Blarney Castle is a 15th-century fortification located in County Cork, Ireland. It was built by a local ruling family named McCarthy, and changed owners several times during its first three centuries of existence. The most famous feature of Blarney Castle is the Blarney Stone, a slab of rock located in one of the castle battlements that is said to endow those who kiss it with the gift of eloquent speech. As of the early 21st century, Blarney Castle is one of Ireland’s most visited tourist attractions.
Located in the town of Blarney, Blarney Castle is a five-mile journey from the major Irish city of Cork. The castle was constructed in 1446 by the McCarthy clan, who then served as rulers of Munster, the province in which Blarney sits. It was seized on behalf of the British on two separate occasions in the 17th century, but in each instance it eventually returned to Irish hands. In the early 18th century, it was purchased by the Jefferyes family, and as of late 2011, it is still owned by descendants of these buyers.
The main structure of Blarney Castle comprises a rectangular tower, or keep, which is made from gray stone and which stands at approximately 90 feet (27.43 meters) in height. Without question, the most famed attribute of the castle is the Blarney Stone, a block of stone built into the upper part of one of the keep’s walls. Tradition holds that kissing the Blarney Stone increases one’s ability to disarm others through speech. Some historians believe that this tradition can be traced back to Queen Elizabeth, who became frustrated when her emissary was repeatedly foiled in his attempts to negotiate control of the castle. According to these historians, Elizabeth deemed her representative’s rambling reports of these failed negotiations “blarney.”
While the grounds of Blarney Castle feature additional attractions, such as an elaborate 19th-century house and extensive gardens, it is the Blarney Stone that draws most tourists to the site. After paying an admission fee, visitors can climb to the top of the keep to kiss the infamous section of rock. Due to the positioning of the stone, it is necessary to hang backward over the edge of the keep to plant one’s kiss. While those with a serious fear of heights may wish to avoid kissing the stone, the experience is relatively safe due to the presence of handrails as well as castle employees who hold onto each visitor as he leans over the keep.