Full of the old blarney

Awake at 6:30, up by 7. A beautiful sunny day. Breakfast at 8:30 which comprised a full Irish which is a full English with the addition of white and black pudding. It was as usual very filling and basically means we’ll not be needing lunch today! After bidding Georgina’s mum farewell (Georgina is actually on holiday this week in Lanzarote, or somewhere like that) we set off for Blarney at 9.

We had a lovely run down the coast along the N25 through Waterford and Cork including some fantastic views of the sea. We pulled up at the Blarney Vale B&B around lunchtime.

This B&B is lovely. The owner, Anne Hennessy, is a lovely, welcoming lady who, when informed that no, we didn’t want a double room as we were brother and sister, exclaimed “Oh, I’m so sorry. I thought you were courting!” all in a lovely Irish accent. The room we ended up in was massive and very, very comfortable. After unloading our stuff we set off for the castle and the inevitable kiss.

The village of Blarney is gathered around a large green with the castle set back from one end and a large pub at the other. We made our way through the turnstiles and up to the battlements, wending our way up the narrow and steep spiral staircase until, finally we stood facing our objective. There, his legs dangling over the edge, sat an old bored looking man who steadies you as you bend over backwards to plant your lips on the slightly greasy stone. You don’t have time to realise you are dangling over an enormous drop as you reach back and then pull yourself forwards again. I didn’t feel even remotely more skilful with my new ‘gab’ but hoped things would improve in the future.

kissing the blarney stone

I have to report that the Blarney Stone is wet and slimy, as if the impressions of millions of lips have turned to some sort of snail-like excretion.

From our entrance onto the battlements, Denise started to become a bit wobbly, her vertigo kicking in as she glimpsed the views from the wide open battlements. As she approached the man she said her legs became more and more unsteady and her tummy started to slowly spin. But she did it!

Pleased it was over, we started to walk back down. A very rude man held up the procession somewhat by taking a photo of a couple, completely blocking the staircase and ignoring the pleas of the gradually building queue behind him. But we managed to get by eventually and wandered through the floors of the castle as we descended. And no, he wasn’t an American tourist!

Historically, there was probably a wooden hunting lodge at Blarney as early as the 10th century, followed by a small stone structure. In 1446 the building of the present castle started, built by Dermot ‘the strong’ Laidir for the strong MacCarthy clan. All that remains today is the keep but when it was originally built it probably encompassed an area of around 8 acres! It was, in fact, a small walled town. It was largely self sufficient and could withstand any attack.

The booklet describes how the word ‘blarney’ came to be part of the English language thusly:

The MacCarthy’s of Blarney Castle followed the usual pattern of war and peace between their Irish neighbours and their English overlords. Queen Elizabeth I, however, wished to tighten the screws on the Irish chiefs by demanding that they agree to possess their lands under legal tenure to her. Cormac Tiege MacCarthy, Lord of Blarney, had no intention of submitting to the Queen’s demand, yet as a shrewd politician he made sure to conceal his plan from her. Skilled in subtle diplomacy, he answered every demand from the Queen by a letter protesting his undying loyalty and making flattering references to the person of her Most Gracious Majesty. On the receipt of yet another such letter, Queen Elizabeth lost her royal composure and shouted in rage ‘This is all Blarney, he never means what he says, he never does what he promises’.

On the way back down we stopped off at all the floors visiting the Young Girl’s Bedroom and the murder hole over the front entrance where I explained to Denise (and some other Australian tourist) what it was used for. It’s an excellent castle for climbing in and around as there’s lots of complete nooks and crannies.

We then went to spend some dosh on postcards and a squeezy Guinness bottle for Mr B. We wandered round a bit until we ended up in the Muskerry Arms named after the now defunct Muskerry Tramline which serviced Blarney up until 1830. The pub also has accommodation and if the beer and the food are anything to go by, a stay here would probably be pretty good. We just had a Guinness and a coffee and then wandered back to our room.

Denise had a snooze while I wrote some postcards then went for a wander to see the church. The magnificent Church of the Immaculate Conception, high on a hill overlooking the Muskerry Arms. It was locked up tight. I ended up discovering the biggest souvenir shop I’ve ever seen. It’s in what once was the Blarney Woollen Mill and extends over two floors. I bought Mirinda a scarf made at the mill. The full story of the Mill’s decline then re-growth is quite wonderful.

The tale revolves around a young Blarney lad called Christy Kelleher who started work at the prosperous Mill in 1928 as a lad of 13. He started from the bottom and worked his way up to machine supervisor. He managed to improvise repairs enough to keep the Mill running even through the parts-starved war years. In 1951 he went to work for an insurance company but still managed to start a souvenir ‘shop’ in an old wagon at Blarney.

Kelleher bust

Business at the Mill was declining and in 1973 it closed its doors for good and the big building stood empty and neglected. Through hell and high water Christy managed to scrape together enough money to purchase the Mill and transfer his souvenir business into two floors of it. The rest he converted into a hotel, now appropriately called Christy’s. He died in 1991 aged 76 and is remembered as a visionary and possessor of the great Blarney spirit. What a guy! His bronze head looks quite jolly.

After wandering round this emporium, I strolled back to the B&B, had a shower and wrote up my journal. We went back into the village at 6 for dinner at the Muskerry Arms. I had a lovely poached salmon on mash with a dried tomato puree with, naturally, a Guinness. Denise had roast lamb which was, alas, the sad victim of kitchen over-design when it was actually lamb steak on mash. Still, very yum. After dinner I popped out to try and ring Mirinda but she wasn’t home so we had a Guinness and a Bailey’s latte for supper then walked back to the B&B.

Denise is amazed at how light it still is at 8:30pm. I had a text from Dawn asking if she could watch the Southampton game during the barbi next Saturday. I said Mirinda would not be overly impressed but thought we could pull it off.

I tried to call Mirinda on the mobile but have worked out that I get charged even if she rings me! That is like SOOOOO annoying. What is the point of that? Anyway, I eventually wandered back into Blarney and called her on the public phone box outside the pub.

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