In a span of four days, I walked the rocky shore of an Irish beach, hiked the hills of an Irish mountain, kissed an ancient stone at the top of an Irish castle, saw traditional Irish step dancing, ate beef & Guinness stew at an Irish pub, and confirmed that I am the fruit of Irish loins.
By the way my mom likes to celebrate her St. Patrick’s Day birthday, I should’ve known for sure long ago that we were Irish, but it wasn’t until I actually stepped foot in Ireland that I discovered my heritage for myself. In Dublin, past the streets full of souvenir shops filled with shamrocks and all things green, we found a quaint little coat of arms & family crest shop on a corner. I immediately saw a variation of my last name on the coasters and key chains they sold; then the shop owner pulled up ‘Cary’ on his antiquated computer, and a few minutes later my family history popped up. From Gaelic and Celtic origin, the name Cary means “to stir or move,” “dweller at the castle,” or last but not least—“descendant of the dark one.”
The other half of me—the Duncan side, offers a little more hope. It’s also Gaelic, meaning “brown warrior” and “strong-headed.” Although we’re not exactly brown, according to our Irish history my siblings and I are strong-headed warriors descending from a castle-dwelling devil with the ability to stir the soul. Y’all better watch out for us.
On our last day in Ireland, the castle-dweller in my blood came out as we climbed the ancient spiral staircase of the Blarney Castle. We were determined to reach the very top so that we could lean down into the parapet and kiss the Blarney Stone. In 1446, a block of bluestone was set into the castle’s battlements up on the top floor, and 565 years later it’s stained with the oil of a million pairs of lips. A germophobe’s greatest fear, the stone is said to have the legendary power to give whoever kisses it the gift of eloquent speech.
The girl in me who stumbles over her words during presentations hoped deep down that somehow the stone really would give me this gift. Maybe I didn’t pucker enough or kiss long enough, or maybe the stone could tell I’m a descendant of the dark one, but seeing as I still can’t tell a good story to save my life, I can safely say that the stone’s magical powers didn’t work on me. Just in case you’re planning a trip to Blarney Castle anytime soon, don’t get your hopes up about the legitimacy of the stone’s legend, but definitely get your hopes up about the landscape and the history and beauty of the castle.
Unrestored since its use as a medieval stronghold hundreds of years ago, walking into what’s left of the Blarney Castle near Cork, Ireland is like stepping back in time. I imagined servants walking the same narrow steps—except they carried boiling pans of water or food up and down them. I imagined elaborate canopy beds in the bedchambers, mattresses made of hay or wool. I imagined men, armed with bows and arrows, peaking out the arrow slits with one eye open, aiming for the approaching enemies. I imagined a Jane Austen-like character, dress flowing in the wind, taking her afternoon stroll next to the winding stream hidden underneath the willowy trees.
Basically, Ireland stole our hearts. At the end of our two week span of travel, we decided we’re going to make our way back up to Ireland to do what we didn’t get to before—ride bikes along the vast green expanse of Northern Irish countryside, and then we’re going to tap into our inner Indiana Jones and walk across a shaky old rope bridge between two mountains.