Ireland is a country of family loyalty, royalty, and magic and nowhere are they more evident than at Blarney Castle in County Cork.
Built in 1446, the castle that we know is the third built on this site. Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster, lived in the castle. He is important because legend has it that he is the reason the Blarney Stone is incorporated into the castle keep. Legend says that Cormac, the chief of the McCarthy clan, helped Robert Bruce who gave him the rock in appreciation. McCarthy was probably disappointed when he was given this gift, but a witch later revealed the powers of the stone. Upon discovering the gift of gab the stone could give, he put it in the most dangerous spot in the castle—four stories up and hanging out the window.
The stone proved so effective that McCarthy was able to talk the Earl of Leicester out of following the orders of Queen Elizabeth I to capture the castle. Allegedly, after multiple attempts, Queen Elizabeth I was so perturbed with the Earl that she inadvertently gave the stone its name, “The reports are all Blarney.”
And speaking of the most dangerous place in the castle. Kissing the Blarney Stone is not for the faint of heart or for those with a fear of heights. We stood in line for an hour as we wound our way slowly up the 128 stairs to the top of the ancient keep. When our turn finally arrived, I laid down on my back and pulled myself out and down so that I could kiss this stone that hangs 85 long feet from the ground. (This was pre-Covid, but the stone is cleaned often with antibacterial wipes.) To keep visitors from falling, or just to give much needed assurance, a worker holds on to kissers at all times and helps them get up after successfully kissing the stone.
For those who have no desire to kiss the Blarney Stone, the castle still has much to offer. The gardens offer a great alternative. The Jungle offers visitors a glimpse into exotic plants that can be grown in the Irish climate while the Himalayan Walk Garden features plants from Indian and Vietnam. The most fascinating garden may be the Poison Garden that features poisonous plants from around the world. Visitors are warned with a skull and crossbones-printed sign, “Do not touch, smell or eat any plant!” Some of the plants, such as Wolfsbane, Ricin, and Hemlock, boasted names familiar to me from crime novels. Others bore unfamiliar names, but it is not an area that I feel compelled to learn about.
I could have spent more time at the Blarney Castle in wandering the gardens and enjoying the beautiful day. We were with a Vagabond Tour that gave us a great chance to hike, experience history, and eat great food in a small-group setting. My only regret–I wish that we had kissed the Blarney Stone earlier in the trip so that we would have had a better chance to talk our guide into extending our tour into a much longer adventure through this wonderful country.
Have you visited Ireland? What was your favorite place or activity? Please share with us!
– Candace Ahlfinger has loved traveling since she was little and has always been on the go whenever possible. Now she is retired and gets to do what she loves best… TRAVEL! Whether it’s traveling with her wonderful husband, or our children and grandchildren, traveling is a great experience that enriches her life. Because she always enjoys reading and hearing about others’ travel experiences, she wants to share her travels with the Ellis DownHome readers.