Blarney Village and Castle

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter I-7 | Start of chapter

Blarney village lies within five miles of Cork; the principal object of curiosity that it boasts is its old castle, which stands on a precipitous limestone rock, at whose base flows the Awmarteen, a small river of considerable beauty. A massive square pile, about one hundred and twenty feet in height, which formed the donjon or great tower, is all that now remains of the extensive outworks and defences which extended of old around it in every direction, and covered, it is said, a space of ground, whose interior area or court-yard measured eight acres. The walls are of immense thickness, and must, before the introduction of artillery, have been impregnable. The roof and all the floors have long since disappeared; but the curious visitor may, by a little worming through the narrow spiral staircase, and occasionally putting his neck in jeopardy, succeed in exploring all the chambers, particularly that called the "Earl's Chamber," which is still pointed out as the favourite apartment of one of the earls of Clancarty, the former possessors of the castle. It is a cheerful room, lighted by a large bay window, commanding a pleasing prospect of the adjacent country; the floor is tiled, and the fragments of tapestry still attached to the walls show that it was fitted up with some regard to comfort as well as elegance. Sir Walter Scott, when he visited Blarney in 1808, entered this chamber, and afterwards was present at the ceremonial of kissing the "Blarney stone." To this stone the castle owes more of its celebrity than to its historic recollections. A curious tradition attributes to it the power of endowing whoever kisses it with the sweet, persuasive, wheedling eloquence, so perceptible in the language of the Cork people, and which is generally termed "Blarney." This is the true meaning of the word, and not, as some writers have supposed, a faculty of deviating from veracity with an unblushing countenance whenever it may be convenient. Milliken, the Blarney laureate, thus describes its virtues:—

"There is a stone there—whoever kisses

Oh! he never misses—to grow eloquent,

'Tis he may clamber to a lady's chamber,

Or become a member of the Parliament."

Notwithstanding the celebrity of this stone, a perplexing doubt exists as to its identity. Some of the guides point out as the real stone, one placed on the highest part of the battlement at the north-east corner of the tower, upon which the date 1760 has been cut. We, however, incline with those best acquainted with the antiquarian traditions of the castle, to concede the tongue-sweetening virtues to a stone which forms part of the face of the wall a few feet below the parapet. A ball from the cannon of Lord Broghill, who in 1643 attacked and took the castle, struck and displaced this celebrated stone, but it has been subsequently secured in its position by means of a strong iron cramp. Persons desirous of kissing it must submit to the unpleasant operation of being suspended by the heels, and lowered, head downwards, from the summit of the tower, at the alarming height of one hundred and twenty feet from the ground, before they can reach it; and as this is the only way by which access can be gained to the genuine stone, it is not strange that the majority of those who visit Blarney should prefer performing the osculatory ceremony on the more accessible stone, to risking their necks in the highly perilous, and certainly not very graceful, mode of reaching the other. The grounds attached to the castle are still remarkable for their beauty, and before man's avarice had obliterated many of its charms, must have been a perfect little Eden.

Blarney Lake, a pretty sheet of water, lies about a quarter of a mile from the castle; it, however, would be scarcely worth noticing, were it not connected with some old tradition of a herd of enchanted white cows, that at certain seasons are said to come up out of the lake to graze amongst the luxuriant pastures on its banks. There is also a story generally current amongst the peasantry, that the last Earl of Clancarty who possessed Blarney, cast all his plate and treasures into a certain part of the lake, and that "three of the McCarthys inherit the secret of the place where they are deposited; any one of whom dying, communicates it to another of the family, and thus perpetuates the secret which is never to be revealed until a McCarthy be again Lord of Blarney."