I was skeptical about visiting Blarney Castle, the most widely famous of attractions in Ireland. Generally I prefer to find the hidden away places that only pop up if you live like a local as much as possible, so I wasn’t sure if Blarney could live up to the hype. I am happy to report I was wrong.
We drove out to Blarney Castle with our brother-in-law Mike, who was slated to return home to the States after a relatively short time in Ireland. The morning we arrived wasn’t raining, but it was cold. So cold, the puddles in the parking lot were frozen. We were fidgeting to keep warm as we waited outside the grounds for the rest of the group to catch up in the other car.
When we finally made it into the castle gardens, the sun was slowly thawing things out, shining through the mist and cloud. The ground was all muddy and usually a garden in Winter is not at it’s best, but the experience was pleasant nevertheless. We wound our way through the grounds, taking in views of blocky stone Blarney and his two tower friends from a variety of angles. A wetland garden path crossed under the bridge, and the rock garden was a tempting detour, but we were not diverted. We went straight up to the castle.
There were a lot of steps in the castle, but Scott was determined, so he left his wheelchair at the bottom and climbed all the way to the top. Mike, Scott and the Mudge all kissed the Blarney Stone, despite the urban myths about locals peeing on it. I guess the security cameras and frequent rains were enough to convince them. I, on the other hand, took a page from George Shaw’s book, and refrained from placing my lips on that cold, inverted stone.
My favorite part of the castle was the middle of the tower. Once grand rooms layered one on top the other. Today it has the effect of a deep courtyard mottled green with moss on the walls and windows at each of the original floor levels. I much prefer it this way. Also cool was the views of the ground from the top of the tower. They don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing.
So, perhaps I’ll admit Blarney has a reputation for a reason. I recommend a visit. Skip the photo evidence of your stoney kiss and related Ireland kitch, but the giftshop near the gate is worth a browse on your way out. Bring a picnic, or make like a local and bring your dog to walk. Toss your two cents from the bridge for luck, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spend all day.