Gardens and Sculptures at Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone are some of the most well known Irish landmarks.  The Castle was built in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy, the King of Munster and was one of the more rustic ‘castles’ I saw on my trip.

The staircase up to the top of the Castle was twisty, cramped and not for those who are claustrophobic or afraid of heights.  There’s a rope for visitors to hold on to as they transverse the curvy, narrow stairs but otherwise there isn’t much in the way of support during the climb.   As the stairwell winds upward there are a number of small rooms which visitors can explore.

The bedrooms, kitchen, and dinning room are only identifiable by the signage as
nothing but rock remains in the space.  The views from the top of the castle were pretty remarkable as the Castle overlooked the entire Blarney estate, including the Blarney House and gardens.

I enjoyed the grounds of the Blarney Castle more than the Castle itself.  There were a number of different styles of gardens on the grounds to explore.  The well manicured lawns were contrasted with the wild Rock Close and bog gardens.  The Rock Close area provided a peaceful walk through the woods on a trail lined with modern art sculptures.

In the Rock Close

The Poison Garden and the Irish Garden had added educational elements which aimed to teach visitors about a range of plants.  The poison garden was an interesting concept, it contains poisonous plants from around the world.  The plants are well labeled and describe the nature of the poison, the historical uses of the plants, and how the plants are used today.  The garden is well signed to warn visitors and parents of small children of potential dangers (eg. don’t touch or eat the plants).  The Irish Garden was relatively small but provided an opportunity to see and learn about some of the area’s native plants.

The expansive grounds at the Castle are what made the visit to Blarney worthwhile for me.  The Castle was a fun touristy experience and had a rustic old feel to it.  But, I could have spent hours wondering around the gardens and grounds as there were so many walking paths, sculptures, and variety of flora to see.

Photographs by Andrew MacKay

American Heritage Vegetables

Last week’s #builtheritage twitter chat on food and preservation provided an abundance of interesting resource material. This week I stumbled across another great food history resource.  American Heritage Vegetables is a great database of historical vegetables created by the Center for Digital Humanities of the University of South Carolina. The site focuses on cultivation practices, popular varieties, and recipes for vegetables found in American kitchens and gardens prior to the twentieth century.

The site is searchable and is a great resource for anyone looking to integrate food heritage into their programming.  My only complaint is the way in which the recipes are laid out on the site – they are written in paragraph formatting which seems a bit daunting to someone looking to try cooking something in 19th century style.