On Tuesday, we went to Blarney. By we, I mean my parents, Grandfather, Bevie, Maureen & Tony, our adopted cousin Kelley, and Mike & me. Again, I was blown away by the age of things. The castle was originally built before 1200, but was destroyed and then rebuilt in the 1400s. The grounds of the castle are beautiful and all open to the public.
I noticed, at all the historic sites we visited in Ireland, that everything is just open to the public. Some of the biggest attractions, like Blarney Castle, are supervised and regulated, but you can explore the entire castle and touch everything. You can participate in the history and enjoy it. In the US, that would never happen -- everything would be roped off and carefully monitored, and there would be no touching anything.
Just outside the entrance to the castle, there was a small, dark staircase leading to a little tiny dungeon room. Shooting off from that, there was a tunnel. Mike crawled down it to explore, and found just a very small, dank, wet dungeon area (I would have been right there with him if I hadn't spent the previous night puking, and I was still not feeling quite right -- oops, there I go talking about puking again -- will I ever shut up about that?):
At any rate, we contined exploring, entering the castle and starting up the stairs. We found a big open entryway before heading up the very teeny stone spiral staircase in the castle. We also found a Murder Hole. I'm not sure too many building are built with Murder Holes these days (click the photo to make it bigger so you can read it).
We continued climbing up, stopping off at all the various castle rooms we could explore. Eventually, we made it to the top of the main part of the castle, where we found a marvelous view:
Also at the top of the castle, of course, is the Blarney Stone. Click this photo to read about Blarney and the gift of eloquence, should you so desire:
The Blarney Stone is the very last stone at the bottom of this photo, the one that is smoother than the rest and is a slightly darker grey in the middle:
I kissed it! Grandfather and I were brave enough to do it (and so was Maureen, but I don't have a picture of her kissing it). Now, we were warned before we left by someone from the Cork area that we should not kiss the stone, because the locals go and pee all over it because they think it's funny. So I had decided in advance not to kiss the stone. But when I saw where it was (at the top of a castle, with security cameras and behind fences - you do have to pay to get into the castle grounds) and that they had a bottle of disinfectant right by the stone, I changed my mind. I chose the gift of eloquence over believing that some Irish teenagers peed all over the Blarney Stone. You all will have to let me know whether it worked.
That's Grandfather and then me kissing the stone. Please note that the ground is far, far away with only a couple of thin metal bars between me and it. Also you'll notice that Grandfather kissed the stone right on, whereas, in this photo, I missed. Rest assured I realized I did not tip my head down far enough, and I leaned down again and kissed the correct stone. You just can't tell from this. And believe you me, when you kiss the right stone, you are well aware. In order to get to it, your head has to tip so far down it's actually upside down, and HELLO, there's the ground, way down there.
Because I know it is difficult to comprehend exactly where and what the Blarney Stone is, without having seen it in person (I know I had no idea of what it really looked like or where it was), we took a couple of photos from the ground outside the castle with the long lens on the camera.
You can see where those people are at the top of the castle, and there is a guy lying on his back leaning over to kiss the stone, which is actually below the level of the floor at the top of the castle. The Blarney Stone is the very bottom stone around which those vertical metal bars are wrapped. On the inside of the castle, you grab those bars to steady yourself while leaning back, and the guy holds you at the waist.
I know kissing the Blarney Stone is kind of a touristy thing to do, but it still felt special to me, and I had a lot of fun at Blarney. It made me want to explore more castles, and see more historic sites in Europe. I am particularly interested in the Henry VIII period in England, and have been reading lots of historical fiction about that time, and watching The Tudors on Showtime. I'd love to go explore some of those English castles.
I'm sorry if the formatting is screwed up on this -- something is wrong with the template I'm using and it doesn't allow spacing between pictures & text to be correct. It comes up looking fine on some computers, but not others. So if you have a bunch of extra spaces to scroll through, sorry about that. I will try to figure out how to fix it.