A Travel Guide:
More than just a castle ruin, you'll get to experience extensive gardens (including a poison garden), a beautiful mansion, and you'll be able to hike up some steep steps to find a stone revered for it's magical ability to upgrade your gift of gab.
One of the more pricey castles to enter at 18€ for adults, 8€ for children (you can save a couple € by buying tickets online), the grounds are well-maintained and you can definitely see where your money is going.
Getting to Blarney Castle
Located just outside the city of Cork, Blarney Castle is not difficult to reach. And once you arrive, you will find ample parking next to the Blarney Castle Gift Shop. But be aware that you'll shell out 2€ payable by machine upon exiting. So make sure you carry your ticket with you. If you hand then the 18€ for your admissions, you can use the 2€ change on your way out.
Once out of your car, look for the gift shop and you'll find the entrance where you can pay your fee to the right.
The Blarney Castle and Blarney Stone Experience
Let's go kiss the Blarney Stone! First, head down the pathway from the gift shop towards the castle and next to the River Martin. In the spring, the trees are filled with blooms and the grass is that amazing Ireland green. Cross the bridge.
Now, don't make the same mistake I made. I followed some other tourists into a cave on that side of the castle. Oh, you can do it if you like, but at 6'6" (200 cm) I not only couldn't stand up, but I was too big to crawl without getting on my hands and knees.
And others who took the route said it deadends into spiders. Nice! I'm not kissing them!
As you make your way around the left side of the castle, you gradually get higher and higher until you meet the entrance on the other side. I like how they give you an idea of how long it will take to kiss the stone. Get your lip balm ready.
Watch out! There is a murder hole above you. Oh, don't worry, nobody should have any hot tar or arrows these days, but it was quite the deterrant for intruders in the past.
Now you will begin a pretty steep and circular climb with a couple of stops along the way. As for the steps, someone mentioned that kids used to run up and down these stairs. I guess their little feet might be able to handle it, but my adult feet didn't have much room on any step. The steps are also of different heights, which I didn't understand until I visited Ross Castle the day after this visit. If you're going to kiss this stone, you're going to have to do some work!
Once you reach the top, you may be very confused. I was chatting with a woman and we both were perplexed as to where the Blarney Stone was. Then I noticed two men and a pan full of Euros. Oh wait - this is it!
If you haven't heard already, you have to hang over the edge of the top of the castle - on your back - to kiss the stone (it's the part of the stone that is discolored, by his leg). It is encased in a machicolation (an overhang in the castle wall that allows hot liquids to be dumped on intruders). These helpers will talk you through it. I don't think you could actually fall all the way down because the bar underneath your head would stop you and give you a nice lump on the head probably. Again, my size was against me. That stone was a long way away from me. I had to hold the bar and lift my legs off the ground. If you're not a fan of heights, my guess is, you give up before you start. Also, it pays to have a friend with you to shoot a picture. They charge 10€ and you collect your photo at the end of your trip through the castle.
After making my way down through what is basically a mostly preserved ruin of a castle, I turned to the right and went into the Poison Garden. This place was fascinating. There were all sorts of plants that had deadly purposes. The oddest one was Cannibus, which it admitted really wasn't that harmful. Harry Potter fans will find a special gem of a plant here, that I promise doesn't scream. Can you guess what it is? I didn't even know it was a real thing!
The gardens are lovely and you can walk to the Blarney House which is a sizeable mansion. I'm not sure if you can tour it. It was closed when I went.
Now either visit the little craft and food area or head out through the gift shop. I'm not usually impressed by gift shops, but I did buy a hat there. They had some cool stuff. And as you leave, remember to pay for your parking.
The History of Blarney Castle
The castle dates back to the 12th century as a wooden structure and then a stone structure. In 1446 the present structure came to be built after the original was destroyed. Exactly 200 years later, it was besieged during the Irish Confederate Wars (also known as the Eleven Years' War).
As one of the bloodiest wars in Irish history, it fully immersed Ireland in war. Battle lines were complicated as the war was fought to determine whether England or Ireland would rule the island and whether Protestants or Catholics would own the majority of lands. It took Oliver Cromwell's forces to finally put an end to it.
The castle survived and changed hands several times. In 1874, the Jefferyes family, who had moved out of the castle into a home on the property, lost that home to a fire. They replaced it by building the now standing Blarney House which can be seen on the grounds. It features some castle-like elements in it's design and is worth a look.
The Blarney Stone's Coveted Power
As a podcaster, I was pretty excited to get an opportunity to kiss the Blarney Stone (blarney translates to clever). Also known as The Stone of Eloquence, it is said that by kissing the Blarney Stone, you will suddenly be empowered by the gift of eloquent speech and will be endowed with the art of flattery. Hear that parents, no more Harvard, Oxford, or Yale - just kiss the stone!
Did it work? Guess you'll have to listen to the show.
There are all sorts of legends about the origin of the stone. One even includes Robert the Bruce of Scotland. But probably the closest to being believable is the one where the owner of the castle Cormac Laidir MacCarthy was traveling to England to meet with Queen Elizabeth I over her decree that he give up his land rights. An old woman pointed out a stone in the castle that would give him the power of persuasion he needed. Whatever the real story, millions of people have kissed that stone.
Planning a Visit
While Blarney costs a bit more, there is plenty here to keep you busy. Plan at least 2 hours to get the most out of the experience. There are places to eat inside, but you'll find a little more variety in the adjacent town. Or better yet, I was told the town of Kinsale was a foodie Mecca. It's about a 45 minute drive, south of Cork, depending on traffic.