Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Travels with Dad: Blarney Castle

I forgot one thing about yesterday: Driving down to County Cork and Blarney from Lahinch, we passed through the western end of Limerick (our GPS unit pronounced it "Lime-Rick"), which prompted me to write this bit of fluff and nonsense.

Two men in a car passed by Limerick 
Said one, "My poor stomach must simmer; sick 
These roads make me ill
I'll soon need a pill
My anxiety has made me slimmer, quick!"

I won't give up my day job. And this will be the last I write about Ireland's roads.

Nah, probably not.


Today Dad and I drove down into the village, around the green, and there was Blarney Castle and surrounding gardens in all their 300-acre glory (well, once you parked and paid for admission). Blarney Castle is actually the third structure to occupy this site. It was originally built from wood in the 900s. Around 1210 it was replaced with a stone structure. Then, in 1446, Dermot Carmac McCarthy, the King of Munster, used the old castle stone to create the foundations for the current structure and rebuilt it one final time.

The Blarney Stone, of which this place is most well known, has a long and questionable history, with many origin stories. The one I tend to trust most - since there are Druid ruins on the castle grounds - is that McCarthy was being sued while the castle was being built. Before he went to court, he appealed to the goddess Cliodhna (pronounced Cleena), who was Queen over the fairies in Munster. She advised him to kiss the first stone he saw in the morning on his way to court. McCarthy did so, successfully argued his case with great eloquence and won, and thus the Blarney Stone came to be known as a stone that would bestow "the gift of deceiving without offense." McCarthy had it incorporated into the parapet design at the top of the castle.

Blarney, the caretakers are quick to point out, is not "baloney." It is, as they explain, the "varnished truth," whereas baloney is an unvarnished lie.

Dad did his best to climb up into the castle, but we soon learned that the only way to reach the top was to take a winding spiral staircase that narrowed as it got higher and had 110 steps. So he patiently waited below, chatting up the other tourists and enjoying the marvelously mild Irish weather (sunny and 60s all week, so far), while I took his camera and made the climb, snapping photos as I went and wiping away the sweat.

To kiss the Blarney Stone, you have to lie on your back, then hang over the edge of the parapet above a hole in the structure (about six stories off the ground) to reach it. A staffer hangs on to you and they have installed a pair of iron rails you can grab for support, but it's still not an easy thing. Then there were the rumors. Before we arrived, we had heard that some natives use that hole in the parapet to ... umm ... relieve themselves of a full bladder.

However, as I spoke with the staffers there, they assured me - before I could even get past the word "rumor" - that there was absolutely nothing to it. The facility is secured at night and it was a nasty, ugly story started by the locals disgusted by all the tourist traffic. Part of me thought, "Well, they *have* to say that," but it also had the ring of truth to me.

So, after making a circuit of the parapets twice to twist my courage to the sticking point, I ... well, you can see.


After touring the Poison Garden - and, as always, you can see a bunch of photos from today at my Facebook Page - Dad and I rolled and strolled past the Blarney Mansion, a beautiful four-story gothic structure that was, unfortunately, closed until June. From there it was a quick bite at a cafe built in the old stableyard, the purchase of a few more souvenirs, and then on to "The Rock Close," a site just beyond the stableyard that the Druids used as a gathering and worship point before Christianity came to the Isle.

There were Druid Circles, Druid Stones, several stories and artifacts from "witches," and something called the Wishing Steps. See the photo below.
It was said that if you walked down these steps backward, with your eyes closed, everything you wished for came true.

No, I did not try it. The only thing I would have wished for is that I wouldn't die while trying it.


Mark's Musings is published on a semi-periodical basis that may change without notice. Find me on Twitter at Facebook link is over there to the right. This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761. Tomorrow: On to Waterford!

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