricane hill there was not much left to the walk as we found the path ending to a road. We read that you could take the road and it would lead you back to the starting place which would make for a 5.3k return trip. We choose to just backtrack through the trail, which brought our total distance walked to around 7 miles! Lindsey had her FitBit on, which also reported us going up 125 flights of stairs! We both agree that if we had attempted this a year ago before getting in such great shape, it would have been a miserable failure. On the return trip, we stepped up the pace to get a better burn on our aching calves. We knew we were about to be in the car for another two and a half hours to get to Kilkenny and wanted to enjoy the time sitting in the car.
By the time we got back to the car, we were spent, windblown and smelt of sweat and dirt. We found a bar not too far from the cliffs and dropped in for a bite to eat. While we were famished, we were too worn out to eat. Lindsey ended up getting a scone and coffee and I got a very good seafood soup. After lunch we got back on the road to head to Kilkenny.
The ride to Kilkenny was by far the best driving I have had in my life. The route followed the coast for much of the trip which lead us through winding hills that would crest to awe inspiring expansive views of the ocean. The Ireland drivers are all very polite and do not drive aggressively at all. It was a well orchestrated ballet of yielding and overtaking between the faster and slower cars. Even large trailers we very accommodating on sharing the roads with the faster traffic.
When we got to Kilkenny our legs were aching and stiff from the cliff walk. The hotel that we were staying at it was of the Bed and Breakfast variety with only 32 rooms to the facility. The rooms were large and had a very nice bathroom with a jacuzzi tub. The best part, the rooms do not have card keys and only used normal metal keys. This was much different than what I am use to, but it did provide a little more of a rustic and simpler feel to the hotel.
We got our luggage into the room and headed out for a walk. We did not plan to go far as we were already tired of walking and we wanted to get showered and ready for dinner. Since the hotel is next to Kilkenny castle we decided to stop by and take a look. The castle, at least what remains, is large and very midevil looking. We walked through the front gate, and while impressed with the architecture, both our jaws dropped when we saw the green field that was inside the walls. There is a large green area (about three football fields or 1,034 hot dog buns) that has a lake and some walking trails. All of this green space in nestled within the middle of the city and gave off a very distinct “Central Park” feel. After walking around the castle grounds, we went back to our hotel room to freshen up and get ready for dinner. We had made reservations to the restaurant in the hotel, which was a very nice place that served traditional Irish food. However, since our dinner was at 8pm, we had some time for a pint at the bar where some live music was playing at. The band was 2 men on guitars that played slow Irish songs, but it was the first time we heard actual Irish music in Ireland. Up until this point, all of the live bands we heard in Ireland, only played pop songs or very popular American songs which just does not have that Irish feel. In fact, many of the “authentic Irish restaurants” we went into were playing Miley Cyrus, Beyonce and One Direction. Kilkenny definitely had much better music than Dublin and Cork.
After dinner, we went on the prowl for a place that had better music than our hotel bar. Lindsey really wanted to hear a female singer and after walking a few blocks with no such luck, we were just looking for anything. We turned down one of the smaller side streets and came to an open door with great music playing inside. The kicker is that the restaurant was called “Paris Texas” of all things. Inside were 2 men playing the acoustic guitar and an accordion. These guys were awesome! They played great songs and talked with the patrons. As the night went on and the drinks kept flowing, we were having a blast. Other guys came into the bar and just started to get on the mic and sing a few songs out of the blue. One of the guys had an amazing voice and brought his elderly father with him. His father looked to work in the hotel business, as he was manicured and in a well made suit. The flip side is that he was very drunk and very talkative. When he asked me what I did, his only response was, “Can you make me a computer that could put the sleeves on a mans jacket?” Really?!? How the heck do you respond to a question like that?
Video: The guy with the spoons just walked in and started to sing and play the spoons!
It was just before midnight when the music was over. We gave the guys a generous tip and made our way back to the hotel. The walk back was full of laughs, but nothing could be more amusing to two inebriated people than when we got to our hotel. It turns out that the front door of the hotel was locked and we did not have a key to get in. We went around back and found that the parking lot gate was also locked. Now we could not stop laughing because it felt like we were back at our parents houses and were breaking curfew. I discovered that the front door had a door bell on it which after ringing it and waiting a few minutes it opened to an apologizing employee. We got up to the room and set an alarm that would not be too early, but would get us up in time for the breakfast downstairs.