Abroad in Ireland (Part 2) — Weekend in Cork

It’s drenched in mystery and you feel like a fairy might peep out behind a rock at any moment.

I went down to Cork to retrieve my harp from Brendan the harpmaker. He had waited for too long to bring it to me in Derry, so I finally gave up hope of that. I thought since I’m going to make the trip all the way to the southern end of the country I may as well tour around and see some sights!

I booked a hostel in Cork for the weekend and used that as my home base while I traveled out to other cities around Cork, including Blarney (home to the famous Blarney Stone), and Kinsale.

First, here’s some sights in Cork.

Cork is built around a river very much like Dublin. This is the river Lee.
St. Finnbarr’s Cathedral. Much like many other cities in Ireland, Cork was built around a monastary. St. Finnbarr was Cork’s patron and this church was built in 1850s on the site of the original monastary.

Front of Church
Detail of the front entrance, there is a scene of the 5 wise virgins, who remembered extra oil for their lamps…
The bridegroom…
…and the 5 foolish virgins who didn’t have extra oil and were unprepared for the bridegroom.
National symbol and slogan of the Republic.
This is a cannonball that the found lodged in the spires of the church during restoration… it found its way there during the seige of Cork.
Bas Relief of King David at his harp
Pretty park in Cork.
Pedestrian bridge across River Lee
Cork Gaol… (Jail)
…opposite wing
Governor’s Office

Prison opened in 1824 and closed in 1923 when the English were booted from Republic of Ireland.
This character is supposed to be some kind of historical James Bond figure.
There’s some prison clothes sitting outside this door. They used to make inmates leave them outside if they had a record for trying to escape… it’s much harder to escape if you’re naked!
Shandon bells. Visitors can pay a small fee, climb to the top, and play the bells. The clock was known as the “Four Faced Liar” because it was alway showing slightly different times on each of the four faces of the tower.
The pendulum… blurry cause it’s swinging back and forth!
Clock mechanism
Shandon bell… more behind and beside it.
Saw some swans swimming in the River Lee that evening. Swans are actually quite common in Ireland… They are very pretty.

I’m off to bed after my first night in Cork. I can’t remember when I actually met Brendan to exchange the harp, I think it was on the first day on the front steps of the hostel. I was thrilled! I’ll post pictures of it at the end.

The following day I took a bus tour down to Kinsale to see Fort Charles, completed in 1692. This was a really cool-looking fort with a unique star shape.

Fort Charles. Built by the english in the 1500s after the Spainish armada attacked the southern coast of Ireland.
This fort has a unique star shape so that the guards can be placed at the points and leave no corner unwatched. (See mosaic below of the FC layout)

Beautiful veiw of the countryside off of Fort Charles. This kind of rural countryside is literally everywhere in Ireland. The country is basically a giant golf course. It’s gorgeous.
Wee gaurd tower.

Lovely, delicate spiderweb. It’s the small things…
Barracks… hmm… homey.

After viewing the fort I wandered into town to look around. A lovely little Irish village like all the others.

Pub avenues in Ireland.. this is a pretty typical scene all over Ireland.
Rainbow colored buildings!
There’s a pub in Mpls called “Kierans”. I’m still thinking about you Minnesota.
Hahaha. No drunken singing allowed.

The next day I set out north of Cork to see Blarney Castle! This is a must-see if you are visiting Ireland. In fact I took my parents to see this for a second time when they came to visit me at the end of my stay.

The world renowned Blarney Castle, home of the muchly kissed Blarny Stone.

This picture doesn’t do justice to how MASSIVE this building is in-person. It’s perched on a stone bedrock, and they quarried away at the bedrock to build it upwards which makes the castle seem EVEN TALLER from the back.

This is the front side as you enter the castle. If you see how big that gate is, which is adult-sized… and then figure there are five stories above that, it is very tall! That tiny white dot is where the tour guide will hang your body upside down as you reach to kiss the Blarney stone!
Entrance to the dungeons….mwahaha
Time to climb to the top! Very scary, slippery, steep, uneven stairs. This picture doesn’t do any justice for the actual state of the stairs. SCARY!
Yo all.. it’s me kissing the Stone. That’s even scarier than trying to go up those stairs because you’re 5 stories up, bending over backwards, with a guy hanging on to you… felt a bit like getting baptized. But I supposedly have the gift of eloquence now… hmm we’ll put that to the test after a few pints of Cork-brewed Murphy’s
View from the top of Blarney Castle.
Keeper’s Tower.

Once you are done with the castle, there is a little estate to wander around in. There’s something very magical about this area. It’s drenched in mystery and you feel like a fairy might peep out behind a rock at any moment.

Dolmen… very large rock resting unnaturally on top of a smaller rock
Druid stone circle. Behind it is the sacrificial stone for animal sacrifices by the Pagan druids… priests.
Wishing stairs. You have to go up and down the stairs three times with your eyes closed thinking about your wish.
The tree is absolutley HUGE around the base. It doesn’t look big in this pic, but there’s no doubt that it’s 500 years old or more.
A lovely little grove of tall, straight, mossy trees.
Very cool root system here.
I’m always amazed by the spring flowers. Daffodils are very popular here.
Last, but not least, I came to Cork to pick up my harp rental! I can’t leave you without pictures of it! It was a stunning instrument.
Very beautiful overall shape to the harp. This is a “Celtic” style harp with 36 strings.
The levers the harpmaker used are top-of-the line and designed to put as little stress on the string as possible. It “cradles” the string rather than simply “clamps” it down.
For those of you that don’t know, the stings of the harp are for quick reference–Red is “C” and black is “F”.
There are little claw feet he attached at the bottom at all four corners for added stability to the harp.
This is a picture of the side panel of the harp. The maker said he used Irish Bog Oak… it’s a type of wood that I think has very interesting coloration and character.
Back veiw of the harp. He used very thick panels to compose the body of the harp, which makes it very heavy to carry… but it has a good case to go with it and makes it easier to haul.

The harp that Brendan let me use was really nice. I wasn’t too impressed with the subtle “up-close” craftsmanship, but the overall shape of it was beautiful, the sharping levers were awesome, and it’s sound was divine. I mentioned having harp blisters at some point on Facebook, which is testament to 1) how long it had been since I’d played and 2) I think this harp was strung tighter than my own harp at home. Tighter tension usually means a sustaining and rich sound. I had fell in love with it. I remember returning home and playing my own harp and being really sad and disappointed with its sound. Since that time, I was obsessed with buying a new one, but my financial goals got in the way and I just never got around to it.

I had posted a list of my favorite tunes to play at one point, and since we’re talking about harps in Ireland, it’s a relevant place to put my repertoire (partial list).

  1. Blarney Pilgrim–G, Jig
  2. Basket of Turf–G, Jig
  3. Fig for a Kiss–G, Slip-Jig
  4. Dublin Streets–G, Slip-Jig
  5. Morrison’s Jig–D, Jig
  6. Musical Priest–D, Reel
  7. Trip to Sligo–C, Jig
  8. O Carolan’s Welcome–C, 3/4 time
  9. Brian Boru’s March–C, Jig/March
  10. Road to Lisdoonvarna–D, Jig
Playing Brendan’s Harp
Featured Image : Pixabay

One thought on “Abroad in Ireland (Part 2) — Weekend in Cork

Leave Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.