If there is one place you go when you go to Ireland, make it Blarney Castle. The rest can wait. But Blarney in spring is magical.
After another odd morning, I was looking forward to having the day to myself to wander through a garden. I had been relocated to another group of girls for roommates. Their giant group of new fast-friends had been splintered when I had been reassigned. We had got on fine, I thought, but in the morning as we waited to load up, I overheard them complaining to each other that it wasn’t fair, that I wasn’t liked, I was strange.
I probably am strange. I’m honest to my own detriment, I like good food and fancy cooking, I hate window shopping, I don’t care about Coach bags, and I don’t like being wildly drunk or hanging out in super loud, crowded spaces. I like PBS old lady murder mysteries. I’m not WASPy, I’m not Southern, and I didn’t hate Barack Obama with an irrational passion. And that, to them, made me weird.
“You should room with us tonight,” Stacy said. She had already asked the guide. I was relieved. And still woozy with my ongoing inner-ear imbalance.
I wobbled towards the entrance to the park. Stone walls flanked the path and formed an archway overflowing with the green leaves of mature trees. Once inside, I could go right or left around the castle. I chose left because it had a secret garden opening. I would make my way back to the castle later on- for now I just wanted some time to myself.
Everything was green. The rain that had preceded us had caused an eruption of verdant moss. It crept over enormous tree trunks and boulders, wrapping as much as it could in a thick velvet mass.
Overhanging branches dripped with ferns. Their thin skins glowed in shades of lime and acid green as the sun shone through the fronds.
The trees contorted into knots. Their bark peeled off in thin layers revealing rainbows of color. Greens, golds, plums, reds, and pinks wrapped their trunks and branches.
After wandering around with my mouth open for a few hours, I made my way back to the castle. Blarney Castle is one of the most famous castles in Ireland, featuring the Blarney Stone which is kissed for the Irish “gift of gab.”
The Blarney Stone was at the top of the castle overlooking the grounds. To get to it, I hoisted myself up a stone spiral staircase, dragging myself by the hefty rope. The stones were sunken and sagging from years of wear. The centers had ground down into a significant, polished dip, making catching a foothold difficult. Coupled with my inability to walk in a straight line any longer (seriously, vertigo is a pain), it was a massive challenge to get to the top. With a fellow tourmate behind me, I contemplated our mutual fate should I lose my balance entirely and slip. “I’ll catch you,” she said. Or we’ll just tumble to the bottom, I thought.
At the top, the parapets jutted from the roofline. A series of large flat stones stood between me and the Blarney Stone caretaker. They rose up from the main floor like a pond’s stepping stones. The parapets themselves, were precariously low and each step to each stone seemed like a gamble over whether or not I could make it to the next without losing my footing and careening over the edge. With comically slow and dramatic steps, I made it over.
He muttered something incoherent. It was a strong accent. More muttering and a wave. Waves I could understand. To kiss the stone, which happens to hang from an opening overlooking the grounds, would be stone-suitors must settle themselves onto the ground, grip onto a set of bars, and lower themselves backwards into a hole. Presumably, the caretaker is there to grab hold of your belt loops should you somehow fall. In my case, he gallantly slipped a hand around my back and leaned me in like a dancer would his partner for a deep dip. And like a dancer going in for a slightly saucier deep dip, that hand found its way into slightly more personal areas than necessary. But unlike dancing, where one might either 1) slap that hand away or 2) coyly tut, my ability to not fall upside down to my death relied on said elderly, muttering caretaker. I pecked the stone.
“Up ya go!”
My head spun like mad as he lifted me out. With a glare, I slid my way down the spiral stairs- similar to the old childhood staircase scoot for unsure footing. Vertigo or not, we had pubs to go to and warm beds waiting.