Last updated on February 6, 2024
Blarney Castle is a sight of superlatives. Here you will probably find the largest Tower Houses on the island, probably one of the largest castle parks and certainly the most stories….
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The castle is located next to the village of Blarney, not far from the city of Cork. When it was built, however, Cork was still more of a village than a town. That was in the 10th century. The first castle was not built of stone, but of wood.
From 1210, the wooden fortress was replaced by a more massive, stone castle. This stone castle with several walls and towers was gradually extended in later centuries.
Today, the castle is particularly impressive due to its enormous central square tower. This is the former “keep”, which in German would be called “Burgfried” or “Bergfried”. It is the central building of many castles from the Anglo-Norman period in Ireland.
It is built as a tower house containing several floors with living quarters and ancillary rooms. In the event of a siege, the people in the castle could gradually retreat from the outer areas to the inner areas of the castle, with the Keep as their last refuge.
The Keep or Tower House was only added in the years after 1500. A smaller, already existing tower was probably massively extended for this purpose. Under the castle you will find the dungeons.
And on the battlements of the castle is the Blarney Stone:
The Blarney Stone
The Blarney Stone is built into the battlements, or crown, of the castle. From up here you have incredibly beautiful views of the surrounding castle park.
However, a gathering of people on the side of the battlements seems a little strange: A man is hanging upside down over the inside of the parapet and kissing a large stone in the wall.
He is being held by a member of the castle staff – but don’t worry, he can’t fall, the spot is secured…
This stone has been kissed by millions of people before him, but at least it is treated with disinfectant spray every time…. I still haven’t kissed it…
This is the Blarney Stone, whoever kisses it backwards overhead is said to be given the gift of eloquence – or was it eloquence? Probably both!
It is important to know that the art of storytelling is a highly recognised art in Ireland. Ireland is the land of poets, writers, songwriters and men of letters. A good story is also always appreciated in the pub and at any form of socialising.
In addition, idle chatter can get you out of any kind of trouble and answer a question without really answering – another very common trait of the Irish…
There are several stories about where the stone got its magical properties from:
One says that the then Irish King McCarthy sent troops to Scotland to support Robert the Bruce in his war of liberation against the English. Robert the Bruce won the Battle of Bannockburn in Scotland against the English. In gratitude for this, he divided the Stone of Scone, on which the Scottish kings were crowned, and sent one half to McCarthy, who had it built into the walls of Blarney. In fact, the Irish high kings themselves had a similar coronation stone, the Stone of Tara.
However, the following story seems much more likely to me: the queen of the fairies in this part of Munster fell in love with a young and charming Gaelic chieftain, but he did not return her love. Soon after, the young man fell in battle and his blood soaked the stone beneath him. The fairy queen bent over him and wept, her tears mingling with his blood. This gave the stone magical power, which it retained when it was built into the walls of Blarney Castle.
Park and Gardens at Blarney Castle
The huge park around Blarney Castle is not often mentioned, but is definitely worth your attention. I spent a lot of time in the park and gardens during my visits and discovered many beautiful corners there.
There are beautiful old trees and several beautifully laid out flower gardens, there are streams and bridges and also semi-wild areas of the park that are almost reminiscent of a jungle with their lush greenery.
Above Blarney Castle, in the extensive park, there is also a very beautiful manor house, Blarney House. The owners at the time had it built in 1874 in the style of a Scottish manor house.
There are only a few Scottish-style houses in Ireland, so this is a speciality. The flower garden around the house is also beautifully laid out. You can also visit the house.
You can find more information about Blarney Castle here: https://blarneycastle.ie/.
Where to stay, eat and drink in Blarney
Blarney is a small town, but it caters for tourists. For accommodation I can recommend the Muskerry Arms Bar&B&B, or the Blarney Woollen Mills Hotel (see: https://www.blarneywoollenmillshotel.com/). There are also other options, as well as several pubs and restaurants where you can also eat. The town is small and well organised, so you’ll have no trouble finding everything you need.
Blarney Castle is certainly one of the most important and most visited sights in Ireland. But don’t worry, the extensive park is not crowded, so you can easily visit it even in summer.
I know the castle well myself and have been there several times. We live in Ireland’s south-east (second home) and run our motorbike rental business (https://www.easycruiser.tours) and our guest rooms (https://www.the-view-accommodation.ie) here in the summer. We are originally from Germany.
You can also combine a visit to Blarney Castle with your onward journey to Kinsale, which is the start or southern starting point of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Have fun in Blarney!
P.s.: By the way, the word “Blarney” means hollow talk or chatter – who believes in a coincidence????