Blarney Castle, Blarney, County Cork, Republic of Ireland

Blarney castle was a fun, if kitschy, stop near Cork along our southern route back to Dublin. The 15th-century fortress is best known as the home of the famous “Blarney stone,” which allegedly gives those who kiss it the gift of gab. Kissing the stone is a bit of a feat: the only way to reach it is by laying on your back on the floor of the castle’s highest story, letting the top half of your body dangle over the edge, and arching your back to push your head even further down, all while trusting the assistant holding your feet to not let you fall. The shorter you are, the harder this is (I’m 5’6″ and my bum was dangling over the side along with my torso), but hundreds of people of varied sizes and ages do it every day.

According to legend, the saying that something is “blarney” comes from the first Queen Elizabeth. During the Reformation, Cormac MacCarthy, Lord of Blarney, visited the Queen in order to argue for his realm’s independence. He managed, through a variety of polite excuses and charm, to both delay relinquishing control and paying tribute to the crown while promising to do so in the future. Eventually, after receiving the latest in a long series of apologies and flimsy justifications for further delay, Elizabeth lost her temper and cried out in frustration: “This is all Blarney! He never means what he says!”

The castle’s extensive grounds include a charmingly deadly and informative poison garden, caves that once doubled as prison cells, and several walking paths.

All photos by Renée DeVoe Mertz, May 28, 2013, unless otherwise stated.

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