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The Blarney Castle and Blarney Stone, Ireland
The Blarney Castle and Blarney Stone, Ireland

Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold in Blarney, near Cork, Ireland, and the River Martin. Though earlier fortifications were built on the same spot, the current keep was built by the McCarthy clan and dates from 1446. The noted Blarney Stone is found among the machicolations of the castle.

The castle originally dates from before AD 1200, when a wooden structure was built on the site. Around 1210 A.D. this was replaced by a stone fortification. It was destroyed in 1446, but subsequently rebuilt by Cormac MacCarthy - then King of Munster. Blarney House The castle was besieged during the Irish Confederate Wars and was seized in 1646 by Parliamentarian forces under Lord Broghill. However after the Restoration the castle was restored to Donough MacCarty, who was made 1st Earl of Clancarty.

During the Williamite War in Ireland in the 1690s, the then 4th Earl of Clancarty (also named Donough MacCarty) was captured and his lands (including Blarney Castle) were confiscated by the Williamites. The castle was sold and changed hands a number of times before being purchased by Sir James St. John Jefferyes. Members of the Jefferyes family would later build a mansion near the keep. This house was destroyed by fire however, and in 1874 a replacement baronial mansion - known as Blarney House - was built overlooking the nearby lake.

The castle is now a partial ruin with some accessible rooms and battlements. At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone. Tourists visiting Blarney Castle may hang upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which is said to give the gift of eloquence. There are many legends as to the origin of the stone, but some say that it was the Lia Fáil—a magical stone upon which Irish kings were crowned.

Surrounding the castle are extensive gardens. There are paths touring the grounds with signs pointing out the various attractions such as several natural rock formations which have been given fanciful names, such as Druid's Circle, Witch's Cave and the Wishing Steps. Blarney House, also open to the public, is a Scottish baronial-style mansion that was built on the grounds in 1874.

The Blarney Stone (Irish: cloch na Blárnan) is a block of bluestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle, Blarney about 5 miles (8 km) from Cork, Ireland. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery). The stone was set into a tower of the castle in 1446. The castle is a popular tourist site in Ireland, attracting visitors from all over the world to kiss the Stone and tour the castle and its gardens. The word blarney has come to mean clever, flattering, or coaxing talk.

The ritual of kissing the Blarney Stone, according to the castle's proprietors, has been performed by 'millions of people', including 'world statesmen, literary giants [and] legends of the silver screen.' The kiss, however, is not casually achieved. To touch the stone with one's lips, the participant must ascend to the castle's peak, then lean over backwards on the parapet's edge. This is traditionally achieved with the help of an assistant. Although the parapet is now fitted with wrought-iron guide rails and protective crossbars, the ritual can still trigger attacks of acrophobia. Tripadvisor.com recently ranked the Blarney Stone as the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world.

Prior to the installation of the safeguards, the kiss was performed with real risk to life and limb, as participants were grasped by the ankles and dangled bodily from the height. In the Sherlock Holmes radio dramatization 'The Adventure of the Blarney Stone' (first broadcast March 18, 1946), a man attempting to kiss the Blarney Stone falls to his death. Holmes' investigation reveals this as a murder, the man's boots having been surreptitiously greased before the attempt. William Henry Hurlbert wrote in 1888 that the legend of the stone seemed to be less than a hundred years old at that time, suggesting the tradition began late in the 18th Century, or early in the 19th.

It is claimed that the synonymy of 'Blarney' with 'empty flattery' derives from a circumstance in which Queen Elizabeth I, while requesting an oath of loyalty to retain occupancy of land, received responses from Cormac Teige McCarthy, the Lord of Blarney, which amounted to subtle diplomacy, and promised loyalty to the Queen without 'giving in'. Elizabeth proclaimed that McCarthy was giving her '(a lot of) Blarney', thus apparently giving rise to the legend.

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