The castle was described in the Pacata Hibernia around a century after it was constructed:
‘…his castle of Blarney…is one of the largest and strongest castles within the province of Munster….seated upon a main rock, so that it is free from mining, the wall being eighteen feet thick and well flanked at each corner to the best advantage.’
Pacata Hibernia was published in c.1633 by Sir Thomas Stafford, who was a secretary to the Elizabethan President of Munster Sir George Carew who played an important role in the English campaigns against the Earl of Tyrone at the end of the 16th century. The document provided a contemporary account of affairs in Ireland during the latter stages of the Nine Years War, as well as details on the conduct of the campaign in Munster.
As well as providing the description of the castle quoted above, it also described a failed attempt by the English to seize Blarney Castle by subterfuge. Carew ordered Sir Charles Wilmot and Captain Roger Harvey to pretend to hunt deer near the castle, accompanied by a personal guard of twenty four soldiers led by a sergeant. They were to appear hot and weary from the hunt, and to call at the castle for refreshments. When they were admitted inside for food and drink in accordance to traditional Gaelic hospitality, they planned to seize the castle by force. However when they called they found the master of the house away, and the servants refused to admit anyone in the absence of their master. Perhaps the disappointed English soldiers should have tried to kiss the Blarney stone, though it is doubtful that the wary servants would have obliged.
The term ‘blarney’ meaning to charm, flatter, persuade and cajole is derived from Cormac MacCarthy of Blarney Castle. In 1602 he managed to avoid the confiscation of his lands by English Crown by sheer force of persuasion, flattery and eloquence. He cajoled Sir George Carew (Lord of Munster under Elizabeth I) so volubly and determinedly that he was permitted to keep his lands. Queen Elizabeth is supposed to have declared: ‘This is all Blarney; what he says he never means.’
Visitors can be bestowed with the same eloquence by kissing the Blarney Stone. The stone is set high on the inside wall of the tower, and whosoever kisses it is said to be granted ‘sweet persuasive, wheedling eloquence’. The legend of the Blarney Stone appears to derive from a 19th century source, The Reliques of Father Prout. This was said to be the pseudonym for the Reverend Francis Sylvester Mahony, a priest in Watergrasshill, Cork, who died in 1866. (For source see this article by Kate Hamlyn in the Irish Arts Review)