ArticleAn Enchanted Forest
Blarney is by far the most famous of about 30,000 Irish castles - and it owes its fame to the legendary stone, “legendary” being a matter of fact rather than a flattering description. Legends, discussing the origins of the Blarney Stone, range from “a stone used as a pillow by Jacob when he dreamt about the Ladder” to “a ”thank you" gift by a Scottish king to the then current owner of the castle who had allegedly sent his troops to assist the king in a crucial battle" - with all kind of mythology in-between. While no mere fact should stand in a way of a great story (and legends ARE great stories, first and foremost), facts do exist, and it might be worth checking them every now and then, just in case. As it happens, mineralogical analysis indicated that the Blarney Stone must have come from just to the south of the castle, while some archive pictures and drawings suggested that the stone had been absent from its current location until, at least, 1888. Considering all that, as well as the inevitable presence of cleaners (touching something previously touched by thousands of other people is not exactly hygienic), and the much more annoying, while objectively much less inevitable, presence of commercial photographers right next to the stone, the stone-kissing adventure might not necessarily be the focal point of just about everybody's visit to Blarney, after all.
Visitors to Blarney have quite a menu to choose from. The castle itself, partially rebuild, still looks and feels very medieval, with all its battlements, dungeons and even a Murder Hole - an opening in the floor meant to allow castle defenders to greet unwelcome guests with boiling liquids, arrows, stones (others than the Blarney One!), and similar presents. When more peaceful times came, the hole was covered with a grating - to prevent absent-minded tourists from falling through it, thus justifying its name in a creative new way. Some other names, such as “Earl's Bedroom” or “Young Ladies' Room” are more domestic-sounding but the rooms themselves still look way less cozy than their names imply
Irish fascination with names (and Nature!) continues outside as the castle grounds are full with such "charming" names as “Carnivorous Courtyard” and "Poison Garden" (to be fair, the truly cute-sounding “Arboretum” should be mentioned, too). The latter, its grim aura notwithstanding, is an important educational project, as the Garden features a variety of poisonous plants, each of them carefully explained and classified… One might wander around the Blarney grounds for quite a while until stumbling upon their westmost part marked on the map as “Rock Close”, and passing through its invisible borders. Then time stops…
On the map, Rock Close does seem to cover a significant part of the premises but it doesn't feel too sizeable - a small park, if not even a big garden. Meandering paths occasionally blocked by logs, humming brooks spanned by toy-like bridges, gnarled trees looking like sentries guarding a troll camp,
and 14 story-telling stops - the heart and soul of the area turning a garden/park into an Enchanted Forest. The word “enchanted” implies fairy tales full of magical creatures - witches, druids, fairies themselves (or else WHO would tell the tale and grant the listeners' wishes?!) - and so there is Witches' Kitchen and Witches' Stone, Druids' Circle and Druids' Cave, and Fairy Glade to boot. Among other stops one would find the above-mentioned Sentry Post, as well as Waterfall, Sacrificial Altar and Forest Trail... So boosted by delightful sights and sounds, one's imagination runs rampant and turns a castle visit into an almost Disney-like adventure.