Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sightseeing-Highlight: Blarney Castle near Cork

Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold in Blarney,  near Cork and the River Martin. The building  originally dates from before AD 1200, when a wooden structure was built  on the site. Around 1210 A.D. this was replaced by a stone  fortification.  It was destroyed in 1446, but subsequently rebuilt by Cormac MacCarthy -  then King of Munster. The castle was besieged during the Irish Confederate Wars and was seized in 1646 by Parliamentarian  forces under Lord Broghill. However after  the restoration the  castle was restored to Donough MacCarty,  who was made 1st Earl of Clancarty. During the Williamite War in Ireland in the  1690s, the then 4th Earl of Clancarty was  captured and his lands (including Blarney Castle) were confiscated by  the Williamites. The castle was sold and changed hands a number of times before being  purchased by Sir James St. John Jefferyes. Members of the Jefferyes family would later build a mansion near the  keep. This house was destroyed by fire however, and in 1874 a  replacement baronial mansion - known as Blarney House - was built  overlooking the nearby lake.
The castle is now a partial ruin with some accessible rooms and  battlements. At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence,  better known as the Blarney Stone. Tourists visiting Blarney Castle may hang  upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which is said to give  the gift of eloquence. There are many legends as to the origin  of the stone, but some say that it was the Lia  Fáil - a magical stone upon which Irish kings were crowned. Surrounding the castle are extensive gardens.  There are paths touring the grounds with signs pointing out the various  attractions such as several natural rock formations which have been  given fanciful names, such as Druid's Circle, Witch's Cave  and the Wishing Steps. Blarney House, also open to the public,  is a Scottish  baronial-style mansion that was built on the grounds in 1874. (The pictures are from the official website of Blarney Castle)

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