Situated 8 km from Cork City is The Blarney Castle, originally dates from before 1200, when a timber house was believed to have been built on the site, although no evidence remains on this. Around 1210 this was replaced by a stone fortification. In 1446, it was rebuilt by Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, Lord of Muscry, who also built castles at Kilcrea and Carrignamuck.
The Blarney Stone
This historic castle is most famous for its stone; the stone was put into a tower of the Blarney Castle in 1446 and has become one of Ireland’s most tourist attractions. As the legends go, it has the traditional power of conferring eloquence on all who kiss it. The word Blarney was introduced into the English language by Queen Elizabeth I and is described as pleasant talk, intended to deceive without offending. The stone is set in the wall below the battlements, and to kiss it one has to lean backwards (grasping an iron railing) from the parapet walk.
Where the stone exactly came from and how they arrived at current understanding of the stone remains uncertain. The lack of a clear history has allowed mythological explanations to take prominence to what the Blarney Stone is and was. Though, Blarney Castle management believed that a witch saved from drowning revealed its power to the MacCarthys.
Visitors might think that one must come to Blarney Castle only to see and kiss the stone. Nope! There are more to discover in the castle apart from the stone.
From the top of the castle you can take in the panoramic views of over 60 acres of sprawling parklands which include gardens, avenues, arboretums and waterways.
Poison Garden is the best known garden as it is located just behind the castle. It contains a collection of poisonous plants from all over the world including Wolfsbane, Mandrake, Ricin, Opium and Cannabis. Many of these are labelled with information about their toxicity and traditional and modern uses. In this garden, the plants are labeled as dangerous and toxic. So don’t dare to smell or touch the plants.
Next that might interest you is the Bog Garden, here you’ll find the oldest trees in the castle. A group of three Yews (Taxus baccata) sit together on an island for about 600 years!
Another striking spot at the castle is The Seven Sisters. Legend has it that a famous King of Munster who once ruled these lands had seven daughters and two sons. His rival was also a powerful clan chief and the time came when the king had to defend his lands. One fateful day the army rode out to battle with the king and his two sons at the head of it. Although victorious, it came at a great cost, as both sons were killed in the fighting. The army marched back to the castle, on route passing the ancient druid’s stone circle that had stood for millennia. The king dispatched a contingent of men to the sacred site and in his grief he instructed them to push over two of the nine standing stones. This would forever commemorate his two fallen sons. The seven sisters remain standing to this day. In here, it features a garden of grasses and perennial flowers, though it changes with the seasons; but the timeless rock remain constant.
Other gardens that you will see as you walk through the castle grounds are Fern Garden & Ice House and Arboretums & Pinetum.
Rock Close has the enchantment of a fairy glade and in prehistoric times may well have been a place of Druidic worship. Here you can find an ancient sacrificial altar, a Druid’s Circle, a hermit’s cave, a witch’s kitchen, and wishing steps. Rare varieties of trees abound in this magical place and you feel you can float across the rustic bridges over rippling streams and lush vegetation.
The Witch Stone: At first it would be difficult to figure out until you realise the shape of the stone. It was believed that The Witch of Blarney who first told MacCarthy of the power of the Blarney Stone.
Wishing Steps: As you walk through the Rock Close, you come across an archway of limestone rocks. Step through and you find yourself on the Wishing Steps. If you can walk down and back up these steps with your eyes closed – some demand that this should be done by walking backwards – and without stopping for one moment to think of anything other than a wish, then that wish will come true within a year. Some say that the granting of this wish is the witch’s way of paying for her firewood. Just be careful as the steps can be slippery. I don’t suggest you to do this – it’s all up to you whether you believe in witch.
The Blarney Shop & Cafe
Now, for sure your tummy and throat need something. There’s a Cafe inside the castle grounds right at the entrance. And before you exit the castle, you might want to buy some interesting souvenirs at the Shop. Though there are plenty of cafes and souvenir shops to choose from outside the Blarney Castle.
Please Note: Dogs are Not Permitted and Drone Photography is Prohibited