We are off to Dublin, although there a few stop overs to make before we get there. Blarney Castle is first and I’m eager to kiss the Blarney Stone and finally get the ‘gift of the gab!’ The castle itself is perched on a rock, overlooking perfectly manicured lawns and ancient trees. There is a bubbling little stream and a quaint little bridge, and the stream sparkles in the sun from the hundreds of pennies that line its base.
Although I am scared of heights, I shakily ascend the narrow stone stairs inside. On top, there is a magnificent view of the surrounding area and a small line for the actual kissing. It’s a bit of a shock to see the actual process of lowering, as the stone is a lot further down than I had imagined. Although it looks terrifying, I steel myself as I have already climbed up those stairs and made the effort to follow through. It really is gross though, as there is probably a lot of saliva left over. It’s also uncomfortable, as some old Irish guy is clawing at your sides as he lowers you down.
The castle itself is very interesting as it is remarkably well intact for how old it is. It dates back to the 12th century AD and has been progressively improved and built upon over the centuries. It played a part in the Irish Confederant Wars of the 16th century and in that time was besieged. A nice remnant of that time is the aptly named ‘murder room,’ which lies over the entrance gate, as soldiers would pour boiling liquids and shoot arrows down a small gap at invading troops. The stone itself is rather mythical, as a simple kiss is meant to grant the powers of eloquence on a person. Many speculate that the stone is the famed Lia Fáil, which was the old coronation stone of Scotland. But really, there is no way of knowing if there is truth to this.
Afterwards, I check out the Poison Garden, which is filled to the brim with deadly plants. Below the castle is a Badger Cave so a few of us climb inside and walk around its slushy depths. Leading out from it is a beautiful river walk and while the others go and get food, I head off into the forest. As it is my first time seeing Irish countryside, I am spellbound by the magical clearing I walk into. The sound of the birds and bubbling stream relaxes me instantly, although I only have time for a ten minute walk.
We soon have to leave as we are needing to arrive at Dublin.
The hotel that we are staying at is fine but everyone in our tour gets lost, as it is divided into two wings with not very helpful signage. We bump into another one of the tour guys, who is completely lost and huffing and puffing up a stairwell. After some not very helpful suggestions, we go on our way and hope that he isn’t found starved and dead a few weeks later in that very spot.
That night, we have a Celtic night to look forward to. It starts off pretty boring, especially as the acoustics are all wrong with one of the band members. Soon enough though, as the cider, wine and ale start to flow, we get a bit more rowdy and the energy levels lift. With perfect timing, Irish dancers head onto the stage, led by a fabulously handsome man with rolled up sleeves. One of the tour boys gets pulled onto the stage and starts a dance-off with Mark, who has had a little bit too much to drink. Poor Mark ends up being destroyed by the other dancer but he has a good laugh at himself and the fun.
We head out the door and onwards to the pub scene. There is a chain pub called the Temple Bar that we head into and it’s hot and uncomfortable inside. It’s not really my scene, especially as I am still trying to avoid Rick, who is still being annoying. I think Sophie wants to get away from the group because the men are watching us like hawks and well, we want to have a bit of fun. Unfortunately, she rolls her ankle while dancing and really injures it. She’s too drunk to care but I’m only a bit tipsy so I am worried about the long term effects of the pain. I lend her my shoulder and lead her through the rowdy streets and back in the direction of the hotel. At this point, all of the other tour people have gone back but being a good wing-woman, I’ve stuck it out with Sophie and Alex.
On the way home, we swing by Supermac’s and get some cheesy fries. Some Welsh man tries to convince Sophie to ‘keep her eyes’ and she solemnly vows to do so. It is an odd end to the night…