Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 7: Blarney Castle

After six amazing days on the road with our All Ireland Rocker tour, we had finally reached the last day and County Cork!

Day 7 started by leaving Killarney and all of its fun behind us – so we can go find the Gift of the Gab at Blarney Castle.

Blarney Castle, County Cork

I was so excited to finally go exploring in an Irish Castle!


Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold near County Cork. It’s still quite well preserved and was one of my favourite places to visit on the tour. Lucky for us, the entrance fee for Blarney Castle was an optional “add-on” activity that we had purchased ahead of time when we booked our Shamrocker tour. So we didn’t have to pay or stand in line to purchase tickets. If you are travelling without a tour, tickets are €12.50 if you order them online! (FYI – the cost was $20CAD when we purchased our tour.)

Its height and stone walls were magnificent and our Irish luck continued – giving us a gorgeous sunny day to explore the castle and its grounds!

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As mentioned earlier, we were here to gain the Gift of the Gab. Similar to every other location we visited in Ireland, Blarney Castle was not an exception when it came to myth, folklore and fascinating stories.

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The most famous being the Blarney Stone, of course. The Blarney Stone is set into a wall below the Battlements, and it has a most unique tradition attributed to it.

There are many different versions as to the story related to the Blarney Stone.

“Some say it was Jacob’s Pillow, brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. Here it became the Lia Fail or ‘Fatal Stone’, used as an oracular throne of Irish kings – a kind of Harry Potter-like ‘sorting hat’ for kings. It was also said to be the deathbed pillow of St Columba on the island of Iona. Legend says it was then removed to mainland Scotland, where it served as the prophetic power of royal succession, the Stone of Destiny.

When Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, sent five thousand men to support Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English at Bannockburn in 1314, a portion of the historic Stone was given by the Scots in gratitude – and returned to Ireland.” – Blarney Castle

What the people in the region believe is, of course, more mythical:

“Whatever the truth of its origin, we believe a witch saved from drowning revealed its power to the MacCarthys.” – Blarney Castle

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Can you spot the person lying down to kiss the Blarney Stone?

After climbing up some very steep steps, with very narrow corridors, we finally arrived at the top of the Battlements.

Along the way, as you walk up, there are several rooms in their original states that give you a glimpse of what life may have been like in medieval Ireland!

 

 

Once we reached the top, we watched as other people gained the Gift of the Gab and got excited for our experience… There can be quite a wait, so be prepared and make sure you leave enough time to explore the rest of the castle and grounds!

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We also couldn’t help continuing our “gazing off into the distance” tradition while we waited!

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In order to gain the Gift of the Gab, there is an interesting tradition to kissing the stone, as you can see below…

“Once upon a time, visitors had to be held by the ankles and lowered head first over the battlements. Today, we are rather more cautious of the safety of our visitors. The Stone itself is still set in the wall below the battlements. To kiss it, one has to lean backwards (holding on to an iron railing) from the parapet walk. The prize is a real one as once kissed the stone bestows the gift of eloquence.” – Blarney Castle

Thank goodness we didn’t get held by the ankles! But, it was still exciting to be held upside down as you kiss a stone that tons of people had been kissing for centuries!!!

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The view from the top of the tower gave us a chance to see just how extensive the grounds of Blarney Castle were!

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Once we reached the bottom, we decided to explore the rest of the grounds with what little time we had left!

We had two choices of garden – which we, obviously, chose to go in the direction of the Poison Garden ;).

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There were many interesting plants that we were warned to not “Touch, Eat or Smell any plant!”

For any Harry Potter fans out there, the garden actually had a European mandrake! You can pretend you are in Herbology and imagine pulling out a screeching mandrake!!! 🙂
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Walking along, we just kept getting amazed by the amazing nature surrounding us. We were more than a little fascinated by this tree and its gigantic limbs!
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We also happened to stumble upon a waterfall in a secluded Fern Garden and Waterfall!!! It was so beautiful and peaceful, if you have time to just sit and enjoy nature while you visit, this is the place to do so.
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Walking along, we stumbled upon Blarney House. This is the ancient seat of the MacCarthy’s of Muskerry. The house is still inhabited and at times open to the public, but it was closed when we visited.
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Since the area was so quiet, we figured we should claim the house for our own and again continued our tradition of taking pictures with epic doorways!
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We continued walking and found more gardens! They just kept getting more and more beautiful as we walked along!
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Sadly we didn’t spot any Leprechauns, but we were quite convinced they lived in this magical area!

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While walking around, we also came across what our friend called an Igloo for the Canadians! We had to take a picture in it, since clearly it reminded us of home! A little piece of Canada in Ireland ;).


After wandering for a bit, we finally made it to the Wishing Steps! It is said that the Witch constantly uses wood from the Grounds for herself and as a result she must grant wishes to her visitors!

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In order for the Witch to grant your wish, you must walk down the steps backwards (some even say with your eyes closed) while only thinking of the wish you want granted. If you can do that, then it is guaranteed that your wish will come true! Of course, it’s easier said than done…image

This area is also home to the Witch’s Kitchen, Sacrificial Altar and Waterfalls! We won’t spoil all the stories for you, so you will just have to go and find out more about these ones on your own ;).

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Continuing our walk, we came upon our first STANDING STONES of the trip – The Seven Sisters!!! I was more than a little bit excited, because of COURSE I had watched Outlander and figured this was my first chance at finding the stone that would take me back in time and to Jamie Fraser (YES, wrong country, but, I had to try).

To know the story behind these stones, you will have to visit Blarney Castle yourself!

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Blarney Castle, County Cork

After attempting to find Jamie Fraser, we had to take our leave from Blarney Castle – without having seen everything on the grounds! There are so many more parts of the grounds that we didn’t have a chance to explore, so we will definitely be returning to Blarney Castle and County Cork in the future!

If you want more information and to plan your own visit to Blarney Castle, you can do so here.

After grabbing a quick lunch and some souvenirs from the extensive Blarney Castle gift shop, we got back on the bus and started our journey back to Dublin :(.

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On our way back, Gillian continued to point out historic sites and we made one last stop at the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary.

We first stopped at the side of the road, to catch a glimpse of it.
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“The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion. In 1101, the King of Munster, Muirchertach Ua Briain, donated his fortress on the Rock to the Church. The picturesque complex has a character of its own and is one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe. Few remnants of the early structures survive; the majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries.” – Wikipedia

And then we made a stop at a carpark near the bottom of the Rock of Cashel, where we could stretch our legs and explore a wee bit. Unfortunately for us, the structure was being restored at the time and we didn’t have enough time to actually go up and visit the Rock of Cashel. We did manage to wander down a road and catch another angle of the Rock of Cashel – the side without any evidence of construction!

Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary

If you want to find more information about the Rock of Cashel, you can do so here.

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Near the carpark, we came across the BrĂș BorĂș sculpture. This amazing sculpture represents the traditional music, song and dance that is attributed to BrĂș BorĂș, the Irish Cultural Movement. The fluidity of the sculpture is amazing and definitely encompasses the passion that the Irish have for song and dance!
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Of course we tried to recreate the sculpture ourselves. It turned out much better than I thought it would!

The BrĂș BorĂș Dancers, County Tipperary

Unfortunately, quickly after this short stop, our Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker tour ended :(. We arrived back in Dublin and had to say goodbye to Gillian and many of our new friends – although we would reunite with one of our new friends in Edinburgh on our Haggis Adventures tour!

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It was a whirlwind of a tour! Having hiked, walked, taken 1000’s of pictures and seen so many beautiful sights, we were lucky to have been part of such an amazing tour group with some pretty amazing tour guides!

We found a new love for Ireland! We left part of our souls in the Atlantic in Coumeenole, so we know we will be returning to this amazing country that is filled with such vibrant culture, rich traditions and mythical stories sooner rather than later!

Stay tuned for more of our adventures from last year with our next stop: Scotland!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
LettersofWanderlust3


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