The old smoke stack and the new smoke stack in the background
Jameson Water Wheel
Our visit started with a video about the history of Irish Whiskey, followed by a guided tour of the old distillery grounds.
It was a lovely afternoon, with the sun casting a beautiful glow on the complex as we walked through the restored buildings learning about the whiskey making process. With some of the buildings dating as far back as 1795, it was fascinating to see the old mills and malting areas, and to hear the sound of the water wheel churning the water to power the mill as it has done for so many years.
The visual representation of the aging process was particularly memorable, as they had a wall with glass-front whiskey barrels showing the change in the color of the whiskey as it goes through the aging process.
The final stop of our tour was the Tasting Room where we participated in a whiskey tasting comparing American whiskey, Irish whisky and Scotch. It was interesting to compare Jameson with the sweetness of Jack Daniels and the smokiness of Johnnie Walker Scotch. After the comparison, we were treated to a Jameson drink of our choice. We sipped our Jameson & Ginger Ales while enjoying a fun conversation about the Aran Islands with a couple from Galway.
It was a memorable experience and I love that a sip of Jameson instantly transports me back to a wonderfully sunny day in Ireland.
The bus ride from Cork to Blarney was filled with views of modern businesses blended with traditional Irish architecture. When we arrived at the gate we were greeted with the sounds of birds chirping, a babbling brook and live Irish music. As we made our way from the gates to the castle, the clouds started to break and rays of sunshine highlighted the picturesque stone structure.
Built in 1446, the castle that remains is a stone fortress. While its interior walls and furnishings have long withered away, its rock walls dusted with moss are fascinating to explore. Throughout the structure you get beautiful views of the surrounding area, and you can see sprawling green fields for miles.
But of course, there’s the question you want to ask…did you kiss the Blarney Stone? Well, I thought I would until I saw how high up it was, and discovered that I would have lie on my back, hold onto metal handles, and trust the nice attendant would hold my legs so I wouldn’t fall. So no. I chose to live vicariously through my boyfriend on the experience of kissing the Blarney Stone. I’m sure it’s a lovely experience, but I just didn’t have the courage to do it!
Never fear though, I did enjoy another exciting experience while in Blarney…the Blarney Woolen Mills! Filled with an array of Irish-made treasures, this is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir for yourself or get some gifts for those at home. They’ll ship your purchases home for you too. http://www.blarney.com
Personally, I selected a cream Aran sweater, throw, and lovely red plaid scarf–all of which remind me of the beautiful Irish afternoon I spent in Blarney.
My Grandfather’s Grandmother left Ireland in 1880. Despite tons of research, I’ve yet to determine the county she lived in before she left for America. Which is exactly the reason I wanted to visit the Cobh Heritage Centre http://www.cobhheritage.com.
Located in a Victorian Railway Station, the museum features fascinating exhibits about what it was like to emigrate from Ireland. Cobh, formerly known as Queenstown was one of the main exit ports for emigrants. From 1848 to 1950 over 2.5 million people waved goodbye to Ireland and sailed away to a new life in North America (and Australia). It was also the last port of call for the Titanic before it sank.
For me, it’s very likely that my great-great grandmother left from this port, so it was quite surreal to stand there, next to the statue of Annie Moore (the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island) and see the port, feel the salt air on my face and hear the seagulls. I thought about what it must’ve been like, to say goodbye to your home, knowing you’ll likely never see it again and to go to a new land promising a better life…yet with so much unknown.
It was the first stop of many on our trip, but it was a moving experience to learn more about the reasons why so many of the Irish chose to immigrate to America.
With St. Patrick’s Day just a week away, I find myself thinking often about my 2012 trip to the Emerald Isle. So for the next week, I plan to post a daily daydream as I reminisce about my seven day adventure to Ireland.
We started in Cork, then took the train to Limerick where we hailed a cab to Dromoland Castle, then back to the train to Galway, and across the country to Dublin. It was a trip of a lifetime, and I’ll always carry a piece of Ireland in my heart.