Wednesday, June 17, 2009



I have to admit that one of my favorite places in Ireland is one of the most notoriously commercialized.  This is one of many places we visited where traveling in Ireland off-season made the experience very worthwhile.

When we arrived in town, it had been raining off and on.  It cleared long enough for a spectacular sunset.  From the driveway of our B&B, I managed to get a photo of the castle in the distance with the early part of the sunset peeking through a window.  

Our host advised us to go to the castle early, or an hour before closing, as the buses of tourists don't run at the verges of the castle's visiting hours.  He'd heard on the news that the weather would break in the afternoon the next day, and hoped for us that the weatherman was right.

It rained in the morning and early afternoon, so we toured the stores and the town square hoping the rain would let up.  The weather and time of year kept it from being crowded, and we were able to spend some relaxing hours writing, reading, and taking in the local atmosphere in a comfortable pub.  The rain did relax, so we walked over and arrived at the castle gates about 45 minutes before they stopped admitting new arrivals.  A sign let us know that we wouldn't be booted off the grounds for a bit after that, and the gatekeeper assured us we'd have plenty of time to see everything so long as we went to the castle straightaway.

The castle is more complex and interesting than I ever imagined.  Nooks and steep spiral staircases abounded.  The center of the main building had no floors anymore, so there's a view several stories down as you approach the top.  On the way up, often there's another diversion somewhere, or another tower to climb, so that it seems you'll never see it all.  At times the view from a walkway or tower set off my mild fear of heights, and I was grateful for the frequent breaks on our ongoing climb.  It would be very difficult for someone of frail health or with a disability to get anywhere inside the castle.

The location of the Blarney Stone is much higher than I realized it would be.  Those who used to come to kiss the Blarney Stone before safety committees existed quite literally took their lives into their hands.  Now there's a gate to keep you from plummeting to your doom if you slip, but it would be an unpleasant fall onto it, and wouldn't trust it to hold me.  It might slow me down long enough for the employees to grab my ankles and pull me to safety.

Yes, I know what locals do to the stone.  I kissed it anyway.  I'm a writer in my heart, and the history of it is too irresistible.  Besides, it had been raining all day, and it didn't smell funny.  I've done worse things, and it was a lot of fun.

The best was yet to come.  The grounds are amazing, and unlike the castle, there are plenty of places for people with physical challenges to explore.  But even in the garden, there are hidden steps, steep hollows, and potentially dangerous areas including some fast water, so it's a good idea to take it slow and keep a close eye on small children.  As a gardener and appreciator of nature, I felt like I'd took a strange turn into a different world.  The garden is old, and despite being overrun relentlessly for years, it has held onto a magical undercurrent and ancient power that our entire family felt.  I didn't take many pictures as a result.  At one point the men and the women went down separate paths.  What secret rites or mysteries the men wove into, I have no knowledge of.  I hold my own memories close.

Blarney is a place to bring a sketch pad, or watercolors, or a good camera, but it's also a place to meditate, or play, or relax.  By all means have fun at the castle, but for me, the real power of Blarney is in the land and the good nature of its besieged locals.  If you want to check off a world-famous landmark, you'll only need two or three hours for the castle, grounds, and soup at the pub.  But there's much more to find there if you're patient, lucky, crafty, humble, and quiet.

(last photo by my DH)


C.S. said...

That was fascinating! And I think your DH's photo of you is incredible. I can 'see' Ireland in the expression on your face.

Kami said...

Turns out he did the pic from the tower too. I have his and mine mixed up and normally I'm pretty good at picking out whose is whose, but I got it wrong this time.

We had a very good time there. :)

The Moody Minstrel said...

Sold! ;-)