It’s hokey, sure, possibly even cliche but how can you possibly tour Ireland and not kiss the Blarney Stone? It simply must be done!
Funny thing, you should be prepared for locals to tool with you a bit, poke fun and give you a ribbing. They are the best humored, quickest witted people I’ve ever met and indeed completely up for shenanigans. They will advise you against kissing the stone with tales of how people pee on it to various other quease worthy deterrents but it is pure jest as the grounds are secure and well guarded and I’m convinced that those who tell these tales have already kissed it themselves as they are full of Blarney! Lol
Arriving at the grounds, we headed straight for the castle. I’d advise you to do the same. Don’t stop at the visitors center, the shops or restaurants, just go directly to the castle as the lines to climb it can be quite long. The stone rests at the very top and will take easily an hour to reach it.
We walked along a garden path where the trees had knitted trunk warmers! Lol
Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold in Blarney, near Cork. Though earlier fortifications were built on the same spot, the current keep was built in 1446.
Reaching the castle, we could see a small opening, high above where the Blarney stone resides.
Stepping into the castle, you are swept back through centuries of time. These ancient stone walls stand yet many floors have been lost. Peering upward into once rooms above, you may imagine the granduer it once held.
We crept through its narrow, winding stairwells and passages climbing upward through the keep.
Breathtaking doesn’t even come close to describing the views from above. Stunning and picturesque are the grounds and gardens stretching out below. From the top, in the distance you can see the Blarney House, magnificent in it’s own right.
A Stones Kiss
The Blarney Stone
Legends abound about the stone…
Some say it was Jacob’s Pillow, brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. Here it became the Lia Fail or ‘Fatal Stone’, used as an oracular throne of Irish kings – a kind of Harry Potter-like ‘sorting hat’ for kings. It was also said to be the deathbed pillow of St Columba on the island of Iona. Legend says it was then removed to mainland Scotland, where it served as the prophetic power of royal succession, the Stone of Destiny.
When Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, sent five thousand men to support Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English at Bannockburn in 1314, a portion of the historic Stone was given by the Scots in gratitude – and returned to Ireland.
Others say it may be a stone brought back to Ireland from the Crusades – the ‘Stone of Ezel’ behind which David hid on Jonathan’s advice when he fled from his enemy, Saul. A few claim it was the stone that gushed water when struck by Moses.
There once was a time when visitors were held by the ankles and lowered head first over the battlements. Today, there is a much safer approach as three steel rails have been installed to prevent a fatal fall …which in the past, happened on occasion.
The Stone itself is set in the wall below the battlements. Now, I’m not saying that I’m afraid of heights but I am most certainly afraid of fall! To kiss the stone, you must sit on the ground facing the opposite direction then lean back, arching backwards, shoulders precariously extending over a two-foot gap between the battlement floor and the outside stone wall with a 90-foot straight drop to the ground below. It is unnerving to say the least, to arch backwards over the parapet’s edge until your head is upside-down and facing outward in order to kiss the charmed stone but… once kissed, it bestows the gift of eloquence and the gift of gab which you know is a plus when you’re a chronic over sharer like myself.
Strolling the grounds is near to walking in a fairytale and I wondered how many of them had been inspired by this place.
From flora, fawna and waterfalls, the gardens and grounds are sublime.
The Wishing Steps
Within Rock Close, you come across an archway of limestone rocks. Step through and you find yourself on the Wishing Steps. If you can walk down and back up these steps with your eyes closed – some demand that this be done walking backwards – and without stopping for one moment to think of anything other than a wish, then that wish will come true within a year. Some say that the granting of this wish is the witch’s way of paying for her firewood.
We all know that I’m an accident looking for a place to happen and guess what? Found it! Lol I’m the kid doing a cannonball into the deep end of the pool so you know I had to give it a go! I actually pulled it off without a trip to the emergency room.
We believe that this was home to the very first Irish cave dwellers across the mists of time. If you arrive early enough in the morning, you will still see the dying embers of a fire. This is lit every night by the Blarney Castle witch, as she fights to stop shivering on her nocturnal escape from the Witch Stone.
Some say the wicked Blarney witch was tricked into the stone and is now kept trapped during daylight by sacrifices made by visitors, namely pennies pushed into the cracks of the rock.
The Poison Garden
Hidden behind the Castle battlements, you will find the new poison garden, which you must enter at your own risk. In this garden, the plants are so dangerous and toxic that they may be kept in large cage like structures. This part of the grounds contrasts largely with the bright green scenes that greet you everywhere else in the grounds.
It contains a collection of poisonous plants from all over the world including Wolfsbane, Mandrake, Ricin, Opium and Cannabis. Many of these are labelled with information about their toxicity and traditional and modern uses. A large number of plants that we now know to be toxic were once used widely as herbal remedies for all sorts of ailments.
The old expression “It will either kill you or cure you” could not have been more apt!
A few extra photos of the castle…
See the tiny people below to give scope to the castles height
I hope you enjoyed my tour of Blarney Castle and have added it to your bucket list of visit! Trust me in this, my photos don’t come close to doing it justice! Onward we go toward Limerick! I challenge you to write one!
Always with love -Laura