Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Blarney Sunday

Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle - one of Ireland's top three iconic tourist stops - was on today's agenda and it didn't disappoint. You should allow a minimum of four hours for this destination because it's not just the castle on these grounds. There are nature trails (some of which will take the better part of an hour to hike), the Rock Close (a druid stone garden), the Stable Yard, the family mansion, a cave or two, and the Poison Garden.

Cormac McCarthy built this place on the bones of a wooden hunting lodge. McCarthy's work was done in 1446, predating Columbus sailing to America by almost half a century. So yeah, it's old and a miracle of engineering that it remains standing today, some 570+ years later.

Legend - according to Blarney Castle officials - says that the stone was once called "Jacob's Pillow" and was brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah in his travels. After it was used as a pillow on the deathbed of St. Columba, it was moved to Scotland where it was used as the "Stone of Destiny" and in some manner selected the succession of kings and leaders there. When McCarthy sent 5,000 men to Scotland in the aid of Robert the Bruce in his fight against the English, a portion of the stone was struck off and given to McCarthy in appreciation. But there are also several other origin stories.

It was a witch, the legend goes, who revealed to McCarthy the secrets of "The Stone of Eloquence" after he had saved her from drowning. There are several other legends involving the witch in The Rock Close nearby.

The word "blarney" was actually attributed to Queen Elizabeth (the First) who had sent officials to Munster (the Irish province on which the castle sits) in order to negotiate ceding the property to England. McCarthy Mor (a son and heir) refused but did so in such flowery praise of Her Majesty that her agent was sent back to England feeling he'd accomplished something but, in fact, hadn't. When the Queen heard the report from her negotiator, she reportedly burst out in anger, "this is all blarney!"

I loved one explanation I heard about the difference between blarney and baloney. Baloney is telling a woman she looks lovely for her age. Blarney is asking a woman how old she is, because "I'd like to know the age at which a woman looks her finest." It is, as I've read, the "varnished truth."

I kissed the Blarney Stone when I was here with my father in April of 2014. Today my wife had the honor. (See the photo.) You lay on your back and lean way out over the edge at the top of the castle parapets (about four stories high) and bend down backward for your lips to reach the stone. Imagine what it must have been like in the days before those handrails were installed!


There are plenty of other pictures available for all to see at my Facebook personal page, including this beauty from The Rock Close (photo should be at left). Well, okay, *not* this particular one, but plenty more like it and others.


So, yeah, we thought we were following our GPS instructions closely but missed a turn. Rather than turn around and go back and pick it up, we just kept going and waited for it to recalculate a new route. If this happens to you, let me just say emphatically right now, this is a mistake.

The main roads in Ireland are a thing of beauty. Decently wide, and smooth as silk. But once you get off the main roads (the Motorway and National roads), all bets are off. They become winding, twisty, narrow (to the point of breath-holding fear as you pass cars going the other direction), and pretty much the opposite of smooth. Let's just say that today we took so many back roads to get us back on the correct path that my spleen received an excellent massage. And at one point, we were so lost that the arrival time on our GPS changed to: ???

The ironic thing as you wind and twist your way through hairpin turns is that the speed limit often increases and the drivers behind you have not much patience for hapless Americans just trying to survive until they reach their destination.

If you're an American driving in Ireland, your GPS becomes one of your most valuable assets. Treat it like gold.


Mark's Musings is published on an occasional basis but that may change without notice. 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. Click the photos. You'll be glad you did.

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