Here’s a quiz. If you answer correctly, chances are you’ve got the gift of blarney. I’ll quote two phrases; you choose the one you’d say if you had to. Ready?
“You look like mutton dressed as lamb” or “The lines of the years have done nothing to lessen your youthful charm.”
If you’d take the second option, you’re probably well on your way to having the blarney. Well, not quite. No-one’s really sure what blarney means, though at Blarney Castle, it’s suggested that it’s like blathering or blabbering, but nicer and more flattering. There’s also a precariously located stone on the parapets of the castle, infused with the essence of Blarney. Legend has it, kissing the stone will give the intrepid adventurer the gift of the gab.
Like I need any more encouragement!
I had no idea what to expect – some kind of lame tourist gimmick – but the Blarney Castle experience was actually a lot of fun. The extensive landscaped gardens are really scenic, and the imposing castle is full of sections to explore.
The first part, and my personal favourite, was the lower guardhouse, which would have served as a sentry point and first point of defence for the tower. It’s a poky little hidey hole in the hill at the base of the castle. Narrow tunnels and staircases lead off the first chamber in all directions, most of which are now closed off. I could barely crouch, and sometimes had to crawl, to explore the few remaining sections. Muddy knees aside, it was intriguing to picture the lives of the soldiers who would have made a living in such a place.
We then proceeded up to the main castle. It took an hour of running around to explore the myriad rooms, chambers, murder holes and inexplicable nooks throughout the stone structure. The well-worn stone staircase was narrow and spiralled tightly – it would have been near impossible to conquer such a place by force.
Finally emerging onto the battlements at the top of the castle, we were treated to a stunning view of the surrounding countryside in the evening light. The jewel in the crown of the castle is the Blarney Stone itself – to kiss it, I had to lie on my back, grip some iron railing and shuffle my torso out over a hole which opened to a 40-metre drop. There’s a few bars to prevent messy mishaps, and a jolly old attendant to hang on to the Blarney kissers, but it’s still good fun.
Having discovered the gift of the gab, we trundled down the stairs to the deadly garden – an array of the most dangerous plants of folklore and legend. I grew up reading fantasy novels in which nightshade, poison ivy and hemlock were frequent stars, so seeing them in real life was cool. They’re surprisingly innocuous! Clearly witches didn’t make their reputation by the look of their brews, so much as the effect.
All in all, a good day out – sometimes the tourist trail is lame, but sometimes it’s bags of fun!