St Patrick’s Day Spotlight: Blarney Castle17 MAR
Top o’ the mornin’ to you, have yourself a pint o’ the black stuff and may the luck o’ the Irish be with you! Yes, St Patrick’s day is here. That time of year when we mainlanders insist on attempting our ‘best’ Irish accents ad nauseum (how many times will you hear someone needlessly shoehorn the number ‘thirty three’ into conversation today, I wonder).
But St Patrick’s Day is more than just an excuse to do your Father Jack impression and down as much Guinness as your stomach can hold…
Held on the deathday of Ireland’s patron saint, St Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century. Traditionally, the day celebrates St Patrick’s introduction of Christianity to the Irish pagans in the 15th century. St Patrick’s day - although still an important day in the Christian calendar - has grown to become a secular celebration of everything Irish. It’s a day when the Irish diaspora across the globe unite in pride of their homeland, celebrating with festivals, parades, feasting and, yes, perhaps a tipple or two.
Blarney Castle: An Irish Legend
Ireland’s national day seemed like the perfect excuse to show one of our favourite clients a bit of blog love. Our web team have worked with Blarney Castle for 8 years, helping to design, develop and maintain a world class web presence. We work closely with the Blarney team on their website, email newsletter and social media platforms.
Located in the southern county of Cork, Blarney Castle is a living piece of Irish legend and consistently remains one of Ireland’s top visitor attractions. Since the 13th Century, Blarney was a stronghold of the celtic chieftains. It remained so (excluding a brief - 15 year - intermission thanks to Oliver Cromwell) until 1690 when the Williamites stripped the Irish chiefs of their powers. The castle was sold to Sir James Jeffreys and has remained in the family ever since.
Millions flock to Blarney Castle every year to see the castle ruin and explore the 60 acres of stunning parkland (including world-class gardens featuring some rather unusual specimens). The most famous attraction, however, is the mythical Blarney Stone.
The stone really is the stuff of legend. In fact, numerous legends surround the ‘Stone of Eloquence’, which when kissed, bestows the kisser with gift of the gab. Thankfully, kissing the stone is relatively easy (and safe) nowadays. Once upon a time you had to be held by the ankles and lowered, with a rather deadly drop below!
As one might imagine, St Patrick’s Day is taken pretty seriously around Blarney. The village, of course, has its own parade and the Castle sees a huge influx of visitors in the week leading up to the 15th. Oh, and the castle is turned green for the week, don’t know if we mentioned that?
In an exercise in perfect timing, we have launched Blarney Castle’s brand new website just in time for St Patrick’s Day. Another excuse for Blarney to celebrate this March!
Blarney Castle’s New Look
This has been in the pipeline for quite a while now - and we’re really happy with this crisp, modern redesign of the site.
Blarney Castle enjoys stunning natural scenery, yet the fame of the Stone and the castle often eclipse the Blarney’s other offerings. So, in this redesign we put the gardens centre stage. Making use of Blarney Castle wealth of gorgeous photography, the new website features a beautiful fading banner showcasing stunning views from around Blarney. Visitors can explore some of highlights of the extensive grounds on the Gardens , Map and Virtual Tour pages - making it clear that Blarney Castle has a lot to offer beyond the Stone.
Another priority was that the new site be even easier to navigate. We positioned the site’s most visited areas (tickets, opening times and shop) at the top of the homepage and added a gorgeous ‘Plan Your Visit’ drop down that takes you straight to the page you want, wherever you are on the site. The new site is fully responsive too, so it looks lovely (and works seamlessly) across different devices.
Since launch we have already seen an increase in site traffic of around 60% with over 12,000 unique visitors in the last 7 days, as well as a reduction in the bounce rate from mobile visitors - two of our stated project goals. We've also seen an increase in the eCommerce sales from mobile devices - a very promising sign!
Go ahead, have a look around the new site. We’re pleased with its clean, modern new look and great functionality. Ireland’s national day seems the perfect time to celebrate Blarney Castle and the launch of their new site. It remains one of Ireland’s most famous attractions and has played a significant role in Irish history and folklore.
However you’re celebrating St Patrick’s Day - whether you’re basking in the green light of Blarney Castle, marching proudly in a street parade or just enjoying a fine malt at home - let’s raise our glasses in an old Irish toast. “ May the roof above us never fall in, and may we friends beneath us never fall out”.
I will leave you with a few St Paddy’s ‘facts’ I’ve dug up from around the net. Happy St Patrick’s Day!
True (and possibly less true) St Patrick’s Day ‘Facts’
St Patrick’s Day celebrations are held all over the ROI and the UK, and are also prevalent in the US, Canada and Australia, where many claim Irish ancestry. What may surprise you, is the popularity of St Paddy’s celebrations in other parts of the world. Parties and parades take place annually in countries including Japan, Malaysia, the Caribbean island of Montserrat, Russia and South Korea.
St Patrick... wasn't Irish! (dramatic pause). Yup, Patrick was born in mainland Britain around 385AD. He came to Ireland against his will, taken captive in his teens by Irish raiders. After escaping, stowed away on a ship, he voluntarily returned to Ireland a decade so later as a missionary.
Legend has it that St Patrick, in his attempts to convert the Irish, used the three-leafed shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity - hence its association with the feast day.
Sorry to be a spoilsport, but it it turns out that no, St Patrick never drove the snakes out of Ireland. Historians are pretty sure Ireland never had any snakes to begin with. The snakes were probably of the metaphorical sort (symbolising evil and heathenism etc) rather than the real, bitey sort.
The New York St Patrick’s Day parade has run since 1762 and is one of the biggest in the world - with over 250,000 marchers traipsing the 1.5 mile route up Fifth Avenue every year.
By contrast, from 1999 to 2007, the Dripsey in Ireland were proud to claim Shortest Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in the world - just over 26 yards between two pubs. Hot Springs, Arkansas has now stolen the title with a parade of just 98 feet.
Despite its boozy reputation, St Patrick’s Day was a officially a ‘dry’ holiday in Ireland until 1970.