On the second day of our cruise, our ship docked in Cork Harbor, the second largest natural harbor in the world after Sydney. Founded in the 7th century by St. Fin Barre, Cork is the gateway to romantic Ireland and is also the single most important port of emigration from Ireland. Blarney Castle
The region around Cork is also home to one of the densest concentration of prehistoric monuments in Western Europe. And, in a land where fable and fact blend to become folklore, it was near Cork that the great Tuatha De Danaan, a race with magical powers, was driven underground by the conquering Celts.
Set in a sprawling park, this romantic ruin was the stronghold of the McCarthy clan, and features thick stone walls.
I wasn’t one of the intrepid visitors who scaled the narrow passages of Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. Those who kiss the Blarney Stone are said to be gifted the power of eloquence.
The Legend of the Blarney Stone
For many centuries, as everyone knows, English monarchs tried to impose their will on Ireland. Queen Elizabeth I, eager to extend the influence of her government, sent a deputy to Cormac MacCarthy who was Lord of Blarney and demanded that Cormac take the tenure of his lands from the Crown. Cormac set out to visit the Queen and plead for his traditional right to his land, but he despaired of success for he was not fluent of speech. Shortly after starting his journey, he met an old woman who asked him why he looked so forlorn. He told her his story and she said “Cormac, when Blarney Castle was built, one stone was put into place by a man who predicted no one would ever be able to touch it again. If you can kiss that stone, the gift of eloquence will be conferred upon you.”
Cormac succeeded in kissing the Blarney Stone and was able to address the Queen with speech so soft and words so fair that as long as he lived he never had to renounce his right to his land.Today kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab.
In 1446 the Blarney stone was set at the top of a tower of the castle.
Next we visited the Blarney Woolen Mill Shop. This converted mill is Ireland’s largest Irish gift store selling traditional Irish goods, including Waterford crystal, Irish linen, hand-loomed Donegal tweed, knitwear, bone china and Celtic brooches.
Look at the trunks of trees dressed with knitted wool. They were all over the landscape in front of Blarney Castle.
The highlight of our tour was watching these young girls perform an Irish dance.