The Blarney Castle, Cork
Fee-Paying Admission Tourist Attraction in Ireland #8
'Kissing the Blarney Stone' has become something of a tourist obligation for visitors to Ireland, along with visiting the Book of Kells and Newgrange. Tradition has it that any person who has kissed the stone will never be short of words - the 'gift of the gab' so to speak. It is easy to distil a visit to Blarney Castle into this sole purpose but that would be a big mistake. The Castle has a lot more to offer.
The Castle itself is a treasured antiquity of Ireland and is nearly six centuries old. It was built in the year 1446 by Dermot McCarthy who was the King of Munster, the Southern part of Ireland. The original wooden building on the site was constructed in the tenth century! McCarthy is said to have provided 4000 men to aid Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Bruce is said to have given McCarthy half of the 'Stone of Scone' in gratitude to the Munster King, this gift becoming the famous 'Blarney Stone'.
The origin of the word 'blarney' (meaning flattery, humorous coaxing, witty persuasion) hails from the era of Queen Elizabeth. Determined as she was to capture the Castle in her conquest of Ireland the English Queen instructed the Earl of Leicester to seize it. McCarthy employed delaying tactics, offering banquets and negotiations, always delaying and politically thwarting the Earl's mission. So annoyed was the Queen with the repeated reports of his failure to take the Castle that she described his lengthy letters and explanations as 'blarney'. It is rare indeed that such an obviously Irish term should have been coined by an English Monarch!
A visit to the Castle can of course include the famous Blarney Stone but also should include an exploration of the Gardens and Rock Close, this latter being a walk in the grounds including views of the ancient Dolmen, the Wishing Steps, the Sacrificial Altar of the ancient Druids and the Ancient Circle. The wonderfully named 'Badgers Cave' provided an underground escape route for the native inhabitants when Cromwell's invaders eventually breached the Castle defences in the seventeenth century.
The Castle is located some 8km northwest of Cork City. One of the other main attractions in the Cork area is the Fota Wildlife Park which is located to the East of Cork city, maybe a half hour to an hour drive from Blarney, depending on the route taken!
Tickets for Blarney Castle can be bought online at a modest discount. The Free Blarney Castle Guide Leaflet can be downloaded at:
Video about the Blarney Castle, Cork
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