Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle (Irish: Caisleán na Blarnan) is a medieval stronghold in Blarney, near Cork, Ireland, and the River Martin. Though earlier fortifications were built on the same spot, the current keep was built by the MacCarthy of Muskerry dynasty, a cadet branch of the Kings of Desmond, and dates from 1446. The noted Blarney Stone is found among the machicolations of the castle.

The castle originally dates from before 1200, when a wooden structure was believed to have been built on the site, although no evidence remains of this. Around 1210 this was replaced by a stone fortification. It was destroyed in 1446, but subsequently rebuilt by Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, Lord of Muscry.
Blarney House

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 (also named Donough MacCarty) was captured and his lands (including Blarney Castle) were confiscated by the Williamites.

The castle was sold and changed hands a number of times-Sir Richard Pyne, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, owned it briefly- before being purchased in the early 1700s by Sir James St. John Jefferyes, then Governor of Cork City.

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.

In the mid 19th century the Jefferyes and Colthurst families were joined by marriage, and the Colthurst family still occupy the demesne. In May 2008, the present estate owner, Sir Charles St John Colthurst, Baronet, succeeded in a court action to eject a man who has lived on his land for 44 years. The man’s great-grandfather was the first to occupy the estate cottage.
Tourism
Kissing the Blarney Stone

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.

Newgrange

Newgrange (Irish: Sí an Bhrú) is a prehistoric monument in County Meath, Ireland, about one kilometre north of the River Boyne.It was built about 3200 BC,during the Neolithic period, which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.[5] Newgrange is a large circular mound with a stone passageway and chambers inside. The mound has a retaining wall at the front and is ringed by ‘kerbstones’ engraved with artwork. There is no agreement about what the site was used for, but it has been speculated that it had religious significance – it is aligned with the rising sun and its light floods the chamber on the winter solstice. It is the most famous monument within the Neolithic Brú na Bóinne complex, alongside the similar passage tomb mounds of Knowth and Dowth, and as such is a part of the Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage Site. Newgrange also shares many similarities with other Neolithic constructions in Western Europe, such as Maeshowe in Orkney, Scotland and the Bryn Celli Ddu in Wales.

After its initial use, Newgrange was sealed and it remained so for several millennia, later appearing in Irish mythology and folklore. It first began to be studied by antiquarians in the 17th century AD and archaeological excavations took place at the site over the following centuries. In the 1970s, the front of the monument was reconstructed, although some have questioned this move. Today, Newgrange is a popular tourist site and, according to the archaeologist Colin Renfrew, is “unhesitatingly regarded by the prehistorian as the great national monument of Ireland” and as one of the most important megalithic structures in Europe.

The Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway (known as Clochán an Aifir or Clochán na bhFomhórach in Irish and tha Giant’s Causey in Ulster-Scots)[2] is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.

It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles (4.8 km) northeast of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the Giant’s Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom.[3] The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres (92 ft) thick in places.

The Giant’s Causeway is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland.

Lakes of Killarney and Ring of Kerry

The Lakes of Killarney are a renowned scenic attraction located near Killarney, County Kerry, in Ireland. They consist of three lakes – Lough Leane, Muckross Lake (also called Middle Lake) and Upper Lake.

Lough Leane (from Irish Loch Léin, meaning “lake of learning”) is the largest of the three lakes. The River Laune drains Lough Leane to the north towards Killorglin and into Dingle Bay.

The lakes lie in a mountain-ringed valley starting in the Black Valley. The mountains include :

Carrauntoohil 1,038 metres (Ireland’s highest mountain)
Purple Mountain (832m)
Mangerton Mountain (843m)
Torc Mountain (535m)

Ladies View is a scenic stopping point on the N71 road from Killarney to Kenmare that offers a view of the lakes and valleys.

There are many sites of natural, historic and religious interest on the lakes which are mostly contained in the surrounding Killarney National Park. On the shores lie Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey and Muckross House. On Lough Leane is Innisfallen Island.

Ross Island, a peninsula on the eastern shore of Lough Leane, is the site of copper mines dating back 4000 years to the Bronze Age, the earliest known copper mines in the British Isles.[citation needed] The area was also extensively mined in the early 19th century by the Herbert family of Muckross House.

Muckross Peninsula, which separates Lough Leane from Muckross Lake, contains one of the few yew woods in Europe.

The lakes are renowned for their trout fisheries.

The Aran Islands are  located in the center of the Wild Atlantic Way. It is Accessible from Rossavel (Connemara & Galway). The Aran Islands are also accessible from Doolin which is close to the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.

Learn More about The Wild Atlantic Way