Ireland is one of the most charming countries on the planet. Okay, I know that’s a pretty bold statement considering all of the amazing places I visited over the past year, and while Laos and Nepal in particular hold special places in my heart, Ireland just feels like home.
I was nursed on stories of the Emerald Isle growing up, pictures of the O’Donnell crest on the wall, the myths of the silkies and fairies, and plenty of photos from my dad’s visits to the country. Perhaps this set the stage for why I love the country so much. I visited Ireland in 2005 with my dad and focused mostly on County Donegal; we rented a car and got lost in the tiny winding roads and hiked in the sheep pastures to the rugged coastline.
This time I was on my own and focused my attentions on mid to south West Coast of Ireland. I opted to rent a car; and while not an entirely sane idea since I hail from a right-side-of-the-road country and I was traveling solo, I had my reasons (and I’ll cover them next week in a post about bargaining down for an amazing rental car price).
Landing in Dublin and then immediately heading out on the massive highway system was like baptism by fire. My blood pressure skyrocketed when I approached the first round-about: I held my breath, tapped on my turn signal, looked left…no WAIT – crap, looked right and then ventured on my way for the several hour drive down to Cork.
Cork is a pretty big city, but it’s consumable. You’ve likely realized that I am not a “big-city” person, and Cork actually runs a fine line…but there is still plenty of charm in the city. And, naturally, Blarney Castle is a big draw for travelers seeking Blarney’s gift of gab by kissing the stone.
So the burning question did I kiss the stone? Did I really put my lips on that wet slab of germ-infested rock where thousands have done-so before me? Did I actually DANGLE my body off the side of the castle and risk my life?!
The Blarney Stone is a mysterious block of bluestone set into the actual walls and structure of Blarney Castle. Speculation has linked the bluestone to everything from Moses to the Wailing Wall. Legend has it that kissing the stone gifts the kisser with great skills of eloquence and flattery…but not necessarily a positive thing since the term “blarney” is associated with empty flattery and a bit of BS-ing.
For all of the hullabaloo about kissing the stone, the castle itself is actually really neat too and the surrounding castle grounds are gorgeous. The dank and tiny winding staircases are not for the claustrophobic, but the sweeping views of lush green country and manicured gardens are worth the trip to the top.
It’s also perhaps not for the feint of heart – you have to dangle yourself over the gaping hole in the castle floor (bared as you can see), death-grip the handrails and the man assisting unceremoniously grabs two fist-fulls of your clothes and shoves you close enough to kiss the stone. A heartbeat later you’re hauled upright and sent on your way.
TripAdvisor.com apparently ranked the Blarney Stone as the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world. I think that’s a riot!
I’m not sure if my voice is more mellifluous and my speech more eloquent, but I’m certainly still glad I kissed the stone.
Tell me, would YOU have kissed the stone? Or do you now think my lips are now tainted for a lifetime ;-) Leave a comment and let me know!