Blarney Castle

15th century tower house

It is hard to believe that it took us until now to photograph and add Blarney to our growing list of fortifications!  Blarney is one of Ireland's most visited sites and I admit to lining up to kiss the "Blarney stone" in the battlements myself.  The oldest part of the tower house we see today was built in 1446 by the McCarthys of Muskerry on the site of a 10th century wooden castle which had been replaced by a stone structure about 1210.  Like many castles built in that time period, it sits atop an 8-metre tall rock that was partially quarried for stone to build the castle.  The bedrock foundation contains numerous underground passages and chambers, dating from different periods, some for imprisonment, others for escape.  The walls gradually angle inwards to form the original 4-storey rectangular keep with a bartizan on three sides.  At some time in the 16th century the south and east sides of the tower were extended by a 5-story tower block, which is only evident as a separate structure by the appearance of a "seam" on the exterior.  A casemented projecting oriel window in the newer tower (to the right of the seam seen in the photo to the left) adorns the Earl's bedroom.  Traces of an early bawn can be seen in the north and south walls.  With the enlarged structure a new bawn was enclosed to the west of Blarney Castle - part of the north wall and a corner turret still survive.

The Blarney stone is accessed by a spiral staircase, which, like the tower itself, gets narrower as you climb.  From this stair it is possible to access small tile-floored rooms such as the Young Ladies and Priests Room, and a kitchen with two fireplaces. Although the original wood floors separating storeys that contained the Great hall (1st floor), Family room (2nd floor) Banqueting hall (3rd floor) and the Chapel (4th floor) are gone, it is possible to look down to these rooms with their fireplaces from the substantial roof walk. From the roof walk you are invited to kiss the Blarney stone which is in the bartizan.  Luckily there is a second spiral staircase to accommodate tourists going back down.

The legend of the Blarney stone may derive from a descendent of the original McCarthy's who, during the Nine Years War, tried to appease both sides with his ability to play one side off the other.  This talent allowed the word "Blarney" to pass into modern speech, referring to smoothly flattering and cajoling talk.

Queuing up to kiss the Blarney stone

Situated: From Cork City north head northwest on the N20 for 5.5 kilometres then take the R617 exit. Go straight through for c.2 kilometres and bear left at the fork. Turn left at the t-junction. The car park for Blarney Castle is the next right.

Google Map

Discovery Map 87: W 6073 7535. Last visit Sept 2012.

Longitude: 8° 34' 15" W

Latitude: 51° 55' 45" N

Photos: Jim Dempsey and Deb Snelson.

The dungeon on the left

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