Blarney Castle is a massive 15th Century great tower. It is one of the largest rectangular towers in Ireland and home to the famous Blarney Stone which is said to confer the gift of eloquence upon anyone who kisses it.
The castle we see today is actually the third building to have been constructed here. The first was a simple wooden structure which was replaced by a stone castle in 1210.
The 12th Century stone castle lasted until the mid-15th Century. The present day Blarney Castle was constructed in two distinct phases. In the late 15th Century a small square tower was constructed on the site. It was four storeys high, but it had small rooms and no machicolation.
Most of the castle we see today was constructed by Cormac MacCarthy at some time in the 1480s.
He added the massive rectangular keep to the small tower. The keep is five storeys high with 3.5 metre thick walls at its base. The small tower sits off to one side and effectively makes the castle an L-plan keep.
One of the most notable features of Blarney Castle is the parapet at the top. It has machicolations that go right round the tower and large stepped battlements.
The castle was further remodelled by Donal MacCarthy in the 1590s. He added mullioned windows to the top three floors of the keep and converted a tower on the south-west side of the castle to a bartizan.
The most famous part of the castle is undoubtedly the 'Blarney Stone'. Its origins have been lost to history and there are a few stories about its arrival at the castle and its magical powers.
In one of the stories the stone was gifted to Cormac by the goddess Cli'odhna. Other versions of the story say that it was part of the Stone of Scone - the stone on which Scottish kings were crowned and which still forms part of the coronation ceremony for the British Monarchy today. Robert the Bruce is said to have gifted it to Cormac as a reward for his help at the Battle of Bannockburn.
The origin of the word 'blarney' originates from here too. Donal MacCarthy was ordered to give up his lands and Blarney Castle to the Crown. Each time Queen Elizabeth I's agents arrived to take over the castle Donal smooth-talked his way out of actually having to give over the castle. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have referred to this as blarney – hence its meaning to persuade someone using charm and pleasant flattery.
During Cromwell's invasion of Ireland Blarney Castle was captured by the Parliamentarians under Lord Broghill in 1646 and again in 1649.
After the Williamite War in Ireland the castle was taken from the MacCarthy family. It passed through a number of hands until it came into the Colthurst family via marriage in the mid-19th Century. In the late 19th Century the Colthursts constructed the nearby Blarney House and moved out of the castle.
Today the castle is partially ruined, but it is open to the public as a visitor attraction.
The castle keep is accessible and some of the rooms are open. It's also possible to get out on to the battlements and kiss the Blarney Stone. Kissing the stone is not for the faint-hearted though. The Stone is built into the machicolations and you need to hang upside down from the parapet to kiss the stone and win your eloquence.
The castle grounds have acres of beautifully landscaped gardens with a couple of walks laid out through the grounds. In addition there are arboretums, a Poison Garden, a Bog Garden and an Irish Garden amongst others.
Status: Visitor Attraction
Owner: Colthurst Family
Tel: +353 21 438 5252
Opening Times: Daily May Mon-Sat 9.30am-6.30pm Sun 9.30am-5.30pm / June to August Mon-Sat 9.30am-7pm Sun 9.30am-5.30pm / September Mon-Sat 9.30am-6.30pm Sun 9.30am-5.30pm / October to April Mon-Sat 9.30am-5.30pm Sun 9am-sundown
Blarney Castle keep and 18th Century tower
The keep from a distance