Blarney Castle – Kissing the Blarney Stone
One of the most visited tourist destinations and probably the one that is most know in America. Blarney Castle is intimately tied in to Irish history of the last 1000 years. It is mostly know for the “Blarney Stone” which is built in to its wall of its leading turret. The photograph of the person leaning backwards, while there legs are held has become the corner piece of a visit to Ireland for over a hundred years.
The “gift of the gab” and Blarney Castle dates back to the 15th C. when Elizabeth of England was trying to confiscate Cormac McCarthy’s lands. All her demands were met with promises and compliments and distraction. She remarked that ” Blarney, never means what he says”. This is the first instance of the word in use. There is another version that the Stone was gifted to Cormac McCarthy, when he prayed to the Goddess of Munster Clíodhna, for aid in an upcoming lawsuit. In a vision, Cormac was instructed to walk towards the lake and kiss the first stone that he came across. It would be blessed with the gift of eloquence. The stone was subsequently situated in to Blarney Castle.
Blarney Castle has been a fortified structure since at least the 10th C. but the current structure dates to 1446 when it was ordered re-built by Cormac “Láidir” MacCarthaigh – Lord of Muskerry. Blarney Castle remained primarily in the hands of the McCarthy’s till the 1690 when it was claimed by King William’s forces and sold off to the Governor General of Cork, John Jeffreys.
While the Stone is a must do on a visit to Ireland, the castle itself and its grounds are worth of a visit as well and are unknown to many Irish people. It certainly is the most visited Castle in Ireland.
Blarney Rock Close and Gardens
The gardens are spread out over 60 acres of manicured gardens, lawns and arboretum’s. The most fascinating one is the Poison Garden, which hosts plants such as Mandrake and Wolfsbane. There are fascinating displays accompanying each of them on the plants uses, both sinister and positive. Situated beneath the Blarney Castle battlements, it is the only garden that I have ever seen where many of the plants are behind cages.
The Arboretum contains many unusual and rare trees from around the world and had many Pines that are up to 600 years old. It also includes the rare Wollemi Pine, a tree discovered in 1994 in New South Wales, Australia and that was believed to be extinct for at least 200 million years and there is only several hundred trees in the wild.
Also in the gardens is The Rock Close with its druids table and stone circles, set in among a glade of trees. One could almost expect to see them walking towards it from the mist.
The Blarney Stone.
The Blarney Stone has received millions of visitors over the years from leading writers, politicians and ordinary tourist and local alike. 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 it can still be a daunting experience.
I hope you enjoy your visit to Blarney Castle and grounds.