Last Tuesday I made my way to the good old town of Blarney once again, full of interesting people, gorgeous landscapes, and a one of a kind musical atmosphere. This Tuesday though was not just spent at the Blarney Castle pub listening to Irish trad music and having a jolly old time. It was so much more.
This time, we went a lot earlier than we normally do so that we could see the castle, explore the grounds, and of course, kiss the Blarney Stone. Before going in, I was expecting to just see a castle and a few fields with the only attraction being kissing the Blarney Stone. Oh, how I was wrong.
The place was huge and full of exciting and gorgeous landscapes, gardens, houses, caves, castles, towers, and so much more. As we began exploring the massive grounds, we came across all of these different stone structures, some of them being remains of houses or remnants of sacrificial altars, some of them being witches’ kitchens and wishing steps.
The Wishing Steps are a set of crumbling stone steps. The legend goes that if you walk up and down the steps with your eyes closed, thinking only of one wish and nothing else, then your wish will come true within a year. I, being one of tradition and folklore, had to take my turn on these Wishing Steps. It was very difficult to go up and down without seeing because the steps are not the sturdiest and each step is a different length and width. But, I am proud to say that I thought of my wish and only my wish while walking the steps.
We wandered around a bit after that, finding ourselves climbing up rock hills, skipping across ancient bridges, and ducking through cave dungeons. We were enchanted by the sparkling rivers and glistening ponds littered with green and the eerie low hum of a thousand bees above us as we walked through forests in dead silence.
After a few hours of exploration, we finally came across the focal point of our journey, Blarney Castle, home of the Blarney Stone. We made our way through the castle, admiring its antiquity as we climbed the stone spiral staircase. When we reached the top, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the gorgeous Irish landscapes and the amazing view of the old battlefield just in front of the castle.
We walked in a circle around the top of the castle, marking our progress in the line to kiss the Blarney Stone by the square cutouts that used to house protectors and warriors, ready to fight any trespasser who came for a visit. As we got closer to the Blarney Stone, we realized the exact procedure of how we were to kiss it.
We watched as the crowd went before us, each person laying flat on the ground while a man helped them lean back into a grated hole. We watched as one by one their heads disappeared and their bodies slipped just a few inches closer to the ground hundreds of feet below. It looked as if they were losing their heads or sipping into oblivion, but each one somehow made their way back to the surface with huge smiles on their faces.
I couldn’t help but make the connection to a baptism as a I watched this old man lower each person’s head into a hole in the castle’s roof, each person coming up from kissing the stone with huge smiles on their faces and an unforgettable experience to share.
As we moved closer and closer to the stone, it was finally my turn. I sat down, laying flat, placed my hands on the bars behind me, and lowered my head and then my body lower and lower until I could see the blur of the green ground hundreds of feet below me. That was the moment I came face to face with a small dark stone, and I leaned forward and gave it a kiss for good luck. Only a few seconds later, I was being shimmied back to the surface, just having had an unforgettable experience.
After taking a few good pictures, we decided to head back down through the castle and spend a few more hours to explore because we still hadn’t seen everything yet. Not even close.
We made our way to the Blarney House and admired its grandeur, passing large gardens full of gorgeous plants and even more beautiful views of the Cork countryside. As we continued our survey of the grounds, snapping pictures every once in a while, we came back toward the castle where we discovered the Poison Garden and the old battle trenches, along with a few towers and pigeonries along the way. The Poison Garden was definitely something to see. All of the plants in that garden were poisonous, making for a very strange and eerie walk along the cobbled pathways that were laced with plants that could literally kill us.
Apart from the poisonous nature of the grounds, Blarney Castle and all of the surrounding land reminded me a lot of the Biltmore House back home, the castle of the South as I like to call it. Blarney held the same awe and beauty of the Biltmore but with a history from a few more centuries back in time.
After all was seen and frolicked through on the Blarney grounds, we all headed over to the Blarney Castle Hotel pub where we enjoyed the friendly Irish atmosphere and the beautiful and lively trad music that comes along with being in Blarney on a Tuesday night.
Blarney Castle and Views from the Top
The Old Battlefield
Kissing the Blarney Stone
The Wishing Steps
Battle Trench Site