Slick sleeves from the jacket around my waist tangled between my legs, my foot slipping on the narrow stone step; I thought, ‘This is it. I’m going down and I’m probably going to take several people with me.’ In my head, it played sort of like a scene from Mario Kart when, racing through the castle, my avatar skidded straight off the side into an abyss.
Luckily I hung on and, save a hand on my arm to steady me from the man behind me, no one even seemed to notice. We were all preoccupied, waiting to reach the Blarney Stone at the top of the Blarney Castle.
The Blarney Castle is almost 600 years old, though it’s actually the third castle on the estate. The grounds are gorgeous, with a poison garden, walking trails, a waterfall, and a lake. Before reaching the top of the castle, I scurried underneath it, nearly bent in half, into the ancient dungeon; a humid, dark crawlspace in which I felt the need to check for bats every four steps.
The biggest attraction, though, is obviously the Blarney Stone. Kissing the stone allegedly gives you the Gift of the Gab, or great eloquence. There’s no definitive answer of the stone’s origin, but many say it dates back to religious figures preceding Jesus. Its path to Blarney, Ireland gets muddled, but I’m a writer, so I’m willing to go with it if it’ll make me eloquent.
For a stone so many people want to get to, it’s not all that easy to reach.
Spiraling up hundreds of damp, worn rock stairs, some no wider than the slimmest part of my foot, clutching a fraying rope bolted to dark walls made me antsy. For minutes we — me and the group of strangers-turned-new-acquaintances — wouldn’t move, just balancing precariously on the steps, attempting to peer around the corner. How much further did we have to go?
Far. And all this to hang recklessly over the side of a castle and kiss a dirty old stone. But I wanted to tell everyone I’ve always been gabby, but now it’s a gift.
So I kept climbing, taking a few breaks to hunch down and climb into rooms that would have been grand over 500 years ago but were now a foot too short, at least, to let me stand fully and offered only great views through tiny, slanting windows.
The views were even more impressive from the top. Looking out over the jutting walls, one direction offered an uninterrupted view of green, save for the brown specks, cows roaming in the fields. Gazing off in the other distance, I saw another castle; friend or foe from years past? Had someone centuries ago sat up here all night watching this other castle? Looking below, towards the entrance to the grounds, people were craning their necks at the castle, preparing to venture up themselves.
Shuffling along two sides of the rectangular structure, I could finally see the stone, people climbing to the ground before it. The stone is built into a wall of the castle, on the bottom of a battlement, which means it rests just above a gaping hole. At least it originally was gaping; now it has steel bars to up the safety factor.
After watching a few people in front of me, I tossed a two euro coin in the jar and laid flat on my back on the black cushioned mat on the parapet. The attendant, a man in all black who looked like he’d done this a few thousand times too many, guided my hands behind my head to two steel beams attached to the castle wall. Tipping my head back, I was still quite a ways from the stone. I started inching forward, but the attendant simply wrapped an arm around my waist and slid me backwards until only my legs were still on solid ground.
“Reach down a bit,” he instructed and, as my lips found the stone, I heard the camera click and he started pulling me back up. Dirt dusted my pants, but otherwise no harm done, despite hanging in a backbend hundreds of feet in the air. I was handed a slip with my photo information on it and ushered right along to keep appreciating the view; plenty of other people wanted a turn.
The woman before me had decided not to do it; after I told her how amazing it was, she went back and took her turn. Looks like my speaking powers had already kicked in — thanks, Blarney Stone!