|We are now in Ireland, the land of leprechauns, shamrocks, and of course the Blarney Stone. The Blarney Stone is located in the Blarney Castle up on the top level about four stories high. To reach the Stone you climb a very narrow, winding stone staircase up one of the towers. It took about 30 minutes to get to the stone for all the people ahead of us. The Blarney Stone is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland. When you finally reach the stone, you lay down on your back and lean back into the stone to give it a big fat kiss. There is a nice man at the stone that holds on to you as you lean back because there is a gap about a foot wide between the stone and the castle wall. I guess if you are really tiny you could plunge to the ground below but I think his real purpose is to keep your kiss short so that the line keeps moving. There is of course a photographer there to take your picture to prove you really did kiss the Blarney Stone. I don’t even want to think about all the cooties and germs from the thousands of people who kiss it every day! Those who kiss the stone are said to be given the gift of eloquent speech. So what is the difference between blarney and baloney. Baloney is telling a 50 year old woman she looks 18. Blarney is asking a woman how old she is because you want to know what age women are most beautiful. All this lore came from the 16th century when the Earl of Leicester attempted to take the castle away from the McCarthy clan. The Earl kept sending progress reports of his attempt to Queen Elizabeth which she called “all blarney”. When walking around the grounds of the Blarney Castle it felt like being in a Harry Potter movie. There was the poison garden with all different kinds of plants that can kill you quick including some plants used in potions by the students of Hogwarts. There was also the Witches Stone and the Wishing Steps. The Wishing Steps are a staircase of about 20 steps built into a rock cave. To have your wish come true one must walk down the steps backwards with your eyes closed. It really works. I wished not to fall and crack my head.
We spent a few days in the town of Killarney. One highlight was bicycling up the Gap of Donloe. It was a steep, one lane road that winded up through some of the greenest landscape I have ever seen. The mountain grass seems to be emerald in color. The mountain pass road had walkers, bicyclists, a few cars, and lots of horse drawn carts.
The weather in Ireland is just what you would expect. It is usually cloudy and misty with periods of sunshine and also rain. The temperatures are in the low 70’s. In the mountains, big clouds hang low creating a foggy mist. The weather changes very quickly between rain and sun. We had two days of really heavy rain and gale force winds. As we are camped about 100 feet from the North Atlantic Ocean we really rocked and rolled last night from the wind.
We are now driving along the Ring of Kerry, a peninsula on the west coast. From here we will move up to the Dingle Peninsula and work our way up the west coast. When you see pictures of the Irish coastal cliffs there is good chance you are seeing the Ring of Kerry. It is supposedly the most photographed part of Ireland.
We are really enjoying the traditional Irish music. There are some radio stations that play traditional music and are also in Gaelic. Other than the few radio stations we have not heard anyone actually speak Gaelic. We went to a show "Celtic Steps" with traditional music and dancers. The dancers were terrific. We also got to hear some traditional music in a local pub.
We will be in Ireland and the United Kingdom for at least 60 days total. Most countries in the European Union (but not the UK and Ireland) have signed a treaty that allows most non-resident people to travel freely from one country to another for just 90 days total. Since the UK and Ireland did not sign this treaty, our time in these two countries is counted separately from the other EU countries. Since our trip time will be about 150 days we must spend at least 60 days in the UK and Ireland, and no more than 90 days in the EU mainland.