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My wife and I were in the Emerald Isle for the first time and were smitten by its vast history. Everything was so green and welcoming.
There was one place that drew us like a magnet: Blarney Castle and its fabled Blarney Stone.
How could we not be captivated?
One quick smooch for the enduring gift of the gab? What a deal.
Blarney, I discovered, means beguiling but misleading talk.
This is a delightful characteristic of the Irish, who are famous for their charming and persuasive twists of the tongue.
The Blarney Stone began when the Queen of the Fairies — the daughter of a Druid — fell in love with a gallant young chieftain who, unfortunately, was killed
She found him lying on a stone, soaked in his blood. Her tears mingled with the blood as she repeatedly kissed his dead lips, causing her magical powers to be transferred to the stone.
Narrow winding roads lead us to Blarney Castle, the third to have been erected on this site.
The first building erected in the 10th century was a wooden structure. Around 1210, it was replaced by a stone fort.
In 1446, a third castle was built and the Stone of Eloquence eventually found its way to the castle, where it was embedded in the wall near the top of a turret.
We arrived and strolled along the river toward the towering stone castle, passing an arboretum filled with plants and sculptures of herons, foxes and rabbits.
On our way, we came upon a fellow wearing a kilt, playing a screeching melody on the bagpipes.
Approaching the castle, we saw its base was a conglomeration of caves and dungeons.
We moved past these attractions toward the castle entrance, joining a long lineup, which snaked through the battlements and up to the famous stone.
Inching slowly upward through the Great Hall with its giant stone fireplace, we passed the chapel.
We shivered as we stared at the foreboding murder hole, into which unwanted visitors plunged through a hidden trap door.
For more 200 years, millions of people have climbed the worn stone steps to kiss the Blarney Stone.
Excitedly, we chatted with fellow aspirants, inquiring from where they hailed and, more importantly, how they intended to use their new-found gift
We reached the top turret and then, the Blarney Stone.
Long ago, visitors were held by their ankles and lowered over the outside of the battlements.
Nowadays, although requiring some dexterity, it is much safer, as you lean backwards inside the wall. We did so, bestowing slobbery kisses onto the Stone.
Afterward, I still felt the same, but knew that I was now imbued with a newly acquired talent.
We descended and started exploring the extensive grounds at the Poison Garden.
A sign marked by a skull and crossbones warned that we entered at our
We discovered a collection of poisonous plants from across the world, including: Wolfsbane, Mandrake, Ricin, Opium and Cannabis, which were labelled with their toxicity and traditional and modern uses.
Next, we wandered to the Rock Close, a mystical place said to be on the site of an ancient druidic settlement from pre-historic times.
The landscape garden is a remarkable collection of massive boulders and rocks, with many of the yew trees and evergreen oaks extremely ancient.
We walked toward the sound of gurgling water and were greeted by two waterfalls.
There was a feeling of magic, for it was like being part of the Lord of the Rings.
Exploring the extensive grounds, we visited Blarney House, a Scottish Baronial mansion built in 1874, the Fern Garden, several arboretums, the Woodland and Riverside walks and Blarney Lake.
We were astonished by the enormous size of the property (25 hectares) and its many beautiful gardens.
Exhausted but exhilarated, we strolled into the picturesque town and entered the Blarney Castle Hotel.
My new-found gift of eloquence was working well, and soon before us sat two glasses of Guinness, the deep dark chocolate fluid topped by foamy effervescence.
Ah, what a grand country, and what a grand gift we had gained.
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