I cannot recommend enough how Ireland is one of the best places to visit as a "first trip" to Europe for families! My kids absolutely loved everything about it!!
An excursion we most enjoyed was during our time in Cork, when we visited Blarney Castle and Gardens. The girls had heard of the "Blarney Stone" and were excited to go there, but, even though I explained to them beforehand, the configuration of the "stone," it wasn't something they could not visualize until we were actually there.
As we approached the castle, I must say, I expected it to be a bit larger. However, what it lacked in overall size, it made up for in its height and steepness!
You may be wondering what the story is with Blarney Castle and what the significance of the Blarney Stone is - well, let me give you a little history and information so you understand why people from all over the world will make this steep climb up this very old, stone building to see and "kiss" a stone.
Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold in Blarney, which is near Cork, Ireland. Prior to Blarney Castle, fortifications were built on this same spot earlier, with Blarney Castle having been built by the MacCarthy of Muskerry dynasty in about 1446.
The Blarney Stone or "Stone of Eloquence" is a single block of bluestone, the same material as the megaliths of Stonehenge. According to AuthenticIreland.com, "Some people believe the Blarney Stone is half of the original Stone of Scone upon which the first King of Scots was seated during his coronation in 847. It is said that part of this stone was presented to Cormac McCarthy by Robert the Bruce in 1314. It was his gift to the Irish for supporting the Scots in the Battle of Bannockburn."
According to Blarneycastle.com, "Others say it may be a stone brought back to Ireland from the Crusades – the ‘Stone of Ezel’ behind which David hid on Jonathan’s advice when he fled from his enemy, Saul. A few claim it was the stone that gushed water when struck by Moses."
And there are others still who believe that the Blarney Stone has magic powers after a witch saved from drowning revealed its power to the MacCarthys.
Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII, not only reigned over England, she was Queen of Ireland. "Queen Bess" decided that the Irish chiefs should agree to occupy their own lands, but ordered them under title from her. Cormac Teige McCarthy, the Lord of Blarney, received requests from her to title his land over with grace and good humor, saying he was glad to pledge his loyalty to the Queen. His letters were subtle and so well put, she finally realized that he was keeping her happy without giving in. At one point, after receiving another of his charming messages, she flung down his letter and said, "Oh! He's just giving me a lot more blarney!!" (courtesy AuthenticIreland.com)
Hence, began the belief that the Blarney Stone imparts the gift of eloquence.
Today, the Stone itself is still set in the wall located below the battlements. To kiss it, one has to lean backwards while holding on to an iron railing.
I know that my girls and I enjoyed the excitement of going higher and higher and peering into the various "rooms" that we passed on our way up.
What came as a surprise was that my husband, Tedd, who has a terrible fear of heights, bravely decided to trek up the Castle's steep, winding staircase and actually continued on courageously to walk around the Castle's open top level and walk around. But, there was no way he was going to get down on the ground, lie back and lean upside down to kiss the Blarney Stone!!
In the end, Gianna opted out, and stood over to the side, with her Dad as we got closer to the stone. Kelsey, on the other hand, only five years old at the time, was eager and excited to join me! I have to say, I was taken aback that my little "leprechaun" was so gutsy about leaning backwards, many stories above the ground below, to kiss the famed Stone!! What's more, she never wavered once in her decision - even as we walked along the uppermost level of the Castle, with its uneven stone floor and less than steadied rails.
Now, I don't know if I've been blessed with the gift of eloquence - you be the judge as my reader! But, I can certainly attest to the fact, that Kelsey is most gifted with her vocabulary, which is well beyond her 8 years, and it is one of the first things everyone who meets her, comments and complements about her. So, I have to say, I'm a believer of the Gift of the Blarney Stone!!