OBJECTID: 18827 Monument Identifier: CO09190 Classification: TOHO Irish Grid Easting: 160780 Irish Grid Northing: 75309 RMP_PROP: 1 County ID: 5 WebNotes: Just S of Blarney village; atop limestone outcrop, overlooking junction of rivers Martin and Blarney. Complex composed chiefly of tower house and part of bawn, with fragmentary remains of country house (CO062-238----) immediately E of tower house. The tower house is of two distinct phases: the primary 4-storey tower (tower 1) is rectangular in plan (6.5m N-S; 6.8m E-W); later, a larger and slightly taller 5-storey extension (tower 2) butted against E wall, and E end of S wall, of tower 1, giving the complete plan an L-shape (see plan Woods 1896, 338); tower 2 extends 8.5m to E and 14m to S of tower 1. North wall of tower 2 incorporates part of earlier wall at ground-floor level, which is extension of N wall of tower 1; this wall may have been part of bawn wall contemporary with tower 1. At foot of S wall of tower 2 part of earlier wall protrudes; this could be associated with same bawn wall. Tower 1: Original entrance probably in E wall at ground-floor level, but now obscured by inserted passage, which joins SE corner of ground-floor chamber to base of spiral stairs in NE corner of tower; just above ground-floor level, quarried passage leads from stairs into tower 2. Stairs accommodated by protrusion of 0.4m on external E face of tower 1. First, second and 3rd floors all entered from spiral stairs by door with pointed arch in NE corner; corners bulge inwards to accommodate stairwell. Each floor has window in centre of all four walls, except W wall which only has window at 2nd and 3rd floors, and N wall of 2nd floor which is blank; all these windows have splayed and lintelled embrasures; when tower 2 added, windows in E wall of tower 1 were blocked up. Both ground and 1st floors have quarried doorways at E end of S wall, giving access respectively to 1st and 2nd floors of tower 2.
Ground-floor: chamber (3.9m E-W; 2.9m N-S) covered by pointed wicker-centred vault (axis E-W). Window in W wall is much altered but base of original light visible outside; S window has flat-headed light, lower part of which is blocked; at W end of S wall is inserted embrasure with two openings for gun loops facing S; N window is large 5-light oriel window, inserted into earlier window embrasure.
First floor: lights are square-headed, ogee-headed and round-headed, to N, W and S respectively; large window embrasure inserted into SW corner, with single square-headed light set directly on corner of tower. Between 1st-and 2nd-floor levels is small mural chamber in N wall, entered directly from stairwell, with blocked garderobe at W end.
Second floor: covered by pointed wicker-centred vault (axis E-W); W window has round-headed light, S window has ogee-headed light.
Third floor: modern concrete floor. N window has double ogee-headed light with hood moulding; W and S windows have single lights: W is flat-headed, S ogee-headed. Dominating this chamber are two inserted fireplaces: occupying W third of room is a large fireplace with flat joggled arch supported by curving jambs; butting against this is smaller fireplace, along S wall, with flat lintel supported by two rounded corbels; both feed into wide squat chimney stack, which occupies W third of tower 1 at roof level. Conversion of 3rd floor to kitchen (by insertion of fireplaces) probably happened when tower 2 added; passage links this floor to 4th floor of tower 2. Top of spiral stairs gives access, through lintelled door, to N wall-walk; wall-walk, parapet wall and remains of battlements preserved atop N, W and S walls; inserted stairway on E wall leads from S wall-walk around chimney stack up to higher W wall-walk of tower 2. Atop SW corner is bartizan supported by four tapering corbels. Tower 2: Southern two-thirds of tower 2 occupied by five main floors; northern third occupied by series of mural chambers and passageways, and by spiral stairs in NE corner. Stairs give access to all main floors and to chambers and passageways in N wall.
Tower 2 entered by ground-floor door near N end of E wall; surround in two plain orders with pointed arch, yett-hole through S jamb. Lobby (3m E-W; 1.6m N-S) covered by plank-centred segmental vault (axis E-W) with murder-hole (now blocked); from lobby, doors, each with pointed arch, give access straight through to main ground-floor chamber, N to base of spiral stairs, and S to mural chamber (5.8m N-S; 1.8m E-W) covered by pointed vault (axis N-S). Main 1st-, 2nd-, 3rd-, and 4th-floor chambers have central window in S wall; 1st and 2nd floors have two windows each in W wall whilst 3rd and 4th floors have one; 1st, 2nd and 4th floors have two windows each in E wall, 3rd has one. Many of windows at 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-floor levels have had their embrasures enlarged to take wide rectangular lights, divided by one or two mullions. At 4th-floor level windows in E, S and W walls have similar rectangular lights, but square-set embrasures with pointed arches on inside edge, appear to be unaltered; similar window embrasure in centre of N wall has double ogee-headed light.
Ground-floor: main chamber (11.8m N-S; 4.5m E-W) is split level: northern two-thirds of floor recently covered by stone flags; southern third is low platform built around rock outcrop, with central flight of concrete steps. Near S end of E wall is much-altered embrasure with single round-headed light, now blocked, and angled gun loops set into S corner. North window has deep (D c. 4m) splayed and lintelled embrasure; outer section of embrasure (D 0.9m) is part of wall contemporary with tower 1 (see above); original window had double-ogee-headed light (frame visble on external face) but when tower 2 built E light blocked up. First floor: main chamber covered by pointed wicker-centred vault (axis N-S). Entered via passage from stairway by door on N side of window embrasure near N end of E wall. Inserted fireplace in centre of E wall; stone surround with entablature-like mantle, very similar to mantlepiece, inscribed with date 1636, in Monkstown Castle (CO087-028----).
Second-floor: main chamber (11.3m N-S; 5.9m E-W) has recent concrete floor. Window S of centre in W wall has square-set embrasure covered by segmental vault; on N side of embrasure, door with pointed arch accesses stairs descending into mural passage (5.6m N-S; 1.2m E-W), covered by pointed vault, leading to 1st floor of tower 1. Entire N wall of main chamber once contained large fireplace with flat joggled arch, only ends of which survive; slightly higher but much narrower fireplace later inserted here. Projecting slightly (c. 0.5m) into chamber, at NW corner, is SE corner of tower 1. Much-altered entrance passageway from spiral stairs at N end of E wall. Third-floor: chamber entered, via passage from spiral stairs, by lintelled door at N end of E wall. Blocked fireplace in centre of E wall has wooden lintel and cut-stone jambs. N wall set back (D c. 1m) under pointed wicker-centred arch. Deep ledge (D c. 0.6m) marks division between main 3rd- and 4th-floor chambers. Fourth-floor: At this level main chamber extends full length of tower. N end (c. 4m N-S) now has concrete floor over area occupied by mural chambers at lower levels (see below); on W side is door with pointed arch leading to passageway to 3rd-floor of tower 1; on E side is projection which contains top of main spiral stairs of tower 2. Window embrasure in N wall has door on E side giving access to spiral stairs in NE corner rising to wall-walk level.
Wall-walk survives atop all four walls of tower 2. Continuous machicolation, supported by tapering corbels, along W, S and southern two-thirds of E wall; lintel between corbels midway along S side is famed "Blarney Stone". Atop E wall is bellcote, N side of which was once chimney stack. Vaulted passages and chambers in N wall; at 1st-floor level mural passage (3.2m E-W; 1.1m N-S) links spiral stairs of tower 2 to spiral stairs of of tower 1. Above this, between 1st and 2nd floors, and between 3rd and 4th floors, are two garderobe chambers (3.2m E-W; 1.8m N-S and 3.7m E-W; 1.9m N-S respectively), both accessed by awkward curving passages from spiral stairs. Between these is a chamber at 2nd/3rd-floor level (3.4m E-W; 2.3m N-S) accessed directly from spiral stairs; window in N wall has slop-stone under sill of light. Gate house: immediately outside ground-floor door in E wall of tower 2 is level terrace (c. 12m N-S; c. 5m E-W) enclosed by low modern wall to N and E; at S end is rectangular 2-storey gate house (c. 16.1m NW-SE; c. 4.2m NE-SW), abutting, at NW end, SE corner of tower 2. NW half of ground floor now blocked off; SE half has gateway in outside wall, giving entry to terraced area. Gateway has semicircular arch with dropped keystone, multi-grooved chamfered jambs, yett-hole through E jamb and hood moulding overhead with stepped terminals. First floor covered by segmental vault (axis E-W); in SE corner are remains of narrow spiral stairs. High up on N end of inside wall, close to junction with E wall of tower 2, is gun loop, covering entrance door to tower 2.
Fortified towers to NE: Immediately E of terrace between gatehouse and door into tower 2 is sheer rock-face against which later house (CO062-238----) was built, at lower level than tower house; N end of house overlies earlier fortified tower.This tower is built around and against rock outcrop, with a curved profile on N side; contains two floors but a third floor was sheered off when house built atop tower - NW and NE sides of tower corbelled outwards to take straight end wall of house. Now entered at ground-floor level through large quarried opening on N side. Stairway on E side rises steeply to S; upper end blocked but probably original entrance into tower. Parallel stairway to W also rises to S; lower portions of W stairways much altered; remains of ope in intervening wall suggests they were once connected. East staircase gave access to ground-floor chamber via landing; chamber is irregular in plan (c. 1.25m N-S; c. 1.9m E-W), with corbelled roof (H c. 1.7m); on NE side is lintelled double-splayed gun loop, outer part blocked up. First-floor chamber overhead also irregular in plan (c. 1.95m N-S; c. 4m E-W), with corbelled roof (H c. 2m); three similar lintelled double-splayed gun loops on outer N-facing wall (opening is very narrow vertical slit with circular widening above centre). This chamber probably accessed by W stairway. On W side of W stairway is D-shaped chamber (c. 2m E-W; c. 2.2m N-S), with corbelled roof and gun loop facing NW; passage continues beyond chamber to S where it gives entry to long narrow crevice (L 16.5m), ending in small naturally formed chamber. Sills from window lights (some mullioned) have been reused as lintels in stairways and as jambs of gun loops.
On SW side of tower ground rises steeply towards rock-face on which NE corner of tower 2 stands; here, incorporated into the walls of late overlying house (CO062-238----) is western third of a similar but smaller tower, also corbelled outwards to take later wall built on top of it. Bawn wall: Section of bawn wall (total L 64.2m) survives atop rock-face to W of tower 1, in line with N face of tower. Nearest section to tower (L 14.2m) has fallen and been replaced by modern wall. Bawn wall (int. H 2.2m) has wall-walk with parapet (H 1.3m; Wth 0.3m) surmounted by 12 wide stepped battlements (H 0.7m), each with gun loop in merlon. At W end is 2-storey corner tower, oval in plan (int.: 3.6m E-W; 2.1m N-S); entered at ground-floor level through inserted brick-arched passageway; entered at 1st-floor level by lintelled door on E side, from wall-walk of bawn wall. At each level are five splayed and lintelled gun loops. Roughly inserted into internal wall face are five tiers of pigeon nesting boxes. Short section of bawn wall (L c. 4m) returns S from corner tower; this points in direction of circular tower, now standing in isolation, c. 70m to SSE. Interior of circular tower roughly pear-shaped in plan (1.75m NW-SE; 2.15m SW-NE), built directly on limestone outcrop; entered by much-altered doorway on NE side; corbelled roof. Projecting stones on either side of doorway indicate former presence of walls extending to E and to NNW. A third tower lies c. 210m ENE of latter tower, at E end of 19th-century stable block. E gable of stable block protrudes slightly into SW side of otherwise circular tower (H c. 5m); ground-floor door in SE corner appears to be insertion with wooden frame and door, now blocked. Unroofed interior (diam. 7.75m; wall thickness 0.7m) partially filled with rubble. Neither of latter two towers retain any recognisable defensive features and their exact relationship to the bawn is unclear.
Blarney was principal residence of MacCarthys, Lords of Muskerry (O Murchadha 1985, 58). According to tradition built in 1446 by Cormac Láidir Mac Carthy (Healy 1988, 21), though Nicholls (1993, 173) suggests MacCarthys did not get possession of Blarney until 1480s; in any case a late 15th-century date would seem appropriate for tower 1; addition of tower 2 probably dates to 16th century. Tower 2 appears to have been remodelled in early 17th century, when windows changed and fireplaces inserted; this may also be date of gatehouse and fortified tower to NE (the reused window sills may have come from alterations to tower 2). The bawn wall to W is probably contemporary with tower 2 or slightly later. Captured by Broghill in 1646 but estate later restored to MacCarthys who held it until 1691 (Healy ibid.). Property passed by marriage from Jeffeyes to Colthurst family in 1846, in whose hands it remains to this day. Castle and 'Blarney Stone' now a major tourist attraction.
The above description is derived from the published 'Archaeological Inventory of County Cork. Volume 3: Mid Cork' (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1997). In certain instances the entries have been revised and updated in the light of recent research.
Date of upload/revision: 14 January 2009
See also: J. Lyttleton 2011 Blarney Castle. An Irish Tower House. (Dublin: Four Courts Press) Zone Code: R112647 ITM Easting: 560739 ITM Northing: 575370 SHAPE: Point Att.: 0 Class: Castle - tower house SMR No.: CO062-177---- Townland: BLARNEY Point: X: 560739.0 Y: 575370.0 Spatial Reference: 2157