Blarney Castle

Our last day in Ireland we were debating on either driving two hours to do the ring of Kerry or driving 90 minutes to Blarney Castle. We went back and forth on what we should do. Due to the boys both having upset stomachs the past few days we decided to go with the castle. The ring of Kerry would mean we would be in and out of the car the entire day .I am so happy we decided to go with the castle. It was another beautiful day and touring the castle grounds really felt like a true Irish experience. The entire time we were just in awe of the beautiful landscaping and the kids had a blast.

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Snacks after our 90 minute drive from Limerick
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Carter throwing popcorn all over the castle grounds

Blarney castle is 600 years old and is so much more than just a castle. There are endless gardens and trails and things to explore here. We spent the entire day wandering around and could have spent longer had we not needed to be in bed early due to an early flight out the next day. One of Kellan’s favorite features was the cave that resembled the one in his book “Going on a Bear Hunt”. Of course we had to sing the song while in the cave….but to his dismay we didn’t find any bears!

The main attraction of the castle is the Blarney stone. There is debate on the origin of the stone but for the past 200 years its been used at the top of the tower for visitors to kiss and gain the gift of eloquence. We do know its made from limestone that is 330 million years old! To get to the top of the castle you have to walk up very narrow winding stairs that seem never-ending.

Once we reached the top it was instant chaos. A switch just went off on both my kids. Kellan was scared and Carter started screaming. I’m not sure if he was also scared or if he was upset that Daddy was the one holding him up the stairs and not me (true mama’s boy). But they both just started crying and clinging at my body. Add the fact that I was feeling uneasy of the height myself and it was just not a good situation. There was a line and the men assisting visitors kissing the stone were pleading for us to keep moving forward… but I had Kellan wrapped around my leg and Carter clawing at my chest. Every time I tried to hand Carter off to Ben so that I could take my turn Carter just lost it. Given the situation I decided it wasn’t worth it to upset Carter further and Ben went ahead and took his turn while I managed to snap pictures with one child around my leg and the other screaming at the top of his lungs.

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In order to kiss the Blarney stone you have to lay on your back and allow the gentleman to scoot you in position so that you can reach it. There are bars in place so that you can’t fall but that’s still pretty scary if you are not a heights person…having your head to the ground. If you are tall about half your body or less will be off the edge. A short person would have to use a good portion of their body in order to kiss the stone.

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A view of the Stone from down below

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Heading back down the stairs Carter howled the entire time. It echoed through the castle and I am sure every person there could hear him. As soon as we reached the ground level though he was fine! So I am not sure what exactly caused his temporary lapse in sanity but I stopped asking why toddlers do the crazy things they do a long time ago.

Next we walked towards the back of the gardens where we saw some mules and horses. Kellan loves horses so I think we spent a good hour just feeding them grass and watching them eat.

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Afterwards we had some fun on the playground and then walked more trails and gardens.

 

I can’t believe we almost didn’t go see the Blarney Castle. With so much to do in the area it was hard to narrow down what we wanted to see in 3 days. However, this is a can’t miss excursion and I am so happy we decided to go.

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There is just something about Ireland and the culture that I have always been drawn to. I wish there was a military base here because I want to live there so badly! The scenery is gorgeous, and the people are some of the nicest I have ever met. We met an older couple on the plane that invited us to stay with them in their home in Limerick. Ben and I are seriously considering taking them up on their offer. There is just so much to see and explore in the area. Overall, I think our first overnight trip in Europe was a major success. Next on our schedule: a week in Greece!

 

The Burren and The Cliffs of Moher

We were a little slow moving on day 2 of our trip due to Kellan being sick the night before and no one getting any sleep. After a quick breakfast we set out to the burren about an hour away. The drive was gorgeous…and that’s the thing about Ireland that I really enjoyed…you see so many things from the road that make you want to stop the car and explore. Castles, ruins, scenery, and animals are just everywhere. We tried to stick to what we had planned for the day as we had a lot we wanted to get done.

I am sure there are a lot of scientific details about how the burren was formed but the basic story is the 250 square km area of land used to be under the sea 350 million years ago.Over time with glaciation  the limestone and grikes have looked as they do now the past 10,000 years. It was just beautiful driving through the hills and I could have spent days exploring if only time permitted.

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The main attraction in the burren is the Poulnabrone tomb. I guess it wasn’t until the 1980’s that they discovered about 20 people were buried beneath it 6,000 years ago. The findings of that excavation are in a museum which is now on my to do list if we ever get the chance to go back. I just love historical stuff like this…but the kids not so much. Kellan was severely unimpressed and wanting to take a nap. Carter just wanted to jump from rock to rock.

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Next on our list was lunch so we made our way towards Doolin to this cute little cafe on the water called Stonecutter’s Kitchen. It had a playground and that’s really all I needed to know about it because playgrounds= happy kids. We went inside and ordered and then played while we waited. The food was good, thankfully. I had some seafood chowder and curry while Ben had the fish cakes. The staff was very friendly and welcoming and do not make you feel like a tourist. I tell ya, Irish women loved little Carter!

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Next stop: The Cliffs of Moher! The entire reason I wanted to come to Ireland and just our luck… it was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon. Remember the rope climbing scene in the Princess Bride? Those are these cliffs. They are world famous and I couldn’t believe we were getting to go there. I tried to keep my expectations in check because I knew walking the cliffs with an 1 and 2 year old was going to be vastly different than my dream like fantasy of spending hours upon hours peacefully hiking and taking in the beauty.

 

My little Peanut has this curious ability to be fiercely independent one minute and then insanely needy and attach to me like a koala the next. When it comes to walking, running, and climbing..he wants to do those things independently. So, here we have hundreds of steps leading to O’Brien’s tower (the highest point of the cliffs) and Carter wants to climb them all on his own. Every. Single. One.  If you try to pick him up and encourage him along he will scream. And when my little koala wants to be independent I try to encourage him since he gets separation anxiety pretty bad. So the journey up the first part of the cliffs took a really long time. Then at the top he was so tired from all the climbing he threw himself to the ground in protest and became so clingy I could barely take a picture.

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Nothing can stop the Honey Badger
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Honey Badger don’t care

Ergo to the rescue and Carter falls asleep instantly. This gave us some time to enjoy the views and take pictures. Kellan was a total champ.

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I wish we could have stayed longer because I could have walked and walked. It was just a beautiful experience. Nature, the ocean…gosh, we were just loving being there. It was fun (and a little scary) watching people cross the barriers and stand right at the edge to take photos. Those people are brave because there were some wind gusts that could knock you over! Maybe I would have been more daring had this been an adult only trip but our main concern was being safe for the kids.

 

After our long day exploring County Clare we drove the 1:15 back to Limerick and had a light dinner. We were exhausted! Unfortunately,  Carter decided it was his night to puke all over the hotel room so it was another long night for us. It was everywhere. My poor guy. He seemed to be feeling fine the next day though so it was off to Day 3 of our Ireland adventure: Blarney Castle. Stay tuned!

Bunratty Castle

My husband has to leave for work the entire summer so we really wanted to get a couple trips in before. Choosing where to go on our first overnight trip in Europe was a bit overwhelming. I mean, we want to go everywhere! I decided to just head to skyscanner and do an open search for the month of April and see where tickets were cheap. Shannon, Ireland came up as $140 total for our family of 4. A quick google search to see what was in that area and I was sold. Ireland it is!

We drove to London Stansted airport which is about 45 minutes from our house and arranged for the meet and greet parking (well worth the money). The flight was a breeze…only 1:05, and the Shannon airport is very small and simple. It probably only took 20 minutes from landing to driving off in our rental car.

Our hotel was in Limerick which is about 25 minutes from Shannon so we decided to stop at a castle located in between the two small cities. Bunratty is a 15th century medieval castle located in Bunratty village. Aside from touring the castle the admission includes entry into the gardens, playground, shops, and some farm animals. After being in the car and plane the boys were ready to burn some steam so we headed to play and watch the goats munch grass first.

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The castle itself was like a maze as their were small winding staircases everywhere and I’m not even sure we saw all the rooms. Probably my favorite was the great hall where Kellan got to sit on the throne and pretend to be a king. Every time we see a castle or anything resembling one he always asks “I wonder if the King is home?”

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I also enjoyed showing the kids the dungeon where I told Kellan they put people in time outs.

 

Carter was all about climbing the stairs. He has become fiercely independent in this area and will throw a tantrum in a heartbeat if you hold him going up or down instead of letting him go by himself. Sorry, kid. Not the safest stairs!

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My child throwing a tantrum on the floor of a medieval castle….

After touring the castle we walked around and admired the beauty and snapped pictures. Mostly the kids just wanted to chase the crows and pick flowers. With the dark skies and black crows hovering around us there was a bit of a dark and creepy feeling to the castle (but, in a good way).

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After the castle we drove to the Absolute Hotel In Limerick. Mama did good choosing this hotel. It was large, clean and had excellent views. If we return to the area I would definitely stay there again. It is walking distance to plenty of attractions and amenities. After unloading the car we walked to The Locke pub down the street and enjoyed our first Irish meal. Well…Carter and I enjoyed a meal. Kellan told Ben he had to use the bathroom and then they ended up being in there a really long time because Kellan had an upset stomach. Then that night Kellan woke up puking all over the hotel room which was pretty traumatic for all four of us. So we didn’t get much sleep our first night in Ireland but that’s travelling with toddlers. You really do have to be prepared for anything.