“I didn’t travel for 12-hours from North America to Ireland to bypass the Blarney Stone. I came all this way, climbed all those stairs, and I’m bloody well going to kiss the damn stone.”

These heated words came from a woman standing behind me in the line waiting to kiss the famous slab of rock built into the top of Blarney Castle; the thought is that when you kiss the stone, you are given the gift of the gab. Her husband was trying to convince her to leave. It was pouring rain, cold, slippery, and the castle has no protection from the elements. I felt exactly the same way as the woman and wasn’t about to let the rain keep me from my goal. I will admit, however, that hanging upside-down over a sheer drop as water runs over your face made it an unpleasant experience. But, when in Ireland…

To kiss the stone you have to lay down, bend over backwards, and hold onto two black iron bars that run down the side of the castle. It’s no easy feat and I can’t imagine how terrifying it was before the iron bars were added. However, climbing hundreds of chipped, steep, slippery steps to get to the iconic rock is no simple task either; and, if you can make it to the top you should be given the gift of perpetual health.

The castle (1210/1446) is located just outside of Cork and is partially in ruins. There is much to explore and imagine as you wander the roofless halls filled with overgrown fireplaces, murder holes, and mysterious cubbies. Even the caves and tunnels under the building are raw and ready for endless exploration. It made for an interesting start to the day.