After visiting Kinsale, Cobh, and Cork, we drove to Blarney Castle for our afternoon visit. Blarney Castle is one of the most famous castles in Ireland, and I'd certainly heard about it before visiting the country. I am sure that it was featured in cartoons that I watched when I was younger. When we arrived, we had sunshine, which made a big difference to the previous two days. In addition to the castle, the grounds and gardens can be explored.
The walk to the castle was about ten minutes from the visitor centre, and this was a pleasant walk through the grounds, where we saw flowers and a stream. The walkway was level and paved, so it was an easy ten-minute walk. Along the way, we also saw some information boards that we could read that told us about the history of the castle and grounds.
The site where Blarney Castle is located was built on three times. In 10th century, it was a wooden hunting lodge. This was replaced with a stone structure in 1210, and in 1446, a residential tower house (the castle) was built here by Cormac MacCarthy. The MacCarthys were known as one of the most recognised and powerful families in Ireland.
The castle was seiged four times and eventually was taken by Cromwell and the MacCarthy family forced out in 1690. In 1703, the Jefferey family purchased the castle and grounds, and they are ancestors of the current owners.
Blarney Castle is built on top of a large stone (Card's Hill), and underneath is a cave. The cave is known as Badger's Cave. When Cromwell's men seiged the castle, the garrison had fled through the cave. When they fled, they took the gold plate that Cromwell's men had expected to claim.
A legend says that the passages go to Cork, the lake, and Kerry. I entered the cave, and there are passages that do go far into the earth, but the passageways got very tight and narrow, and I'd have had to get on my hands and knees, so I did not bother. Others also were entering the cave after I did, so there was not a lot of room to maneouver.
After leaving Badger's Cave, I had a glimpse of the castle towering above, built eight metres up into the rock. The rock was used as a quarry for the building of the castle. The castle was actually built in two stages. In the photograph below, the side on the left was actually only half as large and was later added to. The window that sticks out is the Earl's bedchamber, and the small square openings to the left of the window were outlets for the garderobes (toilets). The exterior walls of the castle would have been whitewashed in its day, so it would have looked even more imposing and powerful.
The entry to the castle has a gatehouse and kennel for dogs, and all of this was built for defense purposes. Underneath the castle are a long series of tunnels. These were the dungeons, and a lot of them cannot be explored any longer. The water supply for the castle in times of seige was also located in the dungeon.
After having a quick look, we went to enter Blarney Castle on top of the rock cliff. We climbed the spiral stair cases and checked out several of the rooms and learned about each one. Several good information boards were located throughout the castle and the grounds in order to give us some insight into the castle's history and how the rooms were used.
The castle's entry point was through the basement, and this area housed cattle before the castle was opened to visitors like it is now. The area was a buttery and storage for barrels of wine. This room is actually two rooms as the floor is missing, and above is the vaulted ceiling of the Great Hall. The fireplace above would have marked the location of the floor.
As we climbed the castle, we were awarded with beautiful views over the grounds. We were lucky to have such a lovely afternoon as the previous couple of days had not been nice at all.
We eventually came to Ladies' Room & Priest's Room. Three young daughters of the owner in the mid-1500s grew up here, so this would have been their room. The floor would have been tiled, and a wooden bench would have been in the location in front of the window, and the walls would have been plastered. In the image above, the location of the floor for the room above can be seen, and this was the Priest's room or a small chapel.
Next we came to the Family's Room, and a larger window was added later on in order to allow more natural light to enter. The room also contains a large fireplace where meat could be cooked. The original plasterwork could be seen (above) too.
We finally found our way to the very top of Blarney Castle! This is where the Blarney Stone is located. Of course, there was a queue to see and kiss the famous stone. Probably the most famous aspect of Blarney Castle is the Blarney Stone, which is located at the top of the castle. Queen Elizabeth I was thought to have coined the term "blarney" first, which was important to the history of the castle. Her advisor George Carew was responsible for trying to get the MacCarthy family to abandon their ancient rights of the castle and grounds and give them to the English. Each time Carew met the MacCarthy family, they showed eloquence, loyalty and flattery for the queen but never agreed to relinquish their rights. The queen is to have used the term to describe the encounter with the MacCarthys, and the legend of the 'Stone of Eloquence' (or 'Blarney Stone') was born.
For over 200 years after this, the stone was visited by celebrities, politicians, and writers. Kissing the stone is meant to give the gift of eloquence. The stone was thought to be brought to Ireland by a prophet, and it was then used by Irish kings. It was then thought to have been taken to Scotland to propheticse royal succession. When the MacCarthys went to support Robert the Bruce in Scotland, it is thought that the stone was split in half and sent to Blarney. Apparently a witch told the MacCarthys of the stone's power.
While we were queueing, we read some facts about the stone and the castle. Apparently, a replica of the castle was built for the Missouri State Fair in 1904 for those who were unable to visit the real castle. In the 1940s, Blarney Castle was offered a million dollars in order to get the stone on a tour of the USA, but that was denied.
My partner and father kissed the stone, but my mother and I did not because we both did not like the heights. They had to be held over the castle battlements, and you could see down to the ground below. After that was done, we left the castle down a spiral staircase, and I looked up at the stone from the ground. The stone can be seen in the above photograph. It is very high up.
After our castle visit was complete, we walked through the Poison Garden and had a look at the different plants. The Poison Garden was the idea of the Jefferey family. It contains a variety of poisonous plants.
Along the trail to Blarney House is the ice house, where food items were stored for refridgeration.
We continued down the trail, looking at the flower bed. Some of the flowers were also in bloom.
We soon arrived at Blarney House, surrounded by the beautiful gardens. This house was built by the MacCarthy family and they lived in it instead of the castle. The house is Scottish in style, and it was open on the day we visited, but it closed early, so we were unable to go inside.
We continued to walk around the gardens, enjoying the beautiful flowers.
Next up was the trail around Rock Close. The Jefferey family created the landscaped gardens and the Rock Close, built on an ancient Druid site. There are 'fairy' glades, a reconstructed Dolmen (Druid burial chamber), stone circle, cave, and waterfalls. Photographs from the Rock Close trail are below.
After the Rock Garden, we walked back to the castle to exit the grounds. A woodside and lakeside walk can also be enjoyed at the Blarney Castle, but we did not walk these trails.
The grounds of Blarney Castle are really beautiful, and I would say that this is one of the best castles we saw on our trip.
After the visit to Blarney Castle and its gardens was complete, we headed back to Kilarney where we were staying. Before we headed back to the hotel, we stopped off at "Meeting of the Waters", so check back here for photographs and a write-up of our little walk.