* http://www.blarneycastle.ie * Blarney, Ireland * 021-438 5252 *
The Blarney Castle and its estate is an amazing magical playground of myths and legends, faeries, and fantastical beliefs. It is one of Ireland’s most infamous hot spots and tourist locations which is most notorious for The Blarney Stone. Even the grounds in its gardens have their attractions and history, as small caves and structures in the Rock Close garden may have neolithic habitation possibilities, and potentially the home to a mythical witch that was trapped in a rock. The Blarney Witch is said to have servitude to the Castle to grant wishes for those walking up and down the Wishing Steps backwards with their eyes closed focusing on only their wish. The Close also has a Dolmen, Fairy Circle, as well as a Druid’s cave and ceremonial circle. The Martin River that runs through the estate is believed to be possessed by ghosts of salmons leaping for ghosts of flies. Enchanted cows walk from the depths of the lake to graze on the meadows below the castle. There is also a glade where Faeries are believed to be at play. The famous castle itself was built in 1446 and has ever since become one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations and is located in Blarney Village, just 8 kilometers from Cork City in Southern Ireland. The castle stands at around 90 feet high boldly overlooking the castle estate, grounds, and gardens. Of course the biggest draw for tourists to the castle is the magical act of hanging upside down and kissing the Blarney Stone … the action of which will endow the kisser with the gift of gab according to the legend. It is documented that more than 300,000 visitors come to kiss the stone every year. It is recorded that Queen Elizabeth I required the Irish chiefs to agree to occupy their own lands under her title. The current castle’s builder, Cormac Teige MacCarthy, the Lord of Blarneys, built this third castle incarnation in 1446 C.E. (common era) he abided by Queen Elizabeth I’s request without actually “giving in” by promising loyalty to her and handling every royal request with subtle diplomacy, just as kissing the Blarney Stone afforded him. The Queen was said to remark on McCarthy that he was giving her “a lot of Blarney” which gave rise to the saying.
The history of the land and place stretches back over two centuries before the current castle’s construction. There are remains of prehistoric sites and Druid ceremonial remains. No one knows for sure when the Blarney Stone came to the grounds, but it was believed to have arrived sometime around 1602 C.E. It is believed that the Blarney Stone, was a magical stone that was the rock that Moses struck with his staff to create the water for the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt. Another myth states it was part of Jacob’s pillow and that the prophet Jeremiah brought it to Ireland on this very plot of land. Others say its the stone of Ezel behind which David hid when fleeing from King Saul and was brought to Ireland during the Crusades. The most popular myth was it being a portion of the Stone of Scone which was used by St. Columba as a traveling altar during his missionary quests in Scotland. Upon his death it was believed to have returned to this place in Ireland to serve as the Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny atop Tara.
The first castle to be built on the land was a wooden one manifested around 950 C.E. This was replaced by a stone construction in 1210 C.E. but was torn down because of foundation problems.
The current castle is the third structure to be built on site built by Dermot McCarthy in 1446 C.E. The castle was then occupied by Cormac McCarthy, the King of Munster, who sent 4,000 men to hold Robert the Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn – and it was there that he a legend rumors that he received half of the stone of Scone from Robert the Bruce in gratitude and was then incorporated into the Castle as the “Blarney Stone“. Queen Elizabeth the I in 1586 C.E. began confiscating land in Ireland. She wanted the Blarney Castle and its ground thereby commanding the Earl of Leicester to take the Castle as she was tired of all the Blarney, and these attempts were always defeated by Cormac’s gift of gab, distracting the take-over with a feast or party, never successfully taken. A reputed treasure of a golden plate was believed to be held within the castle. The castle was besieged during the Irish Confederate Wars. In 1646 C.E. Cromwell’s General Lord Broghill broke into the Blarney Castle’s walls by placing a large gun atop Card Hill opposite and above the lake below the current castle. When they attacked and entered the keep, they discovered the main garrison had fled through the three passages known as the Badger’s Caves – one passage led to Cork, the other to the lake, and the third to Kerry. His men were not able to retrieve the legendary treasures such as the golden plate. A later landowner drained the lake thinking it was sunk within. It was not found. The Estate was then forfeited by Donogh Mccarthy, the 4th Earl of Clancarthy and the McCarthy’s reinhabited the castle in 1661 C.E. The Property was then passed to the Hollow Sword Blade Company who eventually sold it in 1688 C.E. to Sir James St. John Jefferyes, the Governor of Cork and by the 1690’s the MacCarthy’s left the castle for good.
Near the Castle is the Georgian Gothic styled Blarney House and the Rock Close was built at the beginning of the 18th century by St. James St. John Jefferyes in 1703 C.E. The court was built by 1739 C.E. and the model estate village of Blarney in 1765 C.E. The Rock Close was landscaped around the ancient Druid remains in 1767 C.E. The house was destroyed by fire in 1820. In 1825 Sir Walter Scott came to kiss the blarney stone. Father Prout in 1837 spread word of the wonders of the Blarney Stone making it even more of an attraction amongst the nobility and curious. The Irish Famine took place from 1845 and 1852. In 1846 the Jefferyes family married into the Colthurst family. The house was rebuilt in Scottish baronial style in 1874 and is still occupied by the family lineage, though through the inter-married line of the Colthurst family. In 1883 the future President William H. Taft of the United States came to kiss the Blarney Stone. By 1887 the new railway into Blarney afforded many travelers the opportunity to kiss the stone, including boxing legend John L Sullivan, at that time the reigning heavyweight champion of the world. In 1893 during the World’s Fair in Chicago the Blarney Castle and stone was mimicked with the promoters billing that it was the real stone people were kissing, this of course was false. In 1912 Winston Churchill came to kiss the stone. In 1938 American businessmen offered the Colthurst family a million dollars to allow the stone to go on tour in the U.S. but the offer was rejected. The House’s wings were reformed in the 1980’s for a better view of the castle and grounds. In 1984 Ronald Reagan claimed to have kissed the stone.
Beneath the castle lies the Badger Cave and dungeons, in its courtyard is the infamous The Blarney Poison Garden, and within the grounds are the magical fantasy land known as The Rock Close. The castle is open daily except Christmas Day and Eve. Adults are €10.00; Child €3.50; Student/OAP €8.00; Family €23.50; and newly weds wanting pictures at the Castle are admitted free. Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
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