ANN MASSEY O’REGAN wanders through the magical history of Ireland’s enchanted Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone in Cork
Blarney Castle is in the heart of Blarney Village in County Cork, beside the River Martin where the ghosts of salmon can be seen trying to catch flies.
A castle has stood on the site since the 10th century and the third incarnation is the prominent stone structure you see today, built by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster in 1446.
It is home to the world-famous Blarney Stone, known as the Stone of Eloquence, believed to be half of the Stone of Scone itself following the McCarthy family alliance with Robert the Bruce in 1314.
If you are prepared to climb the steps to the top, a kiss of this rock will mean you will never be lost for words.
Kissed by everyone from tourists, to Mick Jagger and Laurel and Hardy, it is set high on top of the castle, over 130feet from the ground.
The Badger Caves run beneath the castle and are known for enabling the Castle Garrison to evade Lord Broghill, who was attacked on the orders of Oliver Cromwell.
Now with little of them accessible to the public, they were said to contain three secret passages that lead to the Lake, to Cork and to Kerry.
The Garrison is believed to have taken with them the treasure of the castle and thrown it into the lake.
Later owners all but drained the lake to try and find it, but the treasure remains undiscovered.
Hidden behind the Battlements is the Poison Garden in which grow lethal and debilitating plants, from Deadly Nightshade and Hellebore, to plants made famous by Harry Potter such as Mandrake and Wolfsbane.
The castle is just the beginning as there is so much more to explore.
In the shadow of the Keep stands Blarney House.
Originally built at the start of the 18th century, it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1874. This imposing gothic house would not be out of place in a Hammer Horror film and remains a family home today.
Rock Close is the place for all things magical and mysterious. It is thought that a Witch dwelling in Blarney since the dawn of time told the McCarthy clan the power of the Blarney Stone.
She is imprisoned in the Witch Stone until nightfall, where she goes to her Kitchen, a cave beside the Witch Stone.
If you get there very early you may still see the embers dying, long after she is once again imprisoned.
For years the Witch has taken firewood from the estate for her kitchen and in return, she must grant wishes for castle visitors who use the Wishing Steps.
It is said that if you close your eyes and climb down and back up the steps and if you focus on just one wish, it will come true within the year. No peaking!
Druids were believed to have been on the land many centuries ago and you can see evidence of this today.
A Druid cave, a circle of stones for gatherings and a Sacrificial Altar to the Pagan gods all remain.
A Fairy Glade also stands within Rock Close and you are welcome to enter, but remember they are cunning folk and should you see a Fairy, don’t let yourself get fooled, or yet again, lured into their enchanted world forever.
At Blarney Castle there are tourist traps, there is history, there is folklore, and there is mystery.
It is down to you to figure it out.
Time stands still in Blarney so don’t be in a hurry. And do kiss the Blarney Stone and climb the Wishing Steps, because you never know…