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Blarney Castle

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Blarney Castle is one of Ireland's oldest and most historic castles, an ancient stronghold of the McCarthy's, Lords of Muskerry, and one of the strongest fortresses in Munster.

Blarney Castle is famous for its stone - The Stone of Eloquence - which is traditionally believed to have the power to bestow the gift of eloquence on all those who kiss it.

Attracting visitors from all over the world, the castle is situated 8 km from Cork City. In the grounds of the castle the Rock Close and gardens convey 'druidic' charm and magical delights of centuries past.

Update 8th April 2007
We visited Blarney with our kids (ages 14,6, and 3) today. It was my first time back into the castle since childhood. It was a fabulous day, warm and sunny and gardens were fantastic for a picnic and we really had great fun in the sun. However visting the stone bought a few missed heart-beats - and I therefore add this word of caution for visitors.
The stairs up to the top are the original (and now very worn) very steep, very cramped, spiral stairs. And there are a couple of hundred of them too to get up the 5 floors to the top. Do not attempt the climb if unfit, timid or agrophobic -  - you cannot change your mind half way. Our kids loved it, but as  parent it was nerve wracking. The stairs down again were only a little easier.
Having got to the top we found that the young kids were too young to 'kiss the stone' as they are under eight. So I guess we ill have to return in 5 years.
Martin -Editor

Blarney Castle, as viewed by the visitor today, is the third to have been erected on this site. The first building in the tenth century was a wooden structure. Around 1210 A.D. this was replaced by a stone structure which had the entrance some twenty feet above the ground on the north face. This building was demolished for foundations. In 1446 the third castle was built by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster of which the keep still remains standing.

Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster

The lower walls are fifteen feet, built with an angle tower by the McCarthys of Muskerry. It was subsequently occupied at one time by Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster, who is said to have supplied four thousand men from Munster to supplement the forces of Robert the Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Legend has it that the latter king gave half of the Stone of Scone to McCarthy in gratitude. This, now known as the Blarney Stone, was incorporated in the battlements where it can now be kissed.

The Earl of Leicester

The Earl of Leicester was commanded by Queen Elizabeth I to take possession of the castle. Whenever he endeavoured to negotiate the matter McCarthy always suggested a banquet or some other form of delay, so that when the queen asked for progress reports a long missive was sent, at the end of which the castle remained untaken. The queen was said to be so irritated that she remarked that the earl's reports were all "Blarney".

Cromwell's General, Lord Broghill

The castle was eventually invested by Cromwell's General, Lord Broghill, who, planting a gun on Card Hill opposite and above the lake below the present mansion or new castle, succeeded in breaking the tower walls. However, when his men entered the keep, he found two old retainers, the main garrison had fled by the underground caves situated below the battlements known as the Badgers Caves. There are three passages, one to Cork, one to the lake and one seemingly to Kerry. At any rate, all had gone together with the reputed gold plate.

Sold to Sir James St. John Jefferyes in 1688

A subsequent owner of the estate endeavoured to drain the lake at the bottom of which the plate was supposed to have been thrown. A fortune was spent in vain. The estate was forfeited by Donogh McCarthy, 4th Earl of Clancarthy, who supported James II in the Williamite Wars, the property passed to the Hollow Sword Blade Company who subsequently sold it to Sir James St. John Jefferyes, Governor of Cork in 1688.

Building of Blarney House

His son, by same the name, was Minister Plenipotentiary for England at the court of Charles Battle of Poltawa. He was rewarded with a full length portrait of the king and a ruby gilted sword which he subsequently sold to drain and improve all his land surrounding the castle. At the beginning of the eighteenth century during the reign of Queen Anne, Sir James St. John Jefferyes built a Georgian gothic house up against the keep of the castle as was then the custom all over Ireland.

At the same time the Jefferyes family laid out a landscape garden known as the Rock Close with a remarkable collection of massive boulders and rocks arranged around what seemed to have been druid remains from pre-historic times. Certainly, many of the yew trees and evergreen oaks are extremely ancient. In 1820 the house was accidently destroyed by fire and the wings now form a picturesque adjunct to the keep, recently in the 1980s rearranged to give a better view of the keep.

The Jefferyes intermarried on 14th January 1846 with the Colthurst family of Ardrum, Inniscarra and Ballyvourney, Co. Cork, and Lucan, Co. Dublin. The early children dying, Lady Colthurst decided to build the new castle in Scottish baronial style south of the present keep. This was completed in 1874 and has been the family home ever since.

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