The Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle is a tower house, a type of fortification built by Gaelic lords and the Anglo-Irish between the 15th and 17th centuries. Tower houses are typically four or five storeys tall with one or two main chambers, plus several ancillary chambers on each floor.

Blarney Castle is an unusually large tower house, and it comprises at least two towers – the second one was added in the 1500s. You can see the point the two phases meet as a vertical line in the masonry on the north elevation.

The walls are 18 feet thick at the base, gradually sloping inwards as they rise. This makes the building more stable but would also have helped with defence: when an object was dropped from the top it would bounce off the wall on the way down and fly outwards into the enemy.

Explore Blarney Castle


  • Chapel, Banqueting Hall & Family Room
  • Entering the Castle
  • The Dungeon
  • The Great Hall
  • The Kitchen
  • Walls and Bawn
  • Young Ladies Bedroom – Priests Room

Chapel, Banqueting Hall & Family Room

Chapel, Banqueting Hall & Family Room A flight of steps leads down from the parapet to the serving area outside the kitchen, with a view down to the room called the ‘Chapel and the ‘Banqueting Hall’ beneath it. When the Castle was first built, it is likely that what is now the ‘Chapel’ was in fact originally the Banqueting Hall: it is the largest of the principal rooms, occupying the whole floor at this level, and has the finest architectural treatment, with pointed arches on three walls. This was where the household gathered for Mass said in Latin. The Banqueting Hall was the heart of the social life of the Castle: feasting was a way of life, combining dinner with a whole night’s entertainment. The family room focal point is the fireplace on the north wall which is enormous and flanked by cut stone tablets and a mantle shelf running the full width of the room. On the south wall opposite is a rare fragment of early 17th-century plasterwork, the remains of a frieze that would once have decorated the walls of this room.

Entering the Castle

Entering the Castle If we managed to break down the door, with its awkward yet, we would find ourselves in a confined space with a door in each wall and a ‘murder hole’ in the ceiling, through which deadly missiles or boiling liquid could be dropped on our heads.

The Dungeon

The Dungeon Below the lookout tower on the way up to the Castle are a dog kennel and sentry box guarding the entrance. A third opening in the rock leads to the dungeon – though we do not know whether prisoners were kept here. What is certain is that this contained the Castle well, which had to be protected but kept accessible even if the tower was under siege. This is also the entrance to a labyrinth of hidden underground passages and chambers, now inaccessible to even the most intrepid explorer…

The Great Hall

The Great Hall From the guards’ quarters a wooden staircase leads up into a vaulted chamber with a fine 17th- century fireplace. This is known as the ‘Great Hall’, the nerve-centre of Castle life, where guests were received and entertained.

The Kitchen

The Kitchen The room above the ‘Priest’s Room’, perhaps once the finest bedroom, was converted in the 16th century into the kitchen. Here it was next to the original Banqueting Hall – and its position high on the top floor reduced the risk of fire and meant that there was a ready supply of boiling oil to pour from the parapet onto unwelcome guests.

Walls and Bawn

Walls and Bawn Blarney Castle would have been surrounded by a defensive wall, which enclosed an area of about 8 acres called the ‘Bawn’. This sheltered both livestock and people in times of danger but was also a hive of activity. Here were to be found Blacksmiths, tanners, masons, woodcutters, carpenters, butchers, cooks and all the livestock. The bawn wall is long gone today but its line is followed by the stone wall along the Poison Garden.

Young Ladies Bedroom – Priests Room

Young Ladies Bedroom – Priests Room The spiral staircase of the older tower leads up to the ‘Young Ladies’ Bedroom’, with the ‘Priest’s Room’ above it – the floor between them has gone. We do know that the three young daughters of the 14th Lord of Muskerry, Cormac McTeige MacCarthy, were brought up here. Their good behaviour would be assured if the traditional definition of the room above is correct. The lack of any gun loops, the space in its west window, perhaps for a small altar, and the shape of the window, suggest its more holy status. This room may even have served as a small chapel.