The power of a kiss is undeniable. Take that kiss, toss in a mystical stone and you may soon discover the “gift of gab.” At least that’s what the legend of the Blarney Stone says. Who am I to argue?
There is a stone there, that whoever kisses,
Oh! he never misses to grow eloquent.
‘Tis he may clamber, to a lady’s chamber,
Or become a member of Parliament.
A clever spouter he’ll sure turn out, or
An out-and-outer to be let alone.
Don’t hope to hinder him, or to bewilder him.
Sure he’s a pilgrim from the Blarney Stone. –Francis Sylvester Mahony
Blarney Castle and the infamous Blarney Stone were the next items on our Irish adventure itinerary. We had a bit of a drive from Dublin to reach Blarney, so we woke early on Friday morning and grabbed a quick breakfast at Café Sol. This cute little restaurant had a line almost to the door when we got there–a good sign we were in for a treat. The marketing geek in me also got excited over its cute “to go” bags with funny saying like, “saw this, thought of me.”
The best thing at the café, however, was the scones. I love scones and desperately needed a fix. Luckily Café Sol had a good selection of fresh baked goods, including several varieties of scones. We opted for pear and almond and berry scones—both were absolutely delicious.
After breakfast, we hopped in the car and headed just over an hour south of Dublin to the Rock of Cashel (aka the Cashel of Kings and St. Patrick’s Rock). The Rock of Cashel is actually an outcrop of buildings, some dating back to the 12th century, perched on a limestone hill above the town of Cashel in County Tipperary.
As the legend goes, the Rock of Cashel was formed when the devil took a bite out of the Devil’s Bit mountain, where he’d been banished by St. Patrick. He broke his tooth when he chomped into the mountainside and the rock fell from his mouth, forming the Rock of Cashel.
The site is also reputedly the location where Aenghus, the king of Munster, was converted to Catholicism by St. Patrick in the 5th century AD. It remained the seat of the high kings of Munster until it was gifted to the Church in the 12th century.
Today, visitors can hike up the hill and stroll through the ruins, including Cormac’s Chapel and a cathedral where they can still see remnants of religious paintings and etchings. A stroll around the grounds takes you through an old cemetery and provides stunning views of the surrounding valley and mountains in the distance.
It was quite windy and cool the day we were there and, in true Irish weather fashion, we also got a brief rain shower. We watched the rain clouds slowly close in on us from the distance and ran to escape the worst of it in the safety of the archway of Cormac’s Chapel.
Once the rain cleared, we made our way into town and stopped at Café Hans for a quick bite to warm and fuel up before heading to Blarney. We got steaming bowls of hot leek soup to run off the chill and finished our meal with a fish cake and hamburger. The food and service were equally delicious and warm.
Bellies full, we hopped back in the car and headed to our next stop: Blarney. Our plan was to hit the Blarney Woolen Mills to load up on warm clothes for the impending, colder months in Europe (teaser: for our next stop, we are slated to move where sauerkraut and beer are practically staples).
The Blarney Woolen Mills is a huge store with everything from hand-knit Aran sweaters to Waterford Crystal and Irish Jewelry. I could probably have wondered for hours and maxed out our credit cards there, but we had more to see and I don’t think Matt would have enjoyed a long shopping spree. After trying a few things on, I opted for a lovely, long sweater and snuggly scarf. Matt picked out some Irish mead. Both of us were ready for chillier weather.
After the Mill, we headed about five minutes up the road to Blarney Castle. I was expecting to see a crumbling castle on a hill and not much more. What we discovered was so much better. The castle is nestled into over 60 acres of gorgeous parklands, which include gardens, ponds, other ruins and, reportedly, even leprechauns.
We started our visit at the castle and took our time climbing to the top and peeking into the various rooms along the way. The stairs grew increasingly narrow and uneven as we made our way to the very top of the castle. It’s a climb definitely not for the faint of heart, nor those afraid of heights. I do have a fear of heights, but we were at Blarney Castle! I was determined to make it to the top.
We did! Once there, we were greeted with another Irish rain shower and stood huddled together under an umbrella on the narrow edge of roof still there—not wanting to walk further on the slippery stones until the weather cleared a bit.
The shower eventually passed over and we made our way to the Blarney Stone. Legend has it, kissing the Blarney Stone blesses the kisser with the gift of eloquence. To kiss it, you have to lay on your back and grip two bars drilled into the side of the wall while you hang over the edge to reach the stone. Sure, there’s a guy up there gripping onto you so you don’t fall, but it’s still pretty precarious.
On the way to the top, I felt confident I’d be able to kiss the stone. However, once I saw where you lay and the distance to the ground beneath, I decided I’m okay with stumbling over my words. Matt was brave and kissed it (and kissed me right after at the recommendation of one of the men working up there—maybe we’ll both get the gift).
Deed done, we made our way back down to the safety of the ground and began walking through the gardens. We strolled through the Fairy Glade, past the Witch Stone and Witches Kitchen and down the Wishing Steps. It rained along the way again, but as it cleared we saw a double rainbow!
We found our way to the Blarney House, a Scottish Baronial mansion built in the late 1700’s for the family that owned the Blarney Castle estate. It is open to visitors in the summer, but was unfortunately closed by the time we got there.
From the mansion, we hiked out to some of the other ruins on the property, including the ice house and old limekiln. Though there were other visitors at the Blarney Castle, we were practically on our own to admire the beautiful forests and glens. Our final stop was to take a peak in the narrow, limestone cave beneath the Blarney Castle.
My tip for Blarney Castle: sure, go and kiss the stone but do not miss the rest of the gardens. Everyone hears about the Blarney Stone, but the gardens are a treasure all on their own.
The day was waning, so we decided to check in at our B&B: the Blarney Vale B&B. This cute little house is located just up the street from the heart of town. We received a warm greeting by one of the owners, Ann, upon our arrival. She showed us to our cozy room and gave us some great tips for dinner before leaving us to relax and settle in.
Both a bit tired from three busy day, we decided to just walk up the road to the Muskerry Arms where we dined on bangers and mash and the roast of the evening (turkey and ham).
We settled in fairly early that night, but not before enjoying a few humorous Irish and British TV shows and a few craft Irish brews we picked up from a bottle shop on the way back to the B&B.
The next morning, we were served a delightful, homemade full Irish breakfast (we had to at least once on the trip!) and strong coffee.
We said our goodbyes to our kind host, Ann, and embarked on our journey up the west coast to Galway. Tales from that adventure coming soon!