Kinsale is a short drive away from Blarney Castle. Yes, the legendary home of the Blarney Stone, which – if you kiss it – allegedly gives you the gift of gab.
I’m pretty sure that our host for the week – Jim Good – has puckered up and kissed it more than once.
Now let me be clear. This is not a criticism. I’m not saying Jim is full of blarney (which is an insult). I’m just saying the man can talk.
We found that out this morning as he gave us a driving tour of Kinsale. Jim provides a non-stop commentary of the history of Kinsale beginning with its beautiful deep harbor. We drive through to where the fishermen’s nets and other equipment lie along the dock and he points out a resident seal known as “the harbormaster.” The playful seal pops up and takes a look at us and then dives under again. He plays this game while I happily snap photos. He’s clearly a local celebrity who enjoys the spotlight.
Jim has more information than I can take in – of how the city had changed from a Venetian-like city with streets of water to its current compact shape. Of how the Irish teamed up with the Spanish in 1601 only to lose a significant battle to England.
He tells us about the Kinsale giant –Patrick Cotter O’Brien – who is only one of 17 people in history verified to stand eight feet tall. He made his money as a circus performer in the late 1700s and early 1800s. And his tiny home – the Giant’s Cottage – stands today in Kinsale. How he fit in that house will forever remain a mystery.
Along the way, we stop on the outskirts of town for fabulous views of the town.
He also takes us to a very special place – a 9/11 memorial outside of Kinsale. There, 343 trees are planted in neat rows, representing the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in the attack on the Twin Towers. What’s the connection between Kinsale and New York City? A Kinsale native, Kathleen Murphy – worked as a nurse in New York during the attacks. Touched by the heroism of the firefighters, she decided to establish a garden of remembrance in her home town of Kinsale.
It’s a lovely place that moves me deeply.
Our tour over, the guys and gals go their separate ways for the afternoon. Grainne and Stacey head out for horse riding while Jim and I drive out to play one of the masterpieces of golf – Old Head.
My friend Jim (not to be confused with our Irish host) is an avid golfer. By his own admission, he would play every day if he could. I haven’t played in years, but agreed to play because I knew this was the one thing Jim really wanted to do on this vacation.
I’m glad I did. The views are spectacular. Holes are built along sheer cliffs. The Old Head Lighthouse provides a magnificent backdrop. My one regret is that it wasn’t practical to bring my Nikon on the round.
We play the round with a nice guy from Florida named Chuck, who is a fine golfer. But even a good player like Chuck can be whipped by this unforgiving course. When you hit the ball in the rough – it’s REALLY rough. You can say goodbye to your ball. And of course, there’s always the chance that you’ll hit it off the face of the cliff.
I’m really bad at a golf. How bad? Two comments from our caddy, Dave sum it up.
I hit a shot tee shot that veers off to the right. “You might be able to find that ball,” Jim says optimistically. “Not in this life,” says Dave.
Later, as we’re walking toward another wayward ball, Dave drops the understatement of the year: “So you don’t play much golf then?” he asks rhetorically.
No – but let the record show that I have the only birdie of the day. It is a fluky thing of beauty. On a par three hole, I push the ball right (again). But the ball actually hits the side of a steep embankment and miraculously drops onto the green. Jim and Chuck also reach the green in regulation. I putt first and amazingly sink a 12-foot-putt for birdie.
We did not keep score – thank goodness – but that wasn’t the point. If golf is “a good walk spoiled” then I’ll take it any day of the week at Old Head.
Grainne and Stacey join us at the Old Head clubhouse for dinner after our round. Their afternoon riding horses was excellent. Dinner is fantastic. Jim and I are still walking on air from our day at Old Head.
Kinsale is proving to be an excellent choice for our vacation.