Sometimes it seems as if every field in Ireland has its own castle ruins – some restored to their former glory, some festooned with ivy, totally merging with the landscape. Wherever you go, these constant reminders of a checkered past will cast their spell on you.
Countless castles pepper Ireland’s landscape, some so crumbled and barren it’s clear they’ve stood for hundreds of winters, and some so thick with hanging tapestries and the wafting smell of mead, you’d expect to see a King’s carriage in the car park.
This historic castle in County Cork is most famous for its stone, which has the traditional power of conferring eloquence on all who kiss it. Blarney Castle itself is a tower house and was built around 1446 on a solid limestone mound. The word blarney was introduced into the English language by Queen Elizabeth I and is described as pleasant talk, intended to deceive without offending. The stone is set in the wall below the battlements and to kiss it, one has to lean backwards, (grasping an iron railing) from the parapet walk. Kissing the Blarney Stone gives the gift of gab or, as an 18th century French consul put it, “gain the privilege of telling lies for seven years“. Legend states that long ago, a witch told a shy, tongue-tied lord of the castle that his fear of public speaking would vanish if he kissed the stone: According to the legend, he did so and became a great orator.
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This fortress sits on an ancient Viking trading camp dating back to 970 A.D. Located in County Clare, just seven miles from Shannon Airport, the current castle structure is actually the fourth castle to be built onsite. Due to the violent changing of hands over 200 years, the first castle (and the following 2) were destroyed in battle. Today, it’s the best place in Ireland to enjoy a traditional medieval feast.
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This iconic ruin in County Antrim bears witness to a long and tumultuous history. Located on the edge of a basalt outcrop, the castle is accessible via a bridge connecting it to the mainland. Dunluce is surrounded by extremely steep drops on either side, which may have been an important factor to the early Christians and Vikings who were drawn to this place where an early Irish fort once stood. Now, HBO’s Game of Thrones fans can visit the House of Greyjoy, ruler of the Iron Islands.
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