Ireland: Blarney/Cork/Cobh

On Wednesday we got up early and had a delicious homemade breakfast at Loch Lein House. We knew this was going to be the longest day since we planned on stopping in Blarney, Cork, Cobh, and our final destination, Dublin.
As we were leaving Killarney we came upon Kennedy's Pet Farm, a farm where you can stop and pet all of the different animals. Naturally we had to pull over, and were lucky to be the first ones there. As soon as we got out of our car a little lamb ran right over to us, it was the most adorable thing I've ever seen. We played with puppies (my personal favorite), lambs, baby goats, deer, and little rabbits. We spent about two hours there, but I could have easily spent the whole day playing with the animals. 
After our detour we got back on the road and continued our trip to Blarney. I was so excited to go because I heard the castle and grounds were beautiful, and they absolutely were. Connor and I lined up to go inside the castle, not knowing what to expect. The stairwell was so narrow and steep I kept worrying I would miss a step and fall all the way down. I had no idea how high up the Blarney Stone was, and actually got super nervous once we got to the top - my fear of heights was in full swing. 

I look happy in the picture of me kissing the stone, but was actually terrified. It took me a few minutes to get myself in the right position, I feel bad for the guy who was trying to hold me. Naturally, Connor had no problem leaning over the edge about 90 feet above the ground. He was down and back so fast I didn't even have time to snap a picture. After we kissed the stone we headed back down the stairs, popping into various different rooms of the castle as we descended. Once we got to the bottom we spent some time exploring the gardens, We walked through pretty, leafy archways, past waterfalls, and through huge ferns. 
My brother then wanted to head to Cork. He studied at University College Cork last summer and fell in love with the city. We made our way there, then spent some talk walking around the university and the city center. Connor showed me where he took classes, and we walked along the River Lee and into town. We were going to get lunch in Cork, but realized most restaurants are closed between lunch and dinner. In Ireland they usually eat dinner a little later, around 8-9, and we couldn't find anywhere to go. We decided to head to our next destination, Cobh, in hopes of finding somewhere good for dinner. 
Cobh (pronounced "cove") is a small town on the south coast of Cork. The town is on a very steep hill with a large cathedral looming over. You could see the cathedral from just about anywhere in the city, it is actually the second largest church in Ireland (only behind St John's Cathedral in Limerick by 8 feet). The city is filled with rows of different colored buildings and lots of colorful flowers. Connor and I spent some time walking by the water until we realized we were starving. We stopped into Trade Winds, one of the only open restaurants for an early dinner, and scarfed down orders of beef stroganoff and seafood for Connor. 

We didn't spend too long in Cobh because we still had a three hour drive to Dublin ahead of us. We stocked up on chocolate Digestives (omg, so good) before heading out, then split up the drive into Dublin before finally arriving that night. 

Ireland: Killarney

In the morning we got up and grabbed coffee and a pastry in Portmagee at a cute cafe on the water, then began our journey to Killarney, only about an hour drive from Portmagee. We headed south in order to drive the rest of the Ring of Kerry.
This section of the Ring of Kerry was probably my favorite. We drove through mountains, past towns with thatched-roof buildings, and along the water. Our first stop along the way was a statue of Mary that overlooked the water. We enjoyed snapping pictures of the view, but were quickly distracted by three stowaway sheep that were wandering around right in front of the statute.

One of my absolute spots had to have been the beach we stumbled upon as we were driving through the mountains. The sun had finally come out and a beautiful, deserted beach could be seen through colorful Geraniums. As we got closer to Killarney, we also stopped at the Torc Waterfall. We pulled to the side of the road and headed though the moss-covered trees to reach the 80 foot waterfall. I had no idea it was going to be so huge! We spent some time exploring this section of the Killarney National Park, then headed over to the Muckross House, also in the park. The mansion was built in the 1800s and sits in front of the Muckross Lake, surrounded by perfectly manicured gardens. Connor and I spent time exploring the different gardens, and especially loved the Creek and Rock Gardens. We walked along the creek that was surrounded in different flowers and plants, and especially loved the large bushes of hydrangeas. 

THEN (this way a long day for us), we headed to another one of my favorite spots of the trip, the Gap of Dunloe. The Gap is a narrow mountain pass between MacGillycuddy's Reeks and Purple Mountain. Much to his dismay, I convinced Connor to drive partially up the narrow road that was filled with horse and horse drawn carriages lugging people up and down the gap. We pulled over and decided to walk the rest of the way, and were glad we did. We followed the windy road past the Wishing Bridge, several different small lakes, pastures filled with sheep and horses, and even a little house at the top of the hill - what a view they have.

After we walked the Gap we headed back to our hotel, the Loch Lein House, which overlooked the Loch Lein lake and provided great views of the Macgillicuddy Reeks. Our room was spacious and felt like an oasis after spending the whole day on our feet. However, we quickly showered and made our way to the city center of Killarney. We had pizza for dinner which was a welcomed changed from heavy Irish stews, and finished off our meal with coffee and Bailey's. After dinner we searched for a fun pub and found ourselves drawn into O'Connor's by the live music (also also the name). The pub was mostly locals, and we enjoyed several pints of Guinness and Murphys while listening to a duet sing and play the harp.

Weekend Snapshots: On the Farm

 Every summer my college friends and I plan a weekend at our friend's farm in Alliance. It's always one of my favorite weekends of the summer, especially because we don't get to see each other often since we all live in different parts of Ohio.

When we're together it's like we're back at school and nothing has changed. We spent the weekend catching up, swimming in the lake, riding four wheelers through the corn fields (and almost ending up in the lake), making s'mores around the bonfire, and of course drinking copious amounts of Bud Light. 
On Sunday morning we all woke up a little sunburned and scarfed down baked French toast and Momma Hobb's canned peaches, which were delicious and actually won first place at their county fair. We all hugged goodbye and headed back to our respective areas of Ohio; Cleveland, Columbus, or Cincinnati. Lauren and Mike's wedding is coming up in September, and I can't wait to be back with all of my fun college friends.