Blarney Castle: An ancient ruin (built in the 1446 on the site of two previous structures dating back 400 years prior) that is supposedly home to half of the Throne of Scone, reportedly given to the owner of the castle by Robert the Bruce in gratitude for his defense. Later, Queen Elizabeth wanted the castle and charged the Earl of Leicester to secure it for her. He never managed it and the Queen referred to Leicester's excuses as "blarney". Thus, the Throne of Scone became the "Blarney Stone". (Note the colors on the trunks of the trees on the bottom right--it is crochet. We saw this all over Ireland--we even saw a bike decorated this way.) However, the castle could not be seen upon our initial entrance to the grounds and my attention was fully taken up by all the brilliant flowers.
And, then . . behold, our first sight of the castle walls as they rose above the trees.
There is quite a bit of contemporary sculpture at Blarney Castle which was a surprise to me. This one below shows the tall metal spire to the right and a pair of cement eyeballs among the terraces below the fence.
I imagine this tower has a story but I don't know what it is. What I can say is that Blarney is one of the few places in Ireland where we saw round towers--the others that I can think of off of the top of my head were Waterford and Kilkenny. Many of the structures in Ireland were built by the Normans at the beginning of the 11th through 13th centuries and they liked square towers.
I wish I had thought to go up this particular tower so I could see what those flowers were at the top.
I was busily engaged photo-ing this tower (not the same as above ) when I was surprised to see Mary looking back at me. I had thought she would still be investigating the possibility of going to the top but she found the line to be too long and came back down. (I didn't want to climb all of that way only to throw my back out kissing the stone--one must lie on one's back, grasp the bars with your hands and lever yourself backwards over a ledge to kiss the stone while someone holds your legs. Between my fibromyalgia and the humid weather, I had to wonder if they would have to carry me down on a stretcher so I didn't even make the attempt.
Not kissing the stone is the one thing she regrets about our trip to Ireland.
Reunited, we decided to explore the grounds and we were not sorry! I never really discovered what this building was all about but it looked so very pleasant.
When we spotted this tease of a building through the trees, we were determined to find it. However, it took us a while--there were so many distractions!
First was the poison garden. Who doesn't love them a poison garden? Apparently, not Mary. I thought it was great fun, however.
This shot shows the outer walls of the castle.
I wish I could find a way to buy or make these glass face masks--they would be so great for Halloween! I imagine they sound equal parts lovely and ominous when the breeze blows them into the metal bars. (Seriously--does anyone know where one can acquire these?)
I wish I could remember if we went through this gate or not. Probably yes.
Still on our way to the promise of the building in the distance, we spotted this lookout tower.
I think I took more pictures of Mary at Blarney Castle than all the rest of the places put together. She just looked so very happy there (aside from the poison garden) and I wanted to remember it.
At last we found the house and figured out that it is what our tour guide referred to as "Blarney House", the home of the owners of Blarney Castle (as far as I can tell, the property has been owned by the same family since the late 1600's).
This particular structure, in grand Scottish Baronial style, was not built until 1874. The previous house (I'm not clear on why people didn't live in the actual castle) burnt down in the early 1800's. The family continued to live in the wings until the lady of the house decided that the deaths of her young children were due to the lack of comforts in the home and had the one above built. Clearly, this was a solution to the problem as the family lives on.
Mary, the tree-hugger, with a specimen found just across the gravel from the house.
Most of the roses we saw in Ireland were like these at Blarney House--floribunda style.
This gate marked the entrance to the family's private garden and we could not go in. Bummer.
Eventually, we headed back toward the castle and came across this building. Not sure what it's purpose is--maybe it's the gardener's house (sign me up!) as it had a very large garden alongside of it. Note the palm tree on the far left.
Why we didn't walk down this path under the hanging roses, I can't figure out! I suppose we were too stunned by its beauty to think clearly.
We trudged on and our attention was caught by this path ahead.
This one also beckoned and it is the one we took.
This garden is known as the Rock Close and was planted/created by the most recent family to live at Blarney and arranged around what was said to be a Druid's cave.
Mary was very excited by the thought of a Druid's cave so off we went!
The entrance to the Druid's cave.
The light shining over Mary's left arm in the above photo came from this hole at ground level on the far side of the cave.
We decided to see what was on the far side of the castle so we were off again.
This was where we found the Badgers Caves. At one point British armies were able to break down the outer walls of the castle with cannon fire but once they entered, there was no one there but a few old men. It was said that the rest fled through these caves. One cave is said to go to Cork, one to the lake and another to Kerry. They had taken all of the gold plate with them (we call it silverware) and several subsequent owners attempted to drain the lake to find the gold they thought must have been flung there.
I love the windows (of course) on the balcony on this side of the castle. Perhaps it was actually what we call the bathroom. Very breezy on the backside.
Looking back on the castle as we were heading out.
Most of the rivers and lakes in Ireland are brown. They are still lovely and are everywhere.
Who knew I would love hydrangeas so much? Move over, roses!
I was stopped in my tracks by the beauty of this floral tableaux. It wasn't until after I had taken a picture of it that I realized it is the same one that stopped me in my tracks on the way in (see above). (Far above.) (Like, near the beginning.)
Below is a picture of the gift shop one must go through on one's way out. There was a sign that said they had souvenirs one could only buy in that shop. We refused to be seduced by that and rushed through to the gift shop just outside the parking area sporting signs that read that they had the cheapest prices in town. We didn't think they were so great and went on to the HUGE Blarney Woolen Mills, where I proceeded to lose Mary. I went up and down from the first to the second to the third floor three times only to learn that in an entire hour, she had never gotten past the first floor. But, I did get a lot of exercise. We left from there, Mary having been found just in the nick of time (as John, our coach driver said, "Crisis averted") and didn't have time to go back to the Blarney Castle gift shop. And I was sorry. They DID have neat stuff there you couldn't get anywhere else. Live and learn.
See the sign? "Products only available here". If only . . . (But then I would have had less money to spend at the Belleek factory, and that's the truth.)
All roses are mine. Mine. Mine. Mine.
Next time: Kinsale, the harbor town that the locals say is painted the colors of a bag of Skittles. (SO fun!)
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