After spending the night in Cork, we fortified ourselves with a substantial breakfast and headed for Blarney Castle.
The walk from the car park, crossing the River Martin, warmed us up a bit.
The castle presented a stunning backdrop for the burnished autumn foliage.
Across a bridge over the river,
we stood looking up at the north wall. The original Blarney Castle, a timber hunting lodge, was built in the 10th century and replaced by a stone construction in 1210. The existing castle, built on the edge of a cliff, was completed in 1446 by the King of Munster, Dermot McCarthy. The castle changed hands over the centuries, to Oliver Cromwell in 1646, back to the McCarthys fifteen years later before they lost it again in 1690, then sold to the Governor of Cork in 1703.
The rather elaborate windows, halfway up the wall on the right, are not the romantic bedchamber embellishments one might imagine. They are, in fact, garderobes, the medieval answer to the ensuite.
We followed the path past the guard tower
and well-worn steps that led to the dungeons
before starting our climb to the top of the castle. Our ascent was frequently interrupted to take in the spectacular panorama through the windows.
There wasn’t a lot of breathing space in the passages, I can’t imagine running along them dressed in a suit of armour.
The narrow, spiral stone steps finally ended at the top of the castle. Looking down, we could see where the three floors would have been in the main living area.
The pigeons are the only ones on lookout these days.
At the top of the tower is the infamous Blarney Stone, believed to give anyone that kisses it the gift of eloquence. At one time, anyone wishing to kiss the stone would be at risk of plunging from a great height but there are now railings to hold on to and some underneath to break the fall.
Even so, we didn’t join the queue to bend over backwards from the parapet, there is only so much blarney one needs in life. Besides, the Blarney Stone has been named the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world.
The magnificent view from the battlements was well worth the climb.
Once back on terra firma, we discovered Rock Close, a garden landscaped in the 18th century around existing stone monuments.
It’s easy to believe the tales of Druids and Fairies in this mystical place, the senior Druid Priest was reputed to have lived in the Druid’s Cave.
We would have liked to spend more time in this enchanted garden but time was ticking on.
Legend has it that there is a witch who will grant wishes to those who can walk up and back down the wishing steps with eyes closed (I didn’t get a photo of the steps, nor did I try this). In exchange for this gift, she is provided with firewood for her kitchen. I didn’t get a photo of the kitchen either, but we did see the witch stone. Some believe it was the Blarney Witch who told McCarthy about the power of the Blarney Stone but it remains a mystery how she became entrapped in the rock.