Just a bunch O’ Blarney? Blarney Castle, Ireland
If you’d like to make an eloquent speech without sounding like an idiot, legend has it if you pucker up your lips and kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, you’ll be rewarded with the gift of gab.
Blarney Castle was once a medieval stronghold in Blarney, near Co. Cork Ireland. Coming into existence around 1200, the castle was ransacked repeatedly. In 1446, it was rebuilt by Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, Lord of Muscry.
In the years that followed, the castle was attacked time and again, confiscated by the Williamites, sold, and passed off to various persons. In 1668 Sir James St. John Jefferyes, Governor of Cork, purchased the fortress and it’s in that family’s clutches that the castle still remains to this day … in the 19th century, the Jefferyes and Colthurst families were happily joined in marriage.
The structure and land are currently owned by Sir Charles John Colthurst, Baronet.
The castle still features a few accessible rooms and battlements.
The Blarney Stone, otherwise known as the Stone of Eloquence, lies at the top of the castle below the battlements. For more than 200 years the stone has been a hot tourist attraction.
Where did this strange and alluring stone hail from?
According to one legend, Cormac Laidir MacCarthy became involved in a lawsuit and pled with the goddess Clíodhna to help him. She told him that in the morning, on his way to court, he was to kiss the first stone he found. As a result of obeying the goddess’s orders, MacCarthy was suddenly gifted with persuasive speech and won his case. He then placed the stone into the parapet of the castle.
Other legends tell tales of the stone moving around from Ireland to Scotland and being presented to Cormac MacCarthy by Robert the Bruce in recognition of his support at Bannockburn.
And yet another legend says that MacCarthy was asked to surrender the castle to Queen Elizabeth I as a test of loyalty. Making excuses, he avoided handing the castle over for as long as he could. The queen became so frustrated with him that she said she was finished with his “Blarney talk.”
So how does one reach the stone? After climbing the narrow, winding staircase to the top of the castle, visitors wait in line to lean backwards off the battlements (a guide helps you while you hold on to an iron railing) from the parapet walk. This is much improved from the olden days when visitors were held by the ankles and lowered head first to the stone.
On a visit to Ireland I had the pleasure of exploring Blarney Castle. The experience was thrilling and mysterious … walking up the winding staircase, easing along the parapet, kissing the stone that’s been part of the charm of Ireland for hundreds of years. The stone that’s received more than a million kisses.
However, word on the street is that sorid youths often make a habit of relieving their bladders upon the Stone of Eloquence. Whether such tales be true or not, this will not daunt pilgrims seeking out the magic of the Blarney Stone.
Exploring Blarney Castle doesn’t end after a Blarney Stone kiss. The grounds offer extensive nooks and crannies for tourists to investigate. Gardens, pathways, and natural rock formations decorate the property.
Blarney house is another attraction. Sir James St. John Jefferyes built a Georgian gothic house against the keep of the castle as was typical in Ireland during that time period. The Jefferyes family also laid out a garden called the Rock Close with a collection of boulders and rocks arranged around what were thought to have been druid remains from pre-historic times. Ancient trees also can be found in the area. In 1820, the house was accidentally destroyed by fire and the wings then formed an adjunct to the keep.
The Jefferyes intermarried on the 14th January, 1846, with the Colthurst family of Ardrum, Inniscarra and Ballyvourney, Co. Cork, and Lucan, Co. Dublin. Lady Colthurst decided to build a new castle in Scottish baronial style south of the present keep. This was completed in 1874 and has been the family home ever since.
Blarney Castle definitely has enough intrigue to keep the visitors coming back year after year. If you’re looking to discover the legends of Ireland, Blarney Castle is one place where you’re sure to find a bit of Ireland’s magic.
About the author:
Rhonda Mix is a writer of all trades, author and webmaster of The Travel Pixie, Midwestern Adventures, and Bamboo Butterfly. She also blogs over at Wanderlust and Lipstick. She is passionate about her faith, Asian culture, finding the next adventure, and elephants.