A visit to Cork. Things to do in Carrigaline and Blarney Castle with historian Brian Murphy

Things to do in Carrigaline and Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle, or CaisleHe and Blarnan, has a long and glorious history. Construction is believed to have begun in 1446, during the medieval era, by Cormac MacCarthy, known as “The Strong” and one of Ireland’s most famous chieftains.

Located near Cork, it was once a medieval castle. Now the castle is a global landmark and an Irish treasure that has enchanted millions throughout its long life.

Brian Murphy is a retired teacher and local to Carrigaline, County Cork, who is passionate about the area’s history. He recommends Blarney Castle as one of the top tourist attractions in the region. Its stunning location, fascinating past and the legend of the Blarney Stone make it an ideal destination for tourists and residents alike to explore.

The Story of Blarney Castle with Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy to Carrigal 1
Brian Murphy to Carrigal 1

Although nothing remains, a log house was built on the site around 1200 before the castle was developed. Later, the wooden house was replaced by a stone fortress.

Eventually, Cormac MacCarthy, Lord of Muskerry, destroyed the castle and rebuilt it as a castle in 1446.

Gaelic rulers and the Anglo-Irish built Blarney Castle as a tower fortification. Typically, tower houses were four or five stories high and had at least one or two main rooms as well as additional utility rooms on each floor.

Blarney Castle has at least two towers, the second of which is thought to have been added in the 1500s. It is considered relatively large compared to most tower houses built at the same time, with walls 18 feet thick. These walls effectively strengthened the castle’s defenses, making it more stable and allowing the inhabitants to hit attackers with objects that would bounce off the sloping walls when they fell.

From its construction in the 1400s until the 1600s, Blarney Castle was relatively peaceful. In the late 1500s, the Earl of Leicester attempted to take over the castle by obtaining a warrant from Queen Elizabeth I. However, his efforts were unsuccessful, as McCarthy repeatedly delayed the negotiations (including by offering banquets).

During the Irish Confederate Wars, the castle was besieged and eventually captured in 1646 by Parliamentary forces led by Lord Broghill. However, this new rule did not last long, as King Charles returned from exile in 1660, ushering in the Restoration (a period in which new political settlements were created). During the Restoration, the castle was returned to Donough MacCarthy, the newly decorated First Lord of Clancarty.

It wasn’t until 30 years later, in the 1690s, that Blarney Castle changed hands again. The 4th Lord of Clancarty, also known as Donough McCarthy, was captured during the Williamite War in Ireland. His property and lands, including Blarney Castle, were also confiscated.

The castle continued to change hands frequently over the next few centuries, with owners including the Chief Justice of Ireland, Sir Richard Pyne, and later the Governor of Cork, Sir James Jeffreys.

Brian Murphy to Carrigaline 2
Brian Murphy to Carrigaline 2

Visit to Blarney Castle

Today, Blarney Castle is a partial ruin set in the picturesque Irish countryside.

Those hoping to visit soon are in luck, as both the castle and gardens are open year-round. However, it’s worth noting that opening times may vary slightly between seasons and on holidays such as Boxing Day. Tickets can be purchased online or on arrival at the Blarney Castle box office.

Blarney Castle

Although 600 years have passed since its original construction, there is still much to see in the castle ruins. For example, you can still tour the castle dungeon, where convicts were once held for medieval criminal trials and ongoing prosecutions. Unfortunately, the remaining underground corridors beyond the dungeons are inaccessible.

Visitors climbing the stone steps will see the ramparts at the top of the castle. From the battlefields, picturesque Irish countryside dominates the surrounding area. Next to the battlements still stands the watchtower, a large building that has decayed over the years.

The roofless structures are also visible from the view of the walls, as well as the so-called killing pit, a trench in the floor used to throw stones or boiling water at intruders.

Blarney Gardens

Blarney Gardens

Beyond the castle walls you’ll find Blarney Gardens, spread over 60 acres. Some of the most popular places to visit include the Fern Garden, which has over 80 species of ferns and limestone rocks. You can also check out the gorgeous rugged scenery and cascading waterfall at the Wishing Steps, or visit the Himalayan Trek for more exotic plant life.

The most interesting part of Blarney Gardens is the Poison Garden, which was first planted hundreds of years ago in the 1400s. This area is behind the castle and is home to poisonous plants from around the world. The Poison Garden offers a fascinating lesson with labels informing visitors of each plant’s name, toxicity and common uses.

The Blarney Stone

The Blarney Stone

Of course, no trip to Blarney Castle would be complete without kissing (or at least seeing) the Blarney Stone.

There are many stories surrounding the rock. Some believe it was originally the fabled Lia Fáil, the stone on which Irish kings were crowned in centuries past.

Whether you’re a Carrigaline local like Brian Murphy or visiting from further afield, the Blarney Stone is not to be missed. Legend has it that those who kiss the stone will receive the gift of eloquence.

As a rule, “violence” means skillful flattery and talking nonsense. The term appears to have come into use in the late 1500s at the behest of Queen Elizabeth and the failed capture of the castle. As previously mentioned, McCarthy repeatedly delayed the Earl of Leicester’s attempts to negotiate with his reward.

To gain the rock’s convincing magical power, visitors must kiss it, so don’t be surprised to see tourists hanging upside down to breathe life into the rock. You can try it yourself if you dare; just make sure you have a firm grip on the handrails and have someone hold you firmly.

About the Author – Brian Murphy Carrigal

Brian Murphy is a retired primary school teacher from Carrigaline, now an aspiring local historian trying to shed light on County Cork. Since retiring, Brian Murphy has turned his attention to writing about the town of Carrigaline, a town just outside Cork City where he has lived all his life. Brian’s hobbies include writing, reading and visiting Southern Ireland with his dog Tilly. Brian Murphy is dedicated to writing more about his beloved Carrigaline, explaining why the town is a brilliant visit for people exploring Cork, Ireland, including the town’s famous Irish pubs.

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