I think we are led to a series of expectations about cultural things, things like the Little Mermaid. All you ever see is a statue on a rock by water. What you don’t see is a very small stature on a rock in a public park in Copenhagen with a fine view of the docks on the other side of the water.
The Pyramids is another, all you ever see is them and sand, what you don’t see is them facing Cairo. The Standing Stones of Callanish is another, the traditional view is of the stones and sky, that’s because the village starts right at the bottom on the site. There are lots more that I could mention but its the Blarney Stone that I’m going to go on about now…
When in Ireland and so close to Cork we just had to go and visit Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone.
Getting there wasn’t easy, its clear that the Tiger Economy of the now financially crippled Ireland never quite extended to improving the road infrastructure between Cork and Limerick. So the 100 km drive from Limerick to Cork was to put it politely a leisurely affair, with fine views of hedges, fields a handful of quaint country towns and the back of a few lorries.
We missed a signpost in Blarney itself either that or it just wasn’t there so we saw even more hedges, trees, villages and lorries before we worked out what went wrong and found the castle.
The first thing was Kerching! 12 Euro, each please? OK the castle was sited in an enormous park with a fantastic collection of trees one great big arboretum, which would have been absolutely fantastic with the autumnal colours had the weather not been so dreich but hey, that’s Ireland for you. This is why it’s so green, just like my dear old Scotland. It’s green because it rains a LOT! Well drizzle but never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
For the weary traveller, there was an immediate ambush by cafe as you go through the turnstyle, must have got it surplus from an old football ground followed by a toilet stop, where a lot of people must have confused the floor with the urinals… and I’ll leave it at that. Outside was a nice gentle walk through lots of trees to the castle
This was our first view of the castle, see what I mean about the prospect of autumnal colours.
More walking and you find out why the castle is here, it’s built onto a rock face in a naturally defensive position. I like the little bay window thing sticking out of the wall, right next to the chutes from the Garderobes, which were the castles equivalent to indoor toilets.
A little bit more walking and we come across this piece or architecture that looks out of place and I am talking about the castle. Mary’s husband is a big laddie.
From this point on things started to go pear shaped. We entered the old castle and we all started forming up into a queue to go very slowly up a spiral staircase. We could hear a car frantically honking its horn and then a young man in fluorescent gear runs past us with DOCTOR on the back of his jacket. Time to wonder if one is going to have to put ones first aid training into use. Anyway it takes ages to wind our way up the castle and when we finally reach the top we find that a fellow visitor has taken unwell right at the very top of the castle and is being attended by two paramedics and the doctor. From a personal point of view I wonder the the logistics of getting a casualty down from there. It’s far too tight to strap him into a Sked stretcher and carry him down. My guess would be a helicopter or to lower him over the side.
The one way system at the top was all to blazes because the one way was blocked by the medical emergency so we had to then climb over a chain barrier and go against the flow to get to the stone itself.
We are up on the battlements and you look directly across to where the stone is… and then you realise that this is going to get interesting. One or two have seen the light and are standing politely to the side letting others pass.
So this is how it happens.
You all form a line up to where the stone is. See the notice in the foreground, good idea as it’s a long way down and there is not much to stop you going over if you stand on the fire step. You see the sign on the wall. The de-fib machine, great that they actually have one is located in the cafe at the bottom of the castle. Great thinking, if it were needed then someone would have to run down the spiral staircase get it an run back, against the flow of visitors coming out of the castle and by that time the rescuer would have become a casualty. I’d like to think they could bring it up on a rope and that the attendants are actually trained in how to use it… Top, Middle, Bottom all clear – Shocking! Easy done in practice.
The big box is a camera, you get photographed as you…
… as you lie on your back . You then have to work yourself backwards and DOWNWARDS as the stone is below floor level, which gets the old foo-foo valve a little loose I can tell you.
At this point I should mention that the Blarney Stone is sponsored by the Irish Association of Chiropractors . It’s an unnatural thing to do and very unnerving. The bars at the bottom were only a recent innovation. You lean back and aim for a blueish rectangular stone at the bottom, which feels more like a test of ones manhood than the attainment of the gift of eloquence. Notice the germ spray at the bottom of the picture. Probably to cut down the risk of infection from the over keen visitors trying to French Kiss the stone.
Wee Jaggy Bit – the Blarney Stone originates from the Holy Land and is supposed to have come from the same piece of stone at the Stone of Destiny, which is to roughly quote “The Kings Speech” where a long and distinguished line of royal ar5e holes have sat upon it… and we are in the process of kissing that same stone. Makes you wonder.
Down at the bottom and we paid our 10 Euro or so for our official souvenir and then you can look up and see where the stone is in relation to the outside of the castle. Its on the bottom layer of the parapet between the two iron rails.
We spoke with the attendant and he tells us that their record is 2,500 visitors in a day with a maximum wait of two and a half hours to get to the top… I think that he has maybe kissed it on a good many occasions but an interesting fact none the less.
A brief coffee stop and we were off to explore the grounds. There are a an extensive number of paths through the trees, which are well worth exploring if you have the time and the weather. We ended up at the poshest rock garden of them all,complete with a weathered stone formation in the shape of a witches head, her mouth forms a convenient repository for any spare cents that one may wish to part with
… and a Dolmen, which is a chambered cairn rather like the cross beams of Stonehenge, although I get the feeling that this one is either a folly or just a natural rock formation. The piece of lens flare seems appropriate.
This was the last photo that I took, the dreich weather was just too sapping on my enthusiasm as a photographer after all there is a limit on how creative one can be turning dreich into interesting.
So there we have it. Been and gone and done it… AND kissed the stone…. ye ken, but there is one thing to be sure, to be sure…