The next morning, the time came to leave Annascaul. We boarded the bus after an early breakfast at the hostel for our last day with our tour. Today’s agenda: the Blarney Castle and Guinness Storehouse.
We spent much of the morning at the Blarney Castle, and it’s a testament to the castle’s size and intricacy that we all wanted more time there. We first glimpsed the castle from afar while walking the footpath up to it, enjoying the streams and gardens of the castle grounds. The castle that visitors see today was built in the 1400s, though historians estimate that the first structure built on the spot dates back to the 900s.
However, as fascinating as the castle itself is, it owes its millions of annual visitors to a single stone held in its topmost wall. The Blarney Stone, thought to bring the “gift of the gab” to anyone who kisses it, holds about as much legend as it does germs. (Just kidding, they clean it every now and then. I hope.)
One story says that long ago, one of the castle’s residents got into a bit of legal trouble. Cormac Laidir MacCarthy took his case to the Celtic goddess Clíodhna before taking it to court. She told him that if he kissed the first stone he saw the next morning, he’d be eloquent enough to present his case successfully. So, he did. And he won his case. He saved the stone and brought it to his castle where it would be safe forevermore.
Other stories lean more Biblical in origin. Speculators tie it to Moses, David, Jacob, Jeremiah and St. Columba. Yet another story tells of a witch saved from drowning by the MacCarthy family. As a gift of thanks, she enchanted the stone to bring eloquence to the whomever kissed it.
I first heard about the stone many years ago on a TV program about Ireland. I remember thinking how cool it would be to see it in person, but how impossible such a journey seemed. Funny how those things work out sometimes.
After a quick lunch break near the Blarney Woolen Mills we headed toward Dublin for the final stop on the tour – the Guinness Storehouse.
Sadly, that concluded our time on the tour. What a wonderful 6 days it had been! We saw so many places, met so many wonderful and fascinating people, and had a great time.
Our tour bus dropped us off back in Dublin. We dropped our luggage off at the hostel and headed out to enjoy one last dinner at a local pub with some of our new friends from the tour.
As sad as we were to be done with the tour, Camilla and I were still looking forward to our last day in Dublin. Our plane didn’t leave ’til later in the evening and we had plans to make the most out of those last hours.
First stop: St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Then it was off to the National Museum of Ireland, but not before a detour into St. Stephen’s Green!
By what felt like nothing short of a miracle at the time, we made it to the bus that took us to the airplane that took us to Pisa where we were just in time for a bus back to Florence. We were tired, but so, so, so grateful for the entire week.
I’d wanted to go to Ireland for as long as I can remember, and now, I’d finally done it. It was so sad to leave, and not just because it was over. It’s a very strange feeling to have lived out the one dream you’ve held onto forever. A wonderful feeling, but a bit odd at the same time. Like finally climbing the tallest mountain, except in this case, it was more like the tallest cliffs.
Leaving Ireland left a bit of an empty spot where the dream of going once was.
But of course, that empty spot was the perfect place to put the memories I’d made.
I once read an old Irish blessing that went a little something like this:
May your joys be as deep as the oceans,
Your troubles as light as its foam.
And may you find, sweet peace of mind,
Wherever you may roam.
I might have left a little piece of my heart in Ireland. But I know there’s roaming left to do.