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The Gift of Blarney

View of the Castle View of the Castle Ireland is filled with a natural beauty. It is famous for its 40 shades of green but that is just a start. A photographic tour around the Ring of Kerry with its majesty will fill the largest SD card on any digital camera. The charms of Ireland are not limited to its scenery but also its people and even its myths and legends. The true beauty of Ireland is when all those things come together. One of these places is the legendary Blarney Castle, home of the Blarney Stone. The Blarney Castle, located in County Cork is visited by over 200,000 people each year. The entry fee of 13 Euros gets you access to the Blarney Castle and the six beautiful gardens. We may discuss the gardens at some future time for now let’s talk about kissing that magical stone. There is probably not a single tour bus that does not stop at the Blarney Castle. The parking lots are huge and the walk to the castle is long but scenic. In other words, worth the effort. You will quickly discover that this is not an American theme park and like most of Europe, handicap facilities are seldom available. The MacCarthy Clan was probably not expecting close to this many visitors in the 15th Century when the castle was built. Hopefully, you will be on a tour they will allow you sufficient time to walk to the castle entrance and purchase your tickets and do a thorough job of exploring the entire estate. Your tour will generally not purchase tickets so expect to be standing in line for a few minutes counting out your depleting supply of Irish Euros. Now that you have your ticket in hand you may proceed to this beautiful land of Blarney. You will be taking a much traveled path that presents many places for those “Kodak Moments.” In this day of selfie sticks you will enjoy shooting yourself with the various views of the castle as your back drop. They make excellent photos for Twitter and Facebook. Inside you will have to make a choice whether you want to explore the gardens or visit the castle. Your decision will depend a great deal on the time your tour has allotted you. Most people elect to go to the Castle first, after all isn’t that why they are at Blarney. Strolling up the hill you finally find the line into the castle and as you nudge forward you anticipate the royal and majestic beauty of King Arthur’s court at Camelot. Don’t be shocked to find that this fortress was built not as palace for a king with large banquet halls and rooms aplenty. It was built for the protection of the land owner and his family. It does come equipped with a dungeon but you can’t go there. It is quite small inside for a castle and you will find it difficult to maneuver in many places. The doorways in several places are less than five feet high and you will have to duck to pass through while maneuvering the steps. If you stand up too soon the top of the passages are stone and I still have the bumps to prove they don’t give. I was travelling with a man 6’8” tall and he had to move very carefully. Some of these stair steps are only a few inches deep and will require you to put your foot on them sideways as you climb. The steps are so narrow and steep you will appreciate that they have added a two inch thick rope anchored into the wall in some places. When you see it, use it. Falling more than a few feet will be virtually impossible because you have over a hundred plus people behind you packed in like sardines. Try not to get behind a visitor that has weak knees or is of overly generous girth. You may have to hold them up and yes it does happen. If you have difficulty climbing or are afraid of heights you may want to skip kissing the Blarney Stone altogether. A suitable substitute might be to find an attractive stranger who has just kissed the Stone and ask them to kiss you instead The Blarney may rub off. Logic says that a second hand kiss of the Blarney Stone is better than not kissing it at all. I was going to try that approach but my wife shoved me up the stairs and told me to forget it. All of that aside and you are still feeling courageous you push onward into the castle. On your way up, you will find some very beautiful views from the arrow loops built into the walls. Talking with strangers is common because the short trip up may take close to an hour and you may stand on a single step for several minutes. It really only seems longer when your toes are cramping. With your wit still intact you reach the wall-walk. Yes, and you have now lost interest in those poor souls behind you trying to still reach the top. The views along the way were really nice but the views of the top are wonderful. You will want to take lots of photos and sneak a few peeks over the wall walk and down to Bailey or courtyard inside the castle. You may even spot some people from your tour bus stuck on the stairs below. It is okay to gloat and take pictures of them for later enjoyment. While waiting for those Blarney kissers in front of you on the wall walk you may see for miles while peering over the battlements and parapets. Conveniently located signs along the wall indicate objects in the distance. A telephoto lens works great for photos at this point. Looking around you see someone must have be noticed that a number of visitors had been slipping off the Wall Walk and have now placed heavy iron railings on the inside to prevent guests from taking that long drop to the bailey below. dscn0269 Yay! You have finally made it to the One and only Blarney Stone. Here there are a couple of fine gentlemen who will help you lie down on your back while they hold your ankles. Sounds like a job I most men would like to have. If you don’t have someone to take your picture while kiss this chunk of limestone there is a professional photographer there that will shoot your picture and shrink your wallet to record this event. Oh, and don’t forget to tip the gentlemen that held your ankles, you will find a cap on the ground for you to place your extra Euros if you have any. Years ago it was necessary to have the men there but now they have iron bars that prevent you from taking that 48 foot trip to the ground When you stand up after kissing the Stone you will feel different. Your lips will be tingling and your head spinning and none of that is because you have kissed the Stone. No, it is really because you are hungry and you stood up too fast. Now, as luck would have it the trip down is less difficult and much faster. It is now time to head back and get a Guinness and a bite of lunch and purchase a few more souvenirs. [The power of the Stone is reported to come from the goddess Clíodhna or perhaps even a witch repaying a favor to one of the MacCarthy family. Whatever the source you now have the gift of eloquence. Some say the gift of gab but truly the gift of knowing you have been where many of your Irish ancestors walked in this beautiful country called Ireland is worth more than all the Blarney in the world. ] For more information visit
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