Kissing the Blarney Stone
By the time I hiked through a lovely meadow and climbed the 100+ steps to the top of Blarney Castle, I had second thoughts about giving the bluestone a big wet smack. Take a look a this picture. You can actually see a discoloration on the stone from all the kisses over the years. Since I’ve been on high dose steroids for 3 years for a lung condition, my immune system is a bit compromised to begin with. I didn’t need to swap germs with an Irish icon, however revered it might be. (Of course, the fact that I’d have to lie down and hang backward over that precipice while the guy in red keeps me from slipping away in order to give the stone a kiss had nothing to do with my decision!)
You see, the home of the McCarthy’s wasn’t built for comfort. It was crafted with an eye to defense–thick walls, soaring towers, and murder holes in the gate house! Blarney Castle is a ruin, so we had to use our imagination as we climbed through it. Floors were missing in the main section, but once we began ascending a narrow spiral staircase, the chambers leading off it were mostly intact.
The photo to the right shows the ornate window in the earl’s bedroom with three openings on a “Juliette-type” faux balcony. Most other rooms must make do with arrow notches to let light in. The chute-like openings (a small one to the right of the earl’s window and a much larger one almost dead center to the left) were from the castle’s garderobes. A garderobe is a medieval latrine. Human waste exited the castle through those openings.
And speaking of openings…no castle would be complete without an emergency exit. When Cromwell’s forces led by Lord Broghill took Blarney Castle, they were in for a big surprise. Once they entered the bailey, they discovered only two elderly household retainers were there. All the Irish defenders had disappeared along with everything of value in the stronghold! Here I am at the Badger’s Cave where the McCarthy warriors escaped from the English.
I thought this was a fun discovery since in Sins of the Highlander, I gave Mad Rob’s castle an elaborate cave that allowed him to enter and exit without using the main gate. My fiction has the ring of truth. Who knew?