When we started planning our one-week road trip through Ireland, there were several places we knew we wanted to visit. One of those places was Blarney Castle so we could kiss the illustrious Blarney Stone and receive the Gift of the Gab.
Some seasoned, adventurous travelers—such as those who enjoy traveling through countries ending in “stan” while carrying nothing but an empty canteen and pocketknife—may shake their head at us for being suckered into visiting such a gimmicky, not to mention unsanitary, “tourist trap.”
But though the castle may be one of Ireland’s most popular tourist spots, it is definitely worth visiting. The afternoon we spent exploring the Blarney Castle and its extensive grounds was one of our favorite experiences in Ireland.
Here is everything you need to know before visiting Blarney Castle:
Blarney Castle is located only a 20-minute drive from Cork City in southern Ireland. Many tour operators in Cork offer day trips. But since we had a rental car, we made a detour to the castle on our way from Kenmare to Kilkenny.
Though we absolutely recommend visiting the castle, the admission price here was the most expensive of our trip. Adult admission is €15 at the door (or €14 online.) Admission for children ages 8-14 is €6.
The castle—which is really more of a medieval fortress—dates back to 1446 and was built by Cormac Laidir MacCarth.
Its most famous draw is the stone located at the top. But be sure not to rush through the castle, because the rooms you pass along the way are worth exploring.
The stairway up to the stone is not ideal for those with claustrophobia or a fear of steep, dark, narrow stairways. But there is a sturdy handrail and it was definitely not the most treacherous tower we climbed on our trip (that award undisputedly goes to St. Canice’s tower in Kilkenny. I think I need a trauma counselor after that.).
Once you’re at the top, it’s time to kiss the stone! Legend claims that those who do are granted the gift of eloquence. I was hesitant up until this point, since the idea of kissing a rock covered in thousands of other people’s saliva isn’t exactly my go-to holiday activity. But I figured this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
In order to access the stone, you will have to lay on the ground, grip the hand rails, and tilt your head all the way back. A gentleman will be on hand to hold onto your torso so you don’t plummet to your death.
The woman in front of us in line panicked and flat-out refused to try. But it really wasn’t as terrifying as it seems, and it’s over quickly.
While you are contorted into this unflattering pose, someone else will be on hand to take your picture, which you can purchase for an exorbitant fee once you return to the bottom. We took pictures of each other on our own camera to save the money, and the operators didn’t seem to have a problem with that.
After returning to solid ground, we took time to explore the nearby garden. But unlike most gardens, the Poison Garden contains only toxic plants capable of causing irritability, death, and everything in between.
This is the first castle garden we’ve visited that grows marijuana!
Aside from the Poison Garden, the Blarney Castle grounds house numerous more traditional gardens containing plants that won’t seriously harm or kill you, so be sure to take time to explore them. Enjoy the lovely waterfalls as well.
The Blarney House is an impressive mansion 200 meters from the castle. It was originally built in 1874, but has since been beautifully restored.
Visitors are allowed to tour the house during the summer months, but it was closed when we visited in February.
Whether Sam and I are more eloquent after kissing the stone remains to be seen, but we enjoyed visiting Blarney Castle regardless!
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