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Thursday 21 June 2018

Meet the family with 150 pedigree Limousins, a few donkeys, sport horses, and the Blarney Stone

 

Charles Colthurst and Caroline Myers with their colt foal by Baltydaniel Romeo
Charles Colthurst and Caroline Myers with their colt foal by Baltydaniel Romeo
Kissing the Blarney Stone. Photo: Mark Condren

Siobhán English

Aside from some 400,000 visitors who pass through the doors to kiss the world-famous stone each year, you never know what you might spot while walking through the grounds of Blarney Castle these days.

Home to the Colthurst family since the 1800s, it is also now the residence of a 150-strong pedigree herd of Limousin cattle, a few donkeys, sport horses, and, most interestingly, a 2017 Dublin Horse Show champion.

For the past 200 years it has been made world-famous for the Blarney Stone, with some 420,000 visitors having passed through its doors last year.

Legends have it that it may have been a stone brought back to Ireland from the Crusades. It is said that those who kiss it will gain the gift of eloquence, or the 'gift of the gab'.

An aerial view of the Blarney Castle estate which has been owned by the Colthursts since 1846
An aerial view of the Blarney Castle estate which has been owned by the Colthursts since 1846

The Colthurst connection to Blarney dates back to the 1800s. In 1846 Louisa Jane Jefferyes married a neighbour, Sir George Colthurst of Ardrum, just west of Blarney, and the estate passed to the Colthurst family.

They did not return to Blarney until 1874, when they built a new Scottish baronial-style mansion a few hundred yards south of the Castle, overlooking Blarney Lake. This is now open to the public during the summer months.

Since taking over the running of the estate back in the 1970s, Charles has expanded the area available to visitors and has developed the gardens and walks which form an important part of the tourism attractions.

"This has been a major part of the development over the years and we were delighted when it received the Wildlife Estate label."

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As well as planting hundreds of exotic and native trees, he has added further visitor attractions such as the Poison Garden and Himalayan Walk which is home to dozens of rare plants.

Meanwhile, Caroline looks after purchasing for the shop which specialises in a wide range of gifts which are unique to the estate.

Blarney Castle, Cork
Blarney Castle, Cork

Horses

Down through the years the Colthursts were not known for their interest in the Irish Draught Horse. Instead, from an early age Sir Charles Colthurst clearly remembers his late mother, Lady Janet's passion instead for Connemara ponies.

One such success story of note was the home-bred Phineas Finn, by Coosheen Finn, who was later sold to the UK and became the first Irish-bred Connemara pony to be Supreme Champion at Olympia in 1985.

In the intervening years Blarney Castle had also hosted a hugely popular three-day event, but it was in the past 15 years that another native Irish breed was introduced to the estate. That first venture led them to Moyglass Colleen, the dam of their recent RDS winning foal, Blarney Quercus.

An aerial view of the Blarney Castle estate which has been owned by the Colthursts since 1846
An aerial view of the Blarney Castle estate which has been owned by the Colthursts since 1846

"Irish Draughts were never in the plan but we found the mare through our good friend Elizabeth Deane," recalls Caroline Myers. A daughter of Coille Mor Hill, she has since proven to be a wonderful servant with a host of useful progeny being topped off this year by her producing the winning colt by Ms Deane's own stallion Baltydaniel Romeo.

A British native, Caroline has spent much of her life surrounded by horses and competed up to intermediate level in eventing with much success.

On moving to Ireland, her love for equines continued through Moyglass Colleen and some of her progeny who are now competing.

One such youngster is Blarney Acacia, a four-year-old by Loughehoe Guy eventing with Felicity Ward.

Blarney Tilia, by Painters Row, is eventing in the UK with Laurence Hunt, while Blarney Jacaranda, by Carrickrock Close Shave, is also based across the water with Molly Telfer.

"All our horses are named after trees - with Quercus after the 'Mighty Oak'," Caroline said, noting that many of the same trees grace the 350-acre estate which only recently won the prestigious WE (Wildlife Estate) label.

It is the only such estate in Ireland to receive this prestigious award.

Eventing

Of course many equestrians will remember the huge success of the Blarney three-day-event which was at the top of the eventing calendar throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

During its tenure it had been run by Charles' sister Georgina who had fought back from a serious riding injury in 1977 to see it gain two-star status and host such winners as William Fox-Pitt and Tamarillo in 2000 and Fraser Duffy with Oakengrove Rainbow in 2001.

In recent years Charles Colthurst had considered bringing the event back to life, but due to increasing numbers of visitors each year, it was found to be unfeasible.

"We had looked at getting it back, but to be honest much of the estate that the event was developed on is now used by the public and it would prove very difficult to manage.

"Also when you start again you have to start from the bottom and it would take time to get it back to the status it once had," he added.


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