Getting the gift of gab at Blarney Castle
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Blarney Castle is by far one of the most well-known tourist attractions in all of Ireland. I was a little skeptical at first because the whole idea of kissing the Blarney stone because it was the ‘thing to do’ didn’t really appeal to me. My sister was dead set on going though, so I knew I had to play the good sport and tag along as we climbed the much too narrow stairs to the top of the castle to kiss the stone and get the gift of gab, as the legend goes. Even if you’re not keen on kissing the Blarney Stone, it’s worth visiting for a stroll around the gardens! Here’s the low-down of everything you need to know to visit Blarney Castle on your own.
Overlooking the lake behind the castle
How to get there: Blarney Castle is about 30 minutes outside of Cork on the local bus. Look for line 215 headed towards Mahon Point. You can get off the bus at either Woollen Mills or Blarney Village, and there will be plenty of signs to guide you toward the castle. The bus ride there is an experience on its own, seeing some of the Irish countryside and getting too close to some of the trees. Yes, the branches look too close, and yes, you will hit some of them, resulting in a rather startling noise! Quite the experience. Use your Leap Card, which can be bought at any train or bus station, or pay the driver in cash. It should be around €7 return.
Cost: Once you’ve followed the signs through the cute and small village of Blarney, head to the ticket office to buy your Blarney Castle tickets. Tickets at the door are €18, with discounts for students, seniors, and children. You can also book tickets online and get a €2 discount.
Exploring the gardens
How long to spend at Blarney Castle: This is obviously up to the individual – if you want to just kiss the Blarney Stone and leave, plan for about an hour, although it could be longer if you’re coming in peak season. The castle also does have extensive grounds and gardens, and they are well worth a look around! We saw most of the gardens, and brought a picnic lunch to enjoy there, and ended up spending about four hours at the castle in total. It’s a great place to spend your morning or afternoon.
What to see and do: If you’ve come to the Blarney Castle, the odds are pretty good that you’re going to want to kiss the Blarney Stone. After taking some pictures in front of the castle from a distance, follow the signs to the Blarney Stone. Be warned that getting there does involve some very narrow stone steps that can get slippery in the wet Irish weather. Once you make the commitment to head up to the stone, there’s no turning back, so keep that in mind if you have a hard time on stairs or get claustrophobic. You’ll make your way to the top of the castle, stopping along the way to check out various other rooms that were once inhabited. It was crazy to me to think about a family once living in the tiny stone rooms! Once you’ve made it to the top of the castle, you’ll join the line of other tourists waiting to kiss the Blarney Stone. If you’re lucky (like we were) they’ll sanitize the stone right before you kiss it. I cannot confirm how often they clean it, but do know that it definitely does get cleaned! Then some nice Irish man will hold your waist as you panic about hanging upside down over the side of the castle. Your travel companions (or any other nice tourist) can take as many photos as they like, although they do take professional photos you can buy. The actual kissing experience was very different from what I thought – there’s a safety grate, so there is absolutely no way you’ll fall, but you do have to slide much further back than I imagined to reach the stone. Definitely, a once in a lifetime experience, although I can’t say that I would have felt incomplete if I hadn’t kissed it.
Much more enjoyable to me were the gardens surrounding the castle. The poison garden, located right by the castle, was one of the highlights, complete with real-life wolfsbane and mandrake plants, as well as many others. The grounds also contain some rock gardens tucked away in the woods, where the druids and even a witch are said to live. You can even set foot inside the witch’s kitchen! You can also walk down the wishing steps – legend has it that if you can make it backward both down and back up the stairs with your eyes closed, the witch will grant your wish. I was the only one brave enough to try it, so we’ll see if my wish comes true! Towards the back of the property is a path that goes to the lake and back – on the day we were there, we encountered very few other tourists on the walk, so it’s a great place for some peace and quiet. We not only got some beautiful pictures but also got to see some of the cattle and horses that live on the grounds, which my inner country girl loved. You can spend as much or little time as you want in the gardens, they are beautiful, quiet, and a great place to get some fresh air and good pictures!
Where to eat: There is a cafe, called the Stableyard Cafe, on the premises, which is a good place for a quick snack or some tea and scones. Prices were pretty fair for a touristy place, and the pastries were good! A good place to sit down and relax for a bit – just beware of the birds, who are not afraid to take your food right off your plate!
Once you’re done looking around Blarney Castle and have poked through the gift shop, where the exit is conveniently located, head back into the village of Blarney. There you can grab a bite to eat or check out some of the shops. I would highly recommend the Woollen Mills, which are right up the hill from the castle. It seems to go on and on and is a great place to get your woolen goods and souvenirs at a good price. They have almost anything you could ever need – or don’t need and just want! Then hop on the 215 bus back into Cork for more sightseeing or a yummy dinner!