Rick Steves does not recommend Blarney Castle. He really seems to hate it. He calls it the most overrated attraction in Europe. We almost didn't go there because of his review. I mean, I really trust Rick Steves. He is like the traveling expert/role model I didn't know I couldn't live without.
I think he must have had a bad experience there once or something because we loved it. And I can think of a few other European attractions that I would consider far more overrated than Blarney Castle.
Actually, I just sat here and thought about it for a good ten minutes and I really can't think of anything. I love everything, it turns out. Or we just go to the good attractions?
Okay, sure, Blarney Castle is corny but in a weirdly wonderful way. And once you are actually there, it doesn't feel that corny at all. It's about as iconic to Ireland as corned beef and cabbage (which, by the way, is not actually a traditional Irish meal. It's really just what Americans eat on St. Paddy's Day. I have now saved you from horrible embarrassment when you go to Ireland and you are welcome. I didn't order it, Forrest did. I hate cabbage). The point is, it was great.
The castle itself was great. It is mostly an empty shell (which Rick happens to think is a bad thing and I happen to think he is incorrect, good sir, and maybe he should stick to mainland Europe for his books because those are much better) but I've been in so many redone castles already that this was nooo problem. We climbed a few flights of stairs, read the signage on the walls, and learned which rooms were which. Then we emerged at the top with the legendary Blarney Stone at our fingertips
We must be the luckiest people in the world because, as we confusedly approached the old man who would lower us down to the stone, we realized that we were the only three people (besides old man) up there. We each gave that bad boy (the stone, not the old man) a quick kiss and then looked up to see at least 20 people in line behind us. I giggled with glee and we moved on.
They say that kissing the Blarney Stone bequeaths the kisser with the so-called "Gift of Gab" which makes him or her a convincing and eloquent speaker. I haven't really been seeing this gift manifest itself in me quite yet but maybe there's a brewing period or something? I'll keep the blog updated on that one.
We also went into the caves underneath the castle and wandered in the poison garden where I found an awful lot of potion ingredients i.e. mandrake, hellebore, wolfsbane, wormwood. They even acknowledged that mandrake screams when you pull it up (Harry Potter fans). So now I'm not exactly sure what to think but there may be wizards in Blarney?
I already know for sure that a witch lives in Blarney because she has a house. The witch is trapped inside a witch-shaped rock and can only come out at night when Blarney Castle is conveniently closed. They say that sometimes really early in the morning you can see the embers from her fire inside her house. Her chimney is pictured, by the way.
Blarney Castle has some of the prettiest grounds I have seen at a castle and it's probably worth a visit just for that if you're in the area. They say that the first inhabitants of Ireland settled on the Blarney land.
There was something really magical about the woods and the gardens. The trees let in just the right amount of dappled sunlight and the ground was covered in green. There were pretty flowers everywhere and they have not one but two waterfalls. There was a cute little pussy-willow tunnel and wooden bridges over the streams. There are weird (but magical) rock formations everywhere and it was all just the perfect effect. They even have a fairy garden (where we found a leprechaun).
My favorite part was the set of stone steps appropriately named the Wishing Steps. If you can walk down and back up the steps while thinking of a wish the entire time, your wish will be granted to the Blarney Witch. Oh, but you have to keep your eyes closed the entire way.
I attempted walking down the steps with my eyes closed but found that I really couldn't concentrate on a wish when I was trying so much harder not to die. I didn't even bother walking back up with my eyes shut. Before you judge, let me tell you that those steps are really steep and wet and slippery smooth. And they're in a tunnel, sort of.
Denise did it though.
So to recap:
Blarney Castle is worth the visit but don't eat the plants in the poison garden.
And one last service announcement: If you want to make one of those smashed penny souvenirs but find yourself without a penny, don't take a penny from the places where weirdos leave them as tribute (like in the fairy garden or on the witch rock) because they are definitely cursed. Forrest did it and had bad luck the rest of the day. Or at least the place we ate at ran out of frozen yogurt right when it was his turn. So.. if that doesn't make you think twice, I don't know what will.
One last Ireland post is coming at you soon. I really and truly promise that it's the last one. Really.