This particular stone is said to give the “gift of gab” to anyone who kisses its cold face. It is also said to be a popular outlet for locals to relieve themselves, urinating on the rock for amusement rather than necessity. Sound like just the place you’d like to visit, doesn’t it?
Believe me, you do.
On Day Three of our tour with Shamrocker Adventures through Southern Ireland, we arrived at Blarney Castle, home of the infamous Blarney Stone, early in the morning. The back of the bus had been particularly “gabby” already, still feeling the buzz from the previous night’s outting. We all entered the grounds of Blarney Castle together. Each of us was amazed at the intensity of the seldom-seen Irish sun: a compliment to Blarney’s well-kept gardens which spread acres in every direction.
The castle is a tall structure with straight lines, reaching toward the sky. Its main body takes on a rather boxy shape, accented by outreaching turrets and towers. We followed signs leading to both the castle and to its neighboring Poisonous Gardens.
After hearing stories of men urinating and visitors literally bending over backward to smooch the stone, I imagined something like a tombstone: a single crag planted into an open field. I imagined performing a graceful back arch, a yoga ‘wheel’ with get on the ground, hands on the stone for support, with belly to the sky. Magically all visitors would be fully capable of such acrobatic postures.
How or why? I hadn’t yet imagined that far.
But it didn’t matter because once we’d arrived at Blarney, it became evident that the stone was nothing like the images I’d taken time to fabricate in my mind. Instead of a tombstone standing alone in a field, ol’ Blarney is seemingly part of the castle’s wall. Built into the castle’s very highest point nearly 90 above ground is a piece of bluestone, the same type of rock used to create Stonehenge’s curious display. The stone’s height is matched with a gaping opening, meaning that as suitors are planting a big wet one smack dab on the stone’s center, they are dangling high above the ground below. While this may bring discomfort to some, it surely brings peace of mind to others. For the suspended location means those crazy Irish men who want to dirty the stone will have a tough time doing so. And if that’s not reassurance enough, sanitary wipes are made available to squeamish travelers.
Instead of waiting in line in the field I’d imagined, visitors climb sets of stairs growing progressively more narrow with every level. And tourists do not magically morph into acrobats just in time to kiss the charming rock. Instead, they are assisted as they lay flat on their backs, arms over head, hands grasping metal bars. A man gently holds on to each person’s stomach and shoulders and ushers everyone through like they’re on a conveyer belt. Visitors wait in line, climb the wee stairs, wait in line again, hand off valuables so they won’t lose them through the gap, and take a seat. With backs to the stone, they are then led to lean back and hold onto the two bars while giving the rock a peck. Once lips touch stone, they’re helped up and encouraged to move out of the way to make room for the next visitor.
The whole process takes less time than it has taken for you to read this sentence. My lips hadn’t even touched the stone before I was asked to sit back up. “There ye go, now fer the next ‘en,” the guardian of the stone ushered me upward and onward. Maybe he thought I’m too chatty as it is… but I got him, don’t you worry!
As I moved away, the next visitor was sat down, was coaxed back, and allowed her own kiss. A member of the tour, she and I had latched to each other and I stood nearby to record her big moment. Just as she sat up, the Blarney Stone seemingly said “Oh no ye don’t!” and planted his own kiss, right on her forehead. She stood up and immediately a red spot appeared in the shape and size of a lip stained kiss. There it remained for the rest of the day, just as it first appeared.
A kiss of the Blarney Stone shockingly turned into a kiss from the Blarney Stone. There’s got to be some sort of Irish magic behind a scrape like that!
After kissing and getting kissed by Blarney, we took to walking the well-manicured grounds. Signs near the main walkway suggest these gardens are particularly special. One asks visitors not to disrupt the Leprechauns running about. Another points to groups of white flowers which let off a smell that makes your mouth water: wild garlic.
Yet another is lined with postings of skill and crossbones. Even the plants are arranged in an “x” formation with an oversized circular middle: The poisonous gardens of Blarney Castle.
What’s planted here? Opium, Castor Oil, Cannabis. The usual…
With a stunning castle accompanied by the gift of gab, a sky-high kiss of a stone, germaphobic cautions of old wive’s tales, and gardens growing lethal substances, Blarney Castle is a must-see. The Luck o’ the Irish was with us that sunshiny day, as we finished up three fantastic days together.
A huge thank you goes out to Shamrocker Adventure Tours of Ireland for inviting me to experience The Best of Southern Ireland. Be sure to book a tour when you’re in town – CLICK HERE to access their website and start planning. Really, you must! How else are you going to receive the Gift of Gab?