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Blarney Castle Tour is More Than Kissing an Old Stone

Updated on April 24, 2017
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Scott Bateman is a professional journalist and travel blogger who wrote this article based on his first trip to Ireland.

Blarney Castle is famous for the legendary stone that people kiss to gain the gift of gab.
Blarney Castle is famous for the legendary stone that people kiss to gain the gift of gab. | Source

Kissing the Blarney stone, a tradition for more than two centuries, is among the most famous legends in Ireland.

According to that legend, anyone who kisses the stone atop Blarney Castle gains the gift of eloquence. People still line up to kiss the stone today -- sometimes waiting on steep castle steps for as much as three hours.

But kissing the Blarney Stone -- or pretending to kiss it for some people -- is only one reason to visit this major historical attraction in County Cork.

The castle itself provides an education of Irish history, and the gardens surrounding the castle are a surprising bonus.

Blarney Castle Video

Castle Tour Tips

Blarney Castle has existed in some form since the 10th century. The first building was made out of wood and replaced by a stone structure in 1210, according to the official castle Web site.

In 1446, Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster, replaced it with the structure that stands today. It is now owned by Sir Charles St John Colthurst, the 10th Baronet of Colthurst, who lives in the nearby Blarney House.

Visitors who pass through the welcome gates of the estate will walk along a path, cross a bridge and see the castle suddenly towering over the surrounding trees and land a few hundred yards ahead.

The North Wall provides that first view. It sits on an eight-meter rock cliff that provided the quarry for building Blarney. Look for the casemented oriel window that projects outward from the Earl’s Bedchamber. The three square holes provided the outlets for lavatory wastes.

The owner of Blarney Castle and gardens lives on the estate at Blarney House, which is open for tours part of the year.
The owner of Blarney Castle and gardens lives on the estate at Blarney House, which is open for tours part of the year. | Source

The entrance path goes to the left and curves up. Just at the top, right before the gates, look up to see the battlements where the Blarney Stone resides.

It is possible to see someone dropping their head and shoulders backwards through the opening in the battlement to reach and kiss the stone.

The inside of the castle is a series of small rooms and passageways that are largely empty. Rooms of note have plaques with information about their purpose.

At the lowest level under the tower house lies the dungeon, which reputedly had served as the castle’s prison. A nearby chamber may have housed the well that provided water during sieges.

One of the most dominant rooms in the castle is the three-story family room, which no longer has a roof. It does offer a view of the battlements and Blarney Stone above.

The climb to the top of the castle is somewhat tasking because of the number of steep and narrow steps. But getting to the top gives access to the Blarney Stone and a commanding display of the green countryside from the battlements.

Kissing the Blarney Stone -- or pretending to kiss it for some people -- is only one reason to visit this major historical attraction in County Cork.

Visitors stand in line to kiss the stone. The seated gentleman is an employee who prevents kissers from falling through the hole.
Visitors stand in line to kiss the stone. The seated gentleman is an employee who prevents kissers from falling through the hole. | Source
Some people actually kiss the stone; others (like this photographer) pretend to kiss it. Kissers grab bars to prevent a fall through the hole to the ground below. A castle employee holds on to the kisser.
Some people actually kiss the stone; others (like this photographer) pretend to kiss it. Kissers grab bars to prevent a fall through the hole to the ground below. A castle employee holds on to the kisser. | Source

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Anyone who wants to kiss the Blarney Stone (or pretend to do it) must lie on their back, arch their head and shoulders down through an opening in the battlement and kiss the stone on the outside wall.

The wall has two handrails for gripping. As another safety precaution, a castle employee holds the visitors and guides them in the proper way to arch back.

A pile of coins next to him indicates that tips are accepted and may enhance his grip.

Cruise ships dock at nearby Cork and have excursion buses to Blarney Castle. On days when a cruise ship does arrive at Cork, the line to reach the Blarney Stone may require a wait of up to three hours, according to a castle employee.

Arriving at the castle when it opens is the best way to avoid the possibility of long lines. It also leads to the best photos.

The castle gardens burst with color during the late spring.
The castle gardens burst with color during the late spring. | Source
The gardens contain many trails over 60 acres.
The gardens contain many trails over 60 acres. | Source
Source

Castle Gardens

The castle gardens were surprising in their size and beauty, but with one exception.

The Poison Garden next to the castle has poisonous plants from around the world, some of which stay in cages to protect visitors.

Continue east of the Poison Garden to reach the Fern Garden, which has more than 80 varieties. The 204-inch-high Dicksonia antarctica is the tallest species of fern in Ireland.

Trees of the arboretum stand everywhere and represent various rare species. Some of the threes are more than 600 years old.

Blarney House, visible from the battlements, is the home of Sir Colthurst. It is open to the public during the summer.

A double herbaceous border runs 90 meters long beneath an 80-meter rose pergola.

To the west of the castle, look for the waterfall, water garden, Rock Close, Witches Stone, Witches Kitchen and Druids Cave.

For anyone with extra energy, the gardens also have a 20-minute riverside walk, a 45-minute lake walk and a 90-minute forest trail walk.

Hours, Directions and Prices

Blarney Castle is one of Ireland’s most famous attractions and a popular stop for both cruise visitors to Cork and especially to the many visitors to Ireland who spend a week or more touring the country.

Anyone starting their Ireland tour in Dublin will need three to four hours to reach Cork and will find a stop along the way at the Rock of Cashel a way to break up the journey. Otherwise, take the N8 highway and follow the signs south for Cork and then the village of Blarney.

From Monday through Saturday, the castle and gardens are open for tours from 9 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. during May, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from June through August, 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in September, and 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from October through April.

One Sundays, they are open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the summer and 9 a.m. to sundown in the winter.

Blarney House is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Saturday, June 1 to Aug. 31.

Tickets are $12.50 Euros for adults, $11 Euros for students and senior citizens, $5 Euros for children ages 8 to 14 and $32 Euros for families of two adults and two children. Note that ticket prices are subject to change.

An 80-meter rose pergola runs atop a 90-meter double herbaceous border.
An 80-meter rose pergola runs atop a 90-meter double herbaceous border. | Source

Nearby Attractions

Blarney Village offers a small number of pubs and restaurants. Blarney Woollen Mills is a large retailer of Irish goods dating back to 1823.

Cork City is about six miles southeast of Blarney via N20. Attractions include Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral; the Cork City Gaol, a former prison and now a museum; Blackrock Castle, a 16th century castle that is now an observatory and visitors center; and English Market, the largest food market of its kind in Ireland and a fixture since 1788.

The village of Kinsale about 20 miles south on the coast is a fishing village and popular vacation destination. The nearby Charles Fort, next to the village of Summer Cove, is a star-shaped fort with five bastions. It was built in the late 17th century.

Blarney Castle Map

A markerBlarney Castle, Ireland -
Blarney Castle, Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland
get directions

© 2015 Scott Bateman

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    • promisem profile image
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      Scott Bateman 24 months ago

      I would have thought the same thing before I got there. The castle itself is just OK. The stone is really the big draw. The gardens appealed to me because I like to take photos.

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      mikeydcarroll67 24 months ago

      That is pretty amazing! I would probably wind up more in the castle than the gardens...

    • promisem profile image
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      Scott Bateman 24 months ago

      Yep, it's quite a tour. We ended up spending more time walking through the gardens than we did through the castle itself.

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      mikeydcarroll67 24 months ago

      Wow! I didn't know there was so much to do!

    • promisem profile image
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      Scott Bateman 24 months ago

      Daphne, thanks for the additional information. The garden has some precautions including cages to keep people from touching the wrong plants by accident. It also has prominent signs warning about touching anything.

      I know some people are disappointed the marijuana was confiscated. I'm surprised visitors didn't help themselves to it before the police arrived. :)

    • DaphneDL profile image

      Daphne D. Lewis 24 months ago from Saint Albans, West Virginia

      Scott, some plant research might be wise before walking in the garden. After reading your Hub, I did a search and found some photos from the Poison Garden. It was interesting that plants containing digitalis, belladonna, etc., were in the garden, but the marijuana plant had been confiscated by the police in 2010. Years ago, I was given a prescribed medication containing belladonna which dilated my pupils to the point where I could not tolerate the light from even the TV in a dark room. Now I know not to eat any leaves from a rhubarb plant. Thanks again for the Hub!

    • promisem profile image
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      Scott Bateman 24 months ago

      Hi, Anne. Thanks for the note! I certainly hope you do get to go. It's an enjoyable tour on many different levels including the sense of heritage for many of us with Irish blood.

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 24 months ago from Australia

      Hi promisem,

      Congratulations on HOTD!

      Visiting Ireland is on the bucket list (like many Australians I have Irish ancestry), and your hub adds one more thing to the list! Even if I don't get to kiss the stone, the grounds of the castle look spectacular.

      Voted up

    • promisem profile image
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      Scott Bateman 24 months ago

      Thanks very much, Dzy. It's nice to get my first HOTD. I'm sorry you won't be able to go there, but I do find that my imagination and what I read takes me to many places I will never see in life. A great imagination is the next best thing to being there.

    • promisem profile image
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      Scott Bateman 24 months ago

      Thanks for your comments, Daphne. I couldn't help but notice that few people walked through the Poison Garden even though it's right by the castle and easy to see. It did make me slightly edgy by walking through it. Maybe others felt the same.

    • promisem profile image
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      Scott Bateman 24 months ago

      Amanda, I also didn't know about the poison garden concept. It's not something I plan to create in my own backyard anytime soon. :)

      No worries about waiting in line if you get there early. We arrived right after it opened and had to wait only a few minutes. It got much more crowded later, and apparently it gets packed when excursion groups come over from the Cork cruise port.

      It turns out a real kiss is OK. My wife and son didn't contract anything after giving the stone a smooch.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 24 months ago from Oakley, CA

      Congratulations on HOTD!

      This was a very enjoyable and informative piece. Sadly, my travel these days is restricted to the armchair variety, but I do like reading about and seeing photos of places around the world.

      Your photos are lovely, and give a great sense of what it would be like to actually be there.

      But for me, I'll have to just blow a kiss to the Blarney Stone! ;-)

      Voted up +++

    • DaphneDL profile image

      Daphne D. Lewis 24 months ago from Saint Albans, West Virginia

      A great article on this amazing castle. I've always wanted to go to Ireland and see places such as this. I, too found the Poison Garden and intereting fact and saw from the other comments that I was not the only one. Thanks for sharing your amazing photos!

    • Amanda108 profile image

      Amanda 2 years ago from Michigan, United States

      Thanks for this treat of beautiful photos and interesting Ireland info. Oddly enough the tidbit that snagged my attention the hardest was the mention of the Poison Garden next to the castle! I had no idea such a concept existed.

      I hope very much to travel to Ireland with my mother and sister someday. I don't know that we'd be up for climbing steep stairs and waiting for hours to kiss a stone, but you've made it clear there is lots else to be seen. Though if I DID decide to pursue the stone I would definitely be giving it a real kiss after going to so much trouble to get near it! :-)

    • promisem profile image
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      Scott Bateman 2 years ago

      My father's Irish heritage gave him enough gift for gab to fill three people, but he never kissed the stone. Sadly, it skipped a generation, and kissing the stone helped my wife and son more than me. Maybe it's the German in me on my mother's side...

      Regarding your other comment, I do have to say the castle itself is less interesting than some others we visited such as Cashel and Bunratty, but the overall experience was a great one. Thank you for your comments.

    • eugbug profile image

      Eugene Brennan 2 years ago from Ireland

      As one of the natives, I better congratulate you Scott on this HOTD! Were you endowed with "the gift of the gab" after kissing the stone? I enjoyed your "7 Days in Ireland" hub also (and ashamed to say I've only seen some of the attractions from the outside)

      Voted up and shared!

    • promisem profile image
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      Scott Bateman 2 years ago

      Many thanks, Kristen. We had a great time there and I have to say that the castle, stone and gardens altogether created a fun and interesting day.

    • promisem profile image
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      Scott Bateman 2 years ago

      Yes, I'm afraid you do. It looks weird and a bit scary, but it was actually quite simple and not uncomfortable at all. If nothing else, it makes for a good story to tell when you get back home.

      And yes, I do recommend a week-long drive through Ireland. I literally came home with nearly 1,000 photos.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Scott, this is a great travelogue in Ireland to see the famous Blarney Stone. It was so interesting to know the history of it. Voted up and congrats on HOTD!

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 2 years ago from Chicago

      Great article. Do you have to kiss the stone upside down? I'm not sure at my age I could do it! LOL. Ireland looks like a really beautiful country. Yet another item to add to my bucket list.

    • promisem profile image
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      Scott Bateman 2 years ago

      Thanks for your comments, Seafarer. We were so impressed with Ireland that we want to go back. And if you kissed the stone in December, it must have been quite a cold kiss!

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen Szklany Gault 2 years ago from New England

      Great article about Blarney Castle! Lived in Galway from September 1985 through June 1986, my senior year of college. I attended the Jazz festival that October and later visited Blarney castle when my mother visited me for the Christmas to New Year's holiday late in December. I still remember enjoying my walk around the gardens afterward (and I really did kiss it)...and there were definitely no lines at that time of year. Great memories! Don't remember the collection of poisonous plants (will have to make sure I see them when I visit next time)....and the ferns were not in season...so I'll have to make sure my family and I visit in the summer. ~:0)

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