Monday, April 17, 2006

Blarney Castle

This was my favourite stop. The grounds are absolutely gorgeous and the whole place is steeped in myth. The castle is in reasonably good nick; you can explore all the way from the dungeons up to the top battlements. Out in the grounds are the wishing steps - you have to walk up them backwards while making a wish; the druid's circle and altar stone where pagan ritual's once took place; a fairy grove (although there was nothing particularly fairy like about it!); and a witch's kitchen. It's the sort of beautiful place that's ideal for weddings and photos and the like apart from the fact that it's really really far away from where everyone on our tour bus lives! :P

Kissing the Blarney Stone is one of the top things to do if you visit Ireland. It's meant to give the kisser eloquence, the gift of the gab and the ability to talk their way out of any situation - and there's nothing quite like an Irishman to tell you the tales!

Some legends say that McCarthy was in trouble for never paying his taxes but he could always talk his way out of them. He was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth and as a sign of her affection she forgave him and sent him the Blarney Stone as recognition of his 'pleasant talk that intends to deceive yet without offending'.

Others say that the stone is that mentioned in the Bible as 'Jacob's Pillow' and that it was brought to Ireland by Jeremiah the phrophet or perhaps by a knight during the Crusades.

"Another tale was that McCarthy was given the story of the stone by an old woman whom he saved from drowning. This lady turned out to be a witch. As a reward, she told him the secret of a stone in the castle which would give him the gift of eloquence in return for a kiss. Wherever the truth lies, tradition has it that once kissed the stone bestows the gift of eloquence. "

Our camera's all magically stopped working when we tried to capture the moment; fortunately their professional photographer was unaffected so we bought their copies. I'll scan it when I'm back home.

It was our last proper day on the tour so we all went a little trigger happy and took a ton of photos of the grounds and of ourselves posing!


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