The castle is said to have been built by Cormac Laidir MacCarthy in 1446.  He died in 1494 and the second tower of the keep - making it L shaped - is thought to have been built soon afterwards.  The castle was captured by Lord Broghill in 1643 and was then slighted by Cromwellian troops.

Blarney is renowned for the Blarney stone - a stone on the underside of the battlements of the tower house that is said to endow whoever kisses it with the eternal gift of eloquence, in the vernacular, ‘the Gift of the Gab'.  The origin of this custom is unknown, and now the word ‘blarney', means to placate with soft talk or to deceive without offending.  The main theory is that it derives from the stream of unfulfilled promises made by Cormac MacDermot MacCarthy (d.1616) to the government in the late sixteenth century.  Having seemingly agreed to deliver up his castle to the Crown, he continuously delayed doing so with soft words, which came to be known as ‘Blarney talk'.  The legend of the stone itself only dates back to the eighteenth century, being first recorded by the antiquarian, Francis Grose (d.1791).

The original castle crowned a boss of limestone which overlooks the junctions of two rivers.  The site has been much built upon.  The first castle seems to have been a tower house 4 storeys high.  Only slightly later a second 5 storey house was built against this making an L shaped tower.  This was apparently the plan from the start as enough space was left on the rock for the second structure.  Such building design appears a common occurrence in tower houses in SW Ireland.  The second tower is larger than the first, but both contain similar small loops and higher up 2 or 3 slight mullioned windows.   It is also apparent that the 2 towers work independently of each other having their own stairways, but links by mural passageways from the third floor of the first tower to the fourth floor of the later one.

The stair turret to the NE side of the castle is actually a square tower of an earlier fortification, pressed into use by the builders of the great tower.  The tower is some 60' long by 38' wide and has walls 12' thick at the base.  This makes it one of the largest towers in Ireland.  The second floor has a large fireplace that takes up the bulk of the north wall.  The main formal chambers seem to be on the third floor where there are also 2 large fireplaces.  The original windows in the earlier tower are all single lights, but many have been enlarged and have had mullioned windows inserted.  The later tower seems to have been equipped with mullioned windows from the first.  The upper of the 5 storeys is on a pronounced instep, while the original battlements were removed and the new machicolations added leaving the wallwalk 75' above ground level.  There is also an impressive oriel window of about 1600.  The early eighteenth century domestic block before the castle was only destroyed by fire in 1820.  There are also slight traces of the bailey.  Immediately east of the castle are the remains of a tower built against the rock face and built upon by a more modern house.  Some gun loops can still be seen in the structure.  There are also some remnants of another smaller tower hidden in the house.  To the west of the larger tower some 200 feet of the curtain wall survives on top of the rock outcrop.

Perhaps you would like to join me in visiting this and other great castles of Ireland in October with Scholarly Sojourns.  Details of the trip can be found by clicking here.


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