Blarney Castle

After spending the night in Cork, we fortified ourselves with a substantial breakfast and headed for Blarney Castle.

1.Blarney Castle

The walk from the car park, crossing the River Martin, warmed us up a bit.

2.Blarney Castle

The castle presented a stunning backdrop for the burnished autumn foliage.

3.Blarney Castle

Across a bridge over the river,

4.Blarney Castle5.Blarney Castle

we stood looking up at the north wall. The original Blarney Castle, a timber hunting lodge, was built in the 10th century and replaced by a stone construction in 1210. The existing castle, built on the edge of a cliff, was completed in 1446 by the King of Munster, Dermot McCarthy. The castle changed hands over the centuries, to Oliver Cromwell in 1646, back to the McCarthys fifteen years later before they lost it again in 1690, then sold to the Governor of Cork in 1703.

6.North Wall,Blarney Castle

The rather elaborate windows, halfway up the wall on the right, are not the romantic bedchamber embellishments one might imagine. They are, in fact, garderobes, the medieval answer to the ensuite.

7.garderobes

We followed the path past the guard tower

8.guard tower

and well-worn steps that led to the dungeons

9.dungeon stairs

before starting our climb to the top of the castle. Our ascent was frequently interrupted to take in the spectacular panorama through the windows.

10.Blarney Castle

13.view

There wasn’t a lot of breathing space in the passages, I can’t imagine running along them dressed in a suit of armour.

14.Blarney Castle

The narrow, spiral stone steps finally ended at the top of the castle. Looking down, we could see where the three floors would have been in the main living area.

15.standing over the main room

The pigeons are the only ones on lookout these days.

17.pigeon lookout

At the top of the tower is the infamous Blarney Stone, believed to give anyone that kisses it the gift of eloquence. At one time, anyone wishing to kiss the stone would be at risk of plunging from a great height but there are now railings to hold on to and some underneath to break the fall.

18.Blarney Stone

Even so, we didn’t join the queue to bend over backwards from the parapet, there is only so much blarney one needs in life. Besides, the Blarney Stone has been named the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world.

19.Blarney Stone

The magnificent view from the battlements was well worth the climb.

20.view from the battlements

Once back on terra firma, we discovered Rock Close, a garden landscaped in the 18th century around existing stone monuments.

21.Rock Close22.Rock Close

It’s easy to believe the tales of Druids and Fairies in this mystical place, the senior Druid Priest was reputed to have lived in the Druid’s Cave.

23.Druid's Cave Rock Close

We would have liked to spend more time in this enchanted garden but time was ticking on.

Legend has it that there is a witch who will grant wishes to those who can walk up and back down the wishing steps with eyes closed (I didn’t get a photo of the steps, nor did I try this). In exchange for this gift, she is provided with firewood for her kitchen. I didn’t get a photo of the kitchen either, but we did see the witch stone. Some believe it was the Blarney Witch who told McCarthy about the power of the Blarney Stone but it remains a mystery how she became entrapped in the rock.

27.The Witch Stone

barmy beachcombers

Tasmania is renowned for having four seasons in one day and spring is especially unpredictable when any one season could stay for the whole day. My sister had come to visit, we had planned a day out to Stanley and nothing was going to stop us. After browsing the array of wondrous shops in the main street and a delicious lunch at the hotel, we braved the inclement conditions for a spot of fossicking on Godfreys Beach. My sibling is more practised at the fine art of beachcombing and it wasn’t long before I left her behind in the shadow of The Nut.

1.Godfreys Beach

I was distracted by the lovely reflections cast in the shallow water of the incoming tide.

2.Godfreys Beach

Despite the drizzle, there was a serene stillness to the air and the ocean was calm as far as the horizon.

5.Godfreys Beach

Returning to the task at hand, I didn’t find anything of human value, though the sand was scattered with nature’s wealth.

15.sponge

19.seaweed

My attention was again diverted by the amusing antics of a lone gull abluting in a shallow pool amongst the rocks.

The appearance of a second bird didn’t interrupt the routine

24.gulls

and a third sat nonchalantly before finally giving in to the temptation.

Further along the beach, the rocks appeared to be wearing green toupees.

33.rocks

The tessellated pavement of rock ended at the northern headland, I had walked the 1.1km stretch that is Godfreys Beach.

37.Godfreys Beach38.Godfreys Beach39.Godfreys Beach

Now, where was my sister?

40.Godfreys Beach

cani di Lucca

The Lucchese love their dogs. It’s not unusual to see them joining their humans for a meal,

1.breakfast in lucca

though they don’t often have a seat at the table.

1a.lunch

Caffetteria Turandot, in Piazza San Michele, is the perfect location to enjoy a beverage and watch the parade of four-legged lovelies.

2.cane in Lucca

Some are content to wait patiently until their bipedal companions are ready to move on.

4.Golden Retriever3.Piazza San Michele

Others are somewhat reluctant and need a bit of coaxing

5.Italian greyhound

but most are happy to just go where life leads them.

9.Piazza San Michele

12.Piazza San Michele

Being on a leash doesn’t mean you can’t have fun when you meet a friend.

13.boxer & friend

This gentleman was unaware of my subject matter and stopped to pose for the camera, he certainly made me smile.

20.friendly local

Devonport

We haven’t spent a lot of time in Devonport since moving to Tasmania, despite living only a half hour drive away. On the banks of the Mersey River, Tasmania’s third largest city has undergone quite a transformation in recent years with exciting future developments in the pipeline. After spending some time at Mersey Bluff, we lunched at The Harbourmaster Café. The building on the left is the original, heritage listed harbourmaster’s cottage that has been tastefully extended to house the dining area.

1.Harbourmaster Cafe

The décor has a quirky nautical theme, half a rowing scull is suspended upside down from the ceiling.

There was plenty to choose from on the menu but we couldn’t go past a Tasmanian scallop pie.

4.scallop pie

Across the water, the Spirit of Tasmania rested ahead of another overnight crossing of Bass Strait,

5.Spirit of Tasmania

destination Port Melbourne a few hundred kilometres away.

6.mouth of Mersey

There is a walking & cycle path along the river that enticed us to negate some of the calories consumed at lunch.

7.Harbourmasters Cafe

It turned out to be a very interesting stroll, with many surprises along the way. An unassuming rock is actually a memorial to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the naming of the Mersey River in 1826 by Edward Curr, chief agent of the Van Diemen’s Land Company.

8.memorial

From Vision to Reality, a sculpture of bronze poppies, is a fitting tribute to the man who pioneered the Tasmanian poppy industry. Stephen King was the director of poppy research and production for Glaxo in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s. Unreliable English summers led him to seek an alternative location for poppy production and, after studying climate data, it seemed Tasmania was the answer. Since 1966, poppy cultivation has been concentrated in Tasmania where 50% of the world’s crop of legit opium poppies is now grown. Stephen King received an OBE in 1979 for his services to the poppy industry and the sculpture was erected by the poppy growers association in 2003.

9.From Vision to Reality

The path wends its way through well-kept lawns dotted with magnificent trees, their autumn foliage carpeting the ground.

10.tree

Mussel Rock is a popular fishing spot, named, not surprisingly, because of the array of molluscs found nearby. The beacon was erected in 1896 to guide vessels into the river.

11.Mussel Rock

Bronze busts of Joseph and Enid Lyons have pride of place at Roundhouse Park.

12.Enid & Joseph Lyons

Joseph was the Premier of Tasmania from 1923 to 1928  and went on to be the tenth Prime Minister of Australia from 1932 until 1939 when he died in office. He is the only Tasmanian to have been Prime Minister and the only Australian to have been both Premier and Prime Minister. Dame Enid became a politician in her own right and, in 1943, was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Six years later, she was sworn in as the first woman Cabinet Minister in Menzies’ Liberal government. Enid was the first woman to receive damehoods in different orders; the Order of the British Empire in 1937 and the Order of Australia in 1980. As if that wasn’t enough, Joseph and Enid had twelve children, residing at their homestead , ‘Home Hill’ in Devonport.

The Victoria Parade Cenotaph was originally erected in memory of the fallen soldiers of World War I and now commemorates those who served in other conflicts in which Australia was involved.

15.Victoria Parade Cenotaph

Next to the cenotaph is a seemingly simple fountain.

21.fountain

On closer inspection, the water spouts from a solaqueous fountain. The shadow on the dial made by the stream of water tells the time. As you can see, we were there at 2pm.

22.solaqueous fountain

A little further along the path is a memorial wall commemorating the 22 servicemen from Devonport who were killed at Gallipoli in 1915.

23.ANZAC Centenary Commemoration Gallipoli Campaign

Standing alone on a rocky outcrop, Spirit of the Sea has been the source of much controversy even before it’s installation in 2009. The 700kg bronze statue was erected at the mouth of the Mersey and public opinion has been divided, so much so, the artist and his wife left the state. According to the description at the site, the sculpture reflects the elements of wind and sea and, facing the mountains, represents the connections between man, the sea and the land. I don’t really have an opinion either way but I think it would be nice to beautify the area and make a feature of the almost invisible water jets.

24.Spirit of the Sea25.Spirit of the Sea

Mersey Bluff and lighthouse were silhouetted against the wispy sky in the northwest.

26.Mersey Bluff

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall bears a white marble replica of the Long Tan Cross and honours those who gave their lives between 1962 and 1973 during the Vietnam War.

27.Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Wall

Just beyond, at the end of Victoria Parade, is a restful avenue of Norfolk Island pines. Between the trees, each plinth bears a plaque to commemorate the seventeen Tasmanian servicemen who did not return from the Vietnam War.

28.Norfolk Pines memorial

There is more to Devonport than meets the eye, we shall return soon.

Dingle

Leaving the Cliffs of Moher, our destination was the Dingle Peninsula, the westernmost part of Ireland and all of Europe. Rather than stay in the large town of Tralee, considered the start of the peninsula, we continued on to Dingle and found wonderful accommodation at Benner’s Hotel. I will always remember the delicious meal we had, the best duck breast I have eaten before or since.

1.Benner's Hotel

Next morning, after a short stroll around the narrow streets lined with colour,

6.Dingle7.Dingle

we set off to discover the peninsula. Slea Head Drive is a 47 kilometre loop, starting and ending at Dingle, that takes you right to the western edge of the country. The road is very narrow with occasional passing points and so, is driven in a clockwise direction. The scenery was spectacular from the outset.

8.Slea Head Drive

Our first stop was Dunbeg Fort, the ruins of the dry-stone structure, built around 800 BC, hang precariously onto the sheer cliff.

9.Dunbeg Fort10.Dunbeg Fort11.Dunbeg Fort

Used until the 11th century, the expansive views of Dingle Bay would have given plenty of warning of invasion. The rocky coastline looked very substantial

12.Dunbeg Fort

but much of the area consists of earth rather than rock. During fierce storms in January 2018, parts of the fort tumbled into the sea and it has been closed to the public ever since.

13.Dunbeg Fort

Near the fort there is a group of clocháns, fascinating beehive huts built from stone without mortar to create the ‘beehive’ appearance. Thought to date back to the 11th century, these huts were once family homes.

16.Clochain14.Clochain15.Clochain

The view from Slea Head lookout was breathtaking, although the mist obscured anything beyond Dunmore Head, the westernmost part of the peninsula.

17.Dunmore Head from Slea Head18.Slea Head

The loop road took us to a most fascinating place, Gallarus Oratory.

19.Gallarus Oratory

The 8th century Christian church is amazingly well preserved, the dry-stone walls having repelled the elements for over a thousand years.

Inside, the solidity of the walls becomes apparent around the only window, directly opposite the entrance.

22.Gallarus Oratory

Outside, there is a stone column, carved with a Celtic cross and an inscription in an old Latin script used between the 5th and 10th centuries.

23.Gallarus Oratory

There was such a feeling of peace around us, I imagine it would be quite different with a coach load or two of tourists in the warmer weather.

Mount Brandon seemed to dissolve into the clouds as we meandered our way back to Dingle. The second tallest mountain in Ireland takes its name from St. Brendan the Navigator who, according to legend, spent forty days on the mountain preparing for his voyage in search of the Garden of Eden in the 6th century.

26.Mount Brandon

It’s easy to see how Johnny Cash was inspired to write Forty Shades of Green on his visit to Ireland in 1959.

27.Dingle Peninsula28.Dingle Peninsula29.Dingle Peninsula