Sunday, July 15, 2012

Blarney Castle (and some kissing)

The destination for our third day in Ireland was Kilkenny. The drive, once again, was visually stunning. Untethered sheep grazed alongside narrow roads. Swift-flowing creeks rushed through the forest and we stopped at several lookouts along the way to absorb the views.

We didn't have time to stop in both Killarney and Blarney so we made a quick decision to go to Blarney to see the infamous stone. We followed signs to the castle and pulled into a parking lot crowded with huge buses and lots of tourists wearing color-coordinated t-shirts. We bought our tickets before a long line could form and then entered the grounds, passing coffee stands and souvenir shops. We quickly broke away from all of the magnets, shot glasses, and clothing emblazoned with "I Kissed the Blarney Stone!" 

The grounds at Blarney Castle are extensive and beautifully-manicured. I can't imagine all of the upkeep it requires. I didn't realize there was so much to see and do at Blarney Castle. I thought the visit would consist only of walking up some stairs and kissing a stone. We followed a gurgling brook to the castle. The water was clear and perfect, flowing over stones and under wooden bridges. 

The remnants of Blarney Castle that tourists see today exist from1446 but the site for the castle dates back to the tenth century. Visitors have been kissing the Blarney Stone for over 200 years. I observed the long line and decided I didn't want to do it. Admittedly, some of my reluctance was also due to my fear of heights. My husband decided to go for it and I browsed the Poison Garden while he waited for his turn to receive the "gift of eloquence."

People kissing the Blarney Stone!

The weather was typically Irish. In the span of a few moments it went from partially cloudy to wind-swept rain, then to sunny and humid to bone-chilling cold. After my walk in the garden, I sat down on some benches right under the Blarney Stone and watched the kissers dangle above me. It was amusing to listen to everyone's differing reactions as they emerged from the castle. One man, clutching a 'certificate' said, "Well, I guess that was worth it... right?" His companion looked down at her certificate, shrugged, and replied, "I guess so." 

Others were more enthusiastic. One group came out practically high-fiving and patting each other on the back. "That was so cool!! We kissed the Blarney Stone, man!! Awesome!"

Some people simply read the information panel stating, "The Blarney Stone is directly above you." Then they looked up, regarded the stone, and continued on to the gardens.

My favorite reaction came from an older Irish couple. After they read the panel, the man looked up at the stone and said to his wife, "I just don't get it. Isn't the whole bloody thing the Blarney Stone? Ye might as well just walk up to the castle and kiss the wall and then tell all yer friends, 'Hey lads, I kissed the Blarney Stone!'"

My husband emerged triumphantly a few moments later and he seemed glad to have done it. We continued our walk through the grounds and eventually came upon Blarney House. Built in 1874, it overlooks Blarney Lake and an expanse of perfectly-trimmed green lawns and lush gardens. Amazingly, it's a private residence.

Blarney House

We spent the last few minutes walking around the gardens and peeking into dungeons. All in all, it was a perfectly nice way to spend an afternoon in Ireland.

Bar at The Bodega in Cork
We decided to stop in Cork for lunch. Cork was easily-navigable by foot and bustling with activity. Lunch was delicious at The Bodega. We tried some interesting beers and shared a generous meat and cheese platter. Then it was off to the Mutton Lane Inn, a cozy pub nestled deep into a side street. Our pit-stop in Cork was over too soon because we had to make it to Kilkenny to check into our next bed and breakfast.

More adventures abound in the Emerald Isle!

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