Where We Be
|The Blarney Stone was set into Blarney Castle way back in 1446 when the tower house was built,
so it's received a lot of kisses over the centuries -- including by luminaries like Winston Churchill
|It's quite a headrush when you stand up straight again. How often in life do we bend
over backwards to kiss upside down? (Not often enough, some of you may be saying!)
|The origin of the Blarney Stone is something of a mystery. Some say it was a gift from the Scots after Cormac
MacCarthy sent 5,000 men in support of Robert the Bruce, who defeated the English at Bannockburn in 1314.
|We made our way down a different set of spiral stairs,
checking out the murder hole just above the main entrance
|This mossy second-floor fireplace seems to be perched in the middle of
nowhere, but that's because the wooden floor has long since disappeared
|Blarney Bench isn't quite as famous...
|The poison garden is one of the few toxic gardens in the world, and signs
cautioned we were not to touch, taste, or even smell too closely. Some of the
plants -- like wolfsbane, mandrake, and ricin -- are so toxic they’re kept in cages.
|Badger's Cave runs beneath the castle and is said to have served as
an escape route during a long-ago battle. Nearby is a dark dungeon.
|The castle gardens are extensive and
include some extremely large trees
|There's a fern garden and waterfall walk to enjoy
|The 19th century Blarney House is also
on the grounds and open to the public
|Near the cafe are two colorful gypsy wagons
|We paused for some refreshments at the Stable
Yard Cafe before exploring more of the grounds
|We finished up at Rock Close, which is described as a mystical place that was
once an ancient druid settlement. Blarney? Possibly -- this is the place for it!
|They say if you can walk up and down the Wishing Steps with your eyes closed,
your wish will come true -- so if you're wishing for a broken neck, this is the place
|Some parts of Rock Close really did feel a bit enchanted. As the brochure
says, "The grounds of Blarney Castle are magical acres in a timeless Ireland."
|I've never seen a tree limb connect two trunks together
like this before. Is this for real or a clever Blarney deception?
|In any case, there are enough magical spots at Blarney Castle -- like this tower
ruins and this green tunnel -- to keep you happily exploring for several hours
|Signs posted at the property entertain and
inform about the history of the Blarney Stone
|Luckily a visit to the castle is more than just a chance to kiss a
block of limestone -- the grounds are extensive and beautiful
|A quiet stream runs along the
property, close to where you first enter
|Your first view of Blarney Castle is dramatic --
the sheer walls of the castle keep are sure to impress
|Nobody is likely to scale those walls. The medieval
stronghold was built by the MacCarthy clan in 1446.
|At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence -- the Blarney Stone.
Can you see the grate at the top of the tower? That's where it's located.
|Time to head up! Lots of spiral staircase climbing,
with a few ruined rooms to check out along the way.
|Still down on ground level before heading up, we came
across this delightful detail -- a yarn-bombed window!
|Pausing for a breath now and again, we looked
out the windows at the beautiful morning view
|At the top we found a short line ahead
of us for the big Blarney Stone moment
|In the old days you were held by the ankles and lowered headfirst over
the battlements! Nowadays there are iron railings to make it a little safer
After a few deliciously quiet days we were ready
for some touring, so we visited Blarney Castle
and Gardens (€13 pp) only 20 minutes away. We
arrived at 9 am just as the place was opening,
so we didn't have to wait in line for an hour or
more to kiss the Blarney Stone as is often the
case. Instead we headed straight up to the top
of the castle, some 100 steps. Here we waited a
few minutes until an assistant helped us, one at
a time, to lay on our backs, grasp the iron bars
with our hands, bend our necks backwards, and
kiss the Blarney Stone upside down. Major
head rush standing up straight again! The
whole process took maybe ten seconds each.
Now, kissing a block of limestone is an odd
thing and I’m doubtful it gave us the gift of gab
as promised, but it’s one of the things you
simply must do when you’re in Ireland. Why?
Because you know everyone is sure to ask you
about it when you get back home if you don't!
|We loved these trees
crocheted with colored yarn
|Apparently this is now a new street art
called yarn bombing or graffiti knitting!
|View of the Blarney Stone
from across the castle keep
|By the time we got back down,
the wait was over an hour
|The Witch's Kitchen is kinda cool the way
it's tucked beneath a ginormous tree limb