Home / A stroll through Blarney Castle’s Poison Gardens

A stroll through Blarney Castle’s Poison Gardens

Walking among some of the world’s most deadly plants may not be everyone’s idea of fun.

Blarney Castle
Blarney Stone
Blarney Castle Legends
Attractions in Ireland

However, it certainly appeals to thousands of visitors to Blarney Castle’s Poison Garden. Here you will find all sorts of beautiful but potentially toxic plans such as deadly nightshade, hellebore and opium.
Beautiful but deadly (Photo Becky Hauf) Image Ireland Calling

Gardai confiscated marijuana plants in 2010

The garden hasn’t escaped the attention of the gardai (police force) who raided it in 2010 and confiscated its marijuana plants. This led to ongoing negotiations about licensing issues.

The entrance to the garden features a picture of a skull and crossbones with the warning: Poison Garden: Do not touch, smell or eat any plant! Children must be accompanied at all times. Visitors are warned that they must enter at their own risk.

While the warnings may be a little over dramatic to increase the sense of danger to make the gardens more alluring, they are still relevant. Many of the plants can cause illness and even death, although the more dangerous ones are kept at a safe distance from visitors in special enclosures.

Ironically, some of the plants in the past have been used in herbal medicine, giving an extra resonance to the old saying about medication that will “either kill or cure”.

Ricin and the murder of Georgi Markov in London

Ricinus communis photo Martina-Nolte_CC3
Ricinus communis

There are sign posts in front of each plant giving its history and details about its poisonous properties. This often throws up a few surprises. For example, many people will have used castor oil and so might be surprised to learn that the castor oil plant (Ricinus Communis) is described as “absolutely deadly in the tiniest amounts”.

Whether the plant can be used safely or not depends on how its various properties are extracted and developed. For example, the extraction of castor oil leaves a residue which contains the deadly poison ricin.

This was used in the murder of Russian Georgi Markov in London in 1978. He was poked in the leg by the tip an umbrella which contained ricin. He died three days later in hospital. The story made headlines around the world amid allegations of international espionage and criminal gangs.

Beauty, hallucinations and a dubious cure for worms

Hellebore sketch

is a popular plant because it flowers in the depth of winter, but it can also be deadly if not used in the right way.

The roots can cause vomiting and so were sometimes used by parents hundreds of years ago to treat children who had been infected by worms. The idea was that by making the children vomit, the worms would be removed from the stomach.

This approach could produce results but often the worms remained in the gut so more doses were used, sometimes resulting in the children being poisoned.

The beautiful deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) plant was sometimes used by women, especially in Venice, to increase their beauty by making their pupils dilate. Unfortunately, it could also caused hallucinations and even death in some cases.

Folklore said that deadly nightshade was the property of the Devil and that anyone picking its berries had better be prepared to meet the Devil face to face. It’s thought the story was used to frighten children away from the berries which, although harmful, can be quite pleasant to eat.

The storyboards about each plant make fascinating reading and add enormously to your visit to the Poison Garden.

Blarney Castle’s Poison Gardens sign
At Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle
Blarney Stone
Blarney Castle Legends

Read about more Irish castles

Visit Ireland More on Irish holidays

Tourist attractions in Ireland

The Blarney Stone
Bru na Boinne
Bunratty Castle
The Burren
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
The Cliffs of Moher
Croagh Patrick
Dingle Peninsula
Garnish Island
The Giant's Causeway
The Guinness Storehouse
Hill of Tara
Lakes of Killarney
The Peace Bridge
Ring of Kerry
Wild Atlantic Way
Personalised Celtic prints. Ireland Calling store

Irish cities


Tourism articles

TripAdvisor's top 10 destinations in Ireland for 2015
Top holiday destinations in Ireland - as voted by the Irish
Top holiday destinations in Ireland - as voted by tourists

Ireland's favourite heritage site
The most romantic city in Ireland
Hidden gems in Ireland

The top ten Irish beaches
Where would Irish people take overseas guests?
Tips for first time visitors to Ireland

What not to do when visiting Ireland
Ireland's top sacred pilgrimage sites
Eight reasons why Irish pubs are Ireland's top attractions

What do you like about Ireland?
Local Irish pubs number one attraction for tourists
Tourists happy with 'value for money' on visits to Ireland

Video - initiative to promote 'Ireland's Ancient East'
Ireland can boast the best 'cliff view' in the world
Most visited tourist attractions in Ireland in 2014?

Industry warned not to 'repeat the mistakes of the past'
Dublin 'favourite worldwide city' for young travellers
Which tourist attractions in Ireland made the Lonely Planet's ultimate guide?

Dublin is one of the world's top three cities say Lonely Planet
Ireland has three of the world's four friendliest cities

Do you qualify to become an Irish citizen?

There are three main ways for a person to qualify for Irish citizenship – through birth, through marriage or civil partnership or through naturalisation. Check if you qualify for Irish citizenship

Did you know?

Singer songwriter Ed Sheeran performed an Irish language version of his smash single Thinking Out Loud on RTÉ 2fm. It was a great gesture from Sheeran to learn his own song in another language – and his performance came after a classic radio prank. Find out more.

Have you heard about…

A stunning former schoolhouse in Co Sligo was sold in 2017 and turned into a beautiful home. Take a look inside.

What about this…

‘The man who couldn’t be killed’ - firefighter Mike Molloy was an Irish emigrant living in New York in the early 20th century. He was the victim of a consistent series of murder attempts by an insurance fraud gang. Find out more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.