Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher
One of the beautiful sites on our first day

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nothing but Blarney

     I know it’s been a while, but you would not believe the pictures we have been sharing. Ok… you will, because you will see SOME of them here. Our chorus not only sings great, but we take great pictures… and if we don’t, we know someone who does.
At the ticket booth  (J)
     I was wrestling with the format for this posting. Then I tried to limit the number of pictures. Then I thought – the heck with it. This post will be a picture book. There is way too much at Blarney Castle in history and beauty to leave any one area out. So, here goes. Buckle up for a feast for the eyes and a bit of history to boot.
     The day we visited was a bit cloudy but no rain. It was cold in the morning, but warmed up quite at bit as the noon hour approached. It was also a day when what seemed like every cruise ship in creation docked in Cork and bussed up to Blarney. This place was crowded, but we spread out and covered the area. There was a ridiculously long line to kiss the Stone so many of us didn't venture to wait the almost two hours to climb to the top of the castle.

Blarney Castle - a wee bit of history

     The castle itself started life as a wooden structure before the 1200's  AD. From there, the stone structure was built in 1210 AD by Cormac Laidir McCarthy and rebuilt again in 1446 after a fire in the original castle. The fortress stayed in the hands of the McCarthy clan.
     The Blarney Stone was a gift from Robert the Bruce of Scotland, in 1314 to the McCarthy clan after the clan sent 5,000 infantry to help him win the Battle of Bannockburn. It was part of the Stone of Scone or Destiny, a stone on which the Kings of Scotland were crowned. The stone was moved from place to place until it was made part of the upper battlements of the castle proper.
     Queen Elizabeth I in 1602 wanted to secure an oath of allegiance from the castle's then-proprietor, Cormac Teige McCarthy. She also wanted him to hand over all lands to her crown. In response to all requests, McCarthy wrote long, wordy missives of flattery to the Queen, but actually made no move to meet her demands. After one particular McCarthy letter, Queen Elizabeth declared that "This was all blarney; what he says he never means!" The rest, as they say, is history. 

Along the Riverwalk  (M)

Picture Postcard of the Castle itself  (J)

Anne did her "Vanna White" impression for a long view of the castle. This was taken along the Riverwalk near the front gate.  (M)

Crossing the river and getting closer to the castle  (J)

View of the castle from just below. Quite an imposing structure! (J)

Every castle needs a tower. (M)
You can see a bit of the dungeon area at the bottom of the castle. (J)

View from the entry way to the castle itself. You need to climb the hill and some steps before you get to the main castle gate. (M)
Many tourists from all over visited the castle the day we were there. (J)
A close-up of the lower portion of the castle. Dungeons to the left and caves are on the right. (J)

Plenty of tourist friendly signs give background for each section of the castle and grounds. (J)

Dungeon area near the sentry station (J)
Dungeon area... not for those with height (J))

View of the access road area from the Battlements wall, on the same level where you enter the castle.  (J)

Imagine standing here with nothing but bows and arrows, fighting in the 1400's  (J)
     The Blarney Stone itself is a tricky thing to kiss. In the past, you had to be held upside down by your ankles over the battlements to kiss the stone. Now, in the interest of safety, you need to lay back and lean over the battlement holding onto the iron railing, bending backward to kiss the stone. You are also five stories high when this happens. Still, not an activity for the acrophobic among us!

Trying to kiss the stone. This is the view from below at the entry level of the castle, shot with a zoom lens. The photographer was about five stories below the person trying to kiss the stone.  (J)
Poison Garden just outside the castle main entrance. Walk through here and imagine yourself in Professor Snape's potions class. (J)
Cannabis and the only way to keep the plant on site (M)
Foxglove is made into digitalis. In the proper amounts, it helps heart issues. Too much and you become a statistic. (M)
A local welder provided sculpture for the middle of the poison garden. This is situated in a formal boxwood garden. (M)
 Blarney House - home to 3 families throughout time

      Blarney Castle was home to the McCarthy clan until 1690, after the Battle of Cork. In 1703, the castle and lands were purchased by Sir James St. John Jeffryes. It was Sir James who built the original manor house on the grounds, named The Court. He laid out the Bog and Fern gardens, Rock Close garden areas, and all landscaping that survives to this day. The house suffered a major fire in 1820 and was rebuilt and completed in 1874. What you tour today is the 1874 house

A typical manor house just behind the castle area. You can see the scorch marks on the walls from a fire in 1820. (J)
A manor house always has formal gardens close to it. (J)
House watch tower with a weather vane on top. (J)
Medieval gargoyles drive away the evil spirits from the house. (J)
Scorch marks are still visible all around the base of the house. (J)
Blarney House rear (J)
Across the wall is the castle gardens and modern greenhouses. The grounds are kept pristine and plants are grown on site for display year round. (J)
Herbaceous border near the arboretum on the grounds near Blarney House  (J)
Castle Grounds - 
Landscaping the castle grounds began in 1767 when Sir James St. John Jeffryes was the property owner. He enhanced the natural landscape by building a Rock Close, arranging the boulders to be aesthetically pleasing. The Druid history of the area was preserved and worked into the landscape. The Bog Garden, Irish Garden, Rock Close, Arboretum, and Fern Garden were popular with visitors immediately.
In the Rock Close, on the castle grounds, there are plenty of surprises everywhere you turn. (J)
The old Lime Kiln on the Woodland walk  (J)
John just had to pet the guard dog  (J)
The Fern Garden has an old ice house that was recently discovered. (J)
At the lower end of the Woodland Walk, you find the Bog Garden, complete with waterfall.  (J)
The lookout tower is also a recent find  (J)
      The Rock Close was built beginning in 1767. It was part of an overall landscape plan that featured Italian designs. The centerpieces of the gardens are the Three Yews, which are over 600 years old.

On the side of a rock you find the sign  (J)

Landscaped deliberately with boulders   (J)
Druid ruins are found among the rocks. Even Patti doesn't believe her eyes.  (J)

Many relics are hidden here  (J)

Druid cave  (J)
Rock formations have their own legends  (J)
Take a good look at the face on the right of the rock  (J)
The Witches Kitchen is another cave that has some legend  (J)
The Wishing Steps has a legend too.  (J)
Walk up the steps with your eyes closed...  (J)
...and then back down backward with your eyes closed, speaking your wish. If you can do that, your wish should come true within the year.  (J)
Calm and quiet in the Bog Garden (J)
The Dolmen Rock is one of those sights that...  (J) have to see to believe.  (J)
Plenty of reminders that the land was once Druid territory  (J)
Enjoy the scenery! (J)

It's beautiful no matter what season you visit.  (J)

      What more is there to say about Blarney Castle? Other than "I must return".

(J) Photos by John Coulter. No reuse without permission.
(M) Photos by Marge McGugan. No reuse without permission.