Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone
Nestled away in the County Cork countryside, just outside the city, is the majestic Blarney Castle.
One of the most famous castles on the island, Blarney is a romantic partial ruin set in glorious countryside. Built on the site of a 10th century wooden structure, the castle grounds are filled with wooded hollows, strange rock formations and a glistening flowing river.
Croften Clark, a 19th century writer, described it as “indeed a fairy scene… I know of no place where I could sooner imagine these little elves holding their moon-light revelry”.
At the heart of Blarney Castle lies one of its quirkiest attractions. Kissed by world statesmen, literary giants and films stars, the huge Blarney Stone is said to impart the gift of eloquence or “the gift of the gab”.
Blarney was built nearly 600 years ago by the great chieftain Cormac MacCarthy, Lord of Muskerry, known as “The Strong”. While much of the structure is in ruins, there is no lack of things to see here.
Beneath the main structure lies a labyrinth of underground passages, built throughout the Middle Ages. Most of them are inaccessible but you can still visit the chilling dungeon, which was used to hold unfortunate prisoners. From these underground depths, climb the stone steps to the battlements at the very top of the castle and enjoy the views of the surrounding countryside. And if you’re wondering about that tall structure beside the castle, that’s the watch tower, still standing and casting a suspicious eye over the Blarney demesne.
In spite of its ruin, Blarney Castle still captures the imagination. As you descend from the battlements, you can peer down into the roofless structure and picture just how it might have looked in its prime – the banqueting hall bustling with medieval nobles and their servants, the family room, glazed and luxurious by the standards of the time. Let's not forget the sinister murder hole – a pit in the floor used to drop rocks or boiling water on invaders.
The Blarney Stone
Of course, most people who come to Blarney are here for one reason – to kiss the legendary Blarney Stone and hope its magical properties will grant them the gift of eloquence and persuasion, or, in simpler terms… “the gift of the gab”.
There are a whole host of theories, stories and myths surrounding the origins of the stone, from it being a gift from the goddess Clíodhna to it being a reward for saving a drowning witch. It's even been said that the stone is a chunk of Scotland’s Stone of Destiny, brought back to Ireland by the King of Munster, Cormac McCarthy, in the mid-15th century.
Whatever its provenance, this famous rock is a must-do Ireland experience. You’ll find it at the top of the castle, set in the wall below the battlements, and if you’re planning on giving it a peck, you just lean backwards (assisted by a guide) while holding on to a handrails. All that’s left to do is to try out your newly acquired skills. Good luck!
The gardens at Blarney Castle
While you’re waiting your turn to kiss the Blarney Stone, take a look around. From your position on the castle’s battlements you have a perfect view over the estate’s 60 acres of sprawling parklands.
If you’d like a closer look at those vibrant, green lands, there are a range of walks you can take, including a guided tour that covers all the highlights of the estate. Explore the Fern Garden, with its limestone cliff that overlooks more than 80 types of ferns; make a wish on the famous Wishing Steps, while listening to the natural music of the nearby waterfall cascading against the rugged terrain; or stroll around the exotic Himalayan Walk.
Just behind the castle, you’ll find the intriguing Poison Garden, home to a collection of poisonous plants from around the world, including wolfsbane, mandrake and ricin. Each plant is expertly labelled with up-to-date information regarding its level of toxicity and uses.
During the 1400s, the locals would use these plants to create herbal remedies to cure various ailments plaguing the community. Today, it’s a fascinating place that you are invited to enter at your own risk!
Need to know: Blarney Castle
You must book a general admission ticket in advance through the Blarney Castle website. There are a range of prices for adults, children, students and seniors.
Guidebooks and maps are available in English, Spanish, German, Italian, French and Chinese.
Audio guides are available in English only.
You should allow around three hours for your visit to Blarney, to give yourself time to see everything.
If you’re travelling by public transport, you can get to Cork city by train or bus. The 215 bus route runs between Cork and Blarney. The castle is just a short walk from the bus stop.
There is free parking available onsite at Blarney Castle.
The Glucksman Gallery
Visit an award winning building within the historic grounds of University College Cork. The Glucksman Gallery in Cork City is a cultural and educational institution that promotes the research, creation and exploration of the visual arts. It is a hive of cultural activity that includes exhibitions, talks, creative workshops, art courses and gallery shop.