Hi there traveler!
Are you visiting Ireland and wondering where to begin? I get it. There’s so much to see, it’s hard to know where to start.
I’m sure if you make your plans known, you’ll be given advice on Dublin and Trinity College (check out that library!). Maybe someone tells you to rent a car and take a road trip (which actually sounds really fun), or make sure to visit Galway (also a cool place).
But, if you happen to find yourself planning something in County Cork, Ireland, then you must be thinking of visiting Blarney Castle. It’s one of Ireland’s most popular destinations after all.
And then the question becomes: with all there is to do in Ireland, is Blarney Castle worth visiting?
Personally, I say yes. I went and I loved it. This is a really beautiful place to visit and take a tour through. There’s amazing history, gorgeous views, and a fun tradition to take part in if you make it to the top of the castle.
If you’re interested in a visit, read on for some handy facts before you go.
The history of Blarney Castle dates back to the 1200s. The original structure was built from wood and then another from stone, but both were damaged over the years. The structure today is said to have been built in the 1440s by a man named McCarthy.
The castle was then sold by a McCarthy descendant to a man named Jefferyes in the late 1600s. A female descendant married into the Colthurst family and the castle exchanged family hands.
To this day, only three families have ever owned this historic site (which is pretty impressive if you think about how far back it dates).
Another structure, Blarney House, was built in the 1870s (a more modern castle style) and that is where the family continues to live currently.
First of all, don’t you just love a good legend? I can’t be the only one. There seems to be a few ideas about where the Blarney Stone originally came from: Some say it was brought to Ireland from prophets, as an oracle to choose Irish kings. Others say that it was taken from Ireland and brought to Scotland, and then returned back as a gift of gratitude.
When you go to visit, you’ll also be entertained with a story about how McCarthy saved a witch from drowning who then revealed the power of the stone to the McCarthys.
Once kissed, the stone will bestow the gift of eloquence or flattery upon the kisser. I can’t say for sure that it works, but I like to think that it does 😉
In order to kiss the famous Blarney Stone, you have to head up to the top of the Blarney Castle tower. It’s 127 steps up a very narrow, winding staircase. This can get a little jam packed with people during the high season.
And when I say narrow, I mean narrow. Many people have said they needed to slightly turn their shoulders as they made their way up the staircase.
Fun fact, our guide told us the staircase was purposefully made that way to make it difficult for intruders to fight their way to the top.
Once you get to the top of the staircase, you will be greeted by a helper that will assist you in getting to the ground (laying on your back) and sliding your body slightly out over the precipice. As you’re lying on your back, you’ll be looking up at the stone (which is positioned between the battlements). Give it a little kiss and you’ll be blessed with the gift of eloquence!
It’s a fun and exhilarating experience (especially if you’re a bit afraid of heights). Definitely worth a visit.
The castle itself sits on about 60 acres of beautiful grounds.
Besides the castle, you’ll be able to tour the grounds. There are four different routes to take: a woodland walk, a riverside walk, a lake walk, and a forest walk (I honestly don’t know the difference between a woodland and a forest, but they both exist here for your choosing!)
The grounds are very beautiful. Lots of paths to walk through. Beautiful old trees, and gardens to appreciate. It’s very tranquil.
There are a few different gardens to check out. The poison garden you can read about below. There is also a fern garden, a bog garden, a Himalayan style garden, and a jungle with various tropical plants.
What’s great is that you can make of it what you want. Because of the various attractions, you could spend almost an entire day here, or keep it to just a morning or afternoon visit.
Yes. There is actually a poisonous garden. With poisonous plants.
The poisonous plants come from all over the world, and are encased in cages with warning signs to not touch them.
Of the 70 toxic species you’ll find Wolfsbane, Ricin, Cannabis, and Mandrake here. (I seriously thought Mandrake was just from Harry Potter…had NO idea it was real!)
So explore this one at your own risk, watch your kids, and don’t touch anything.
It’s been said that an Earl was tasked with taking over Blarney Castle by Queen Elizabeth.
He supposedly tried many times over to negotiate with McCarthy, but was repeatedly distracted or delayed in some way.
Queen Elizabeth got so sick of hearing of his excuses, she irritatedly called all his reports ‘blarney’ and it stuck. So now you’ll still hear people calling nonsense ‘blarney’ from time to time.
You’ll see the room that houses the murder hole on your way up to the top of the castle.
What is a murder hole? Well, it’s literally a hole in the floor giving access to an entrance way on the main level. If the castle was under siege and the intruders made it into the building, the defenders would be waiting with hot oil to pour down on them. Anything to stop their advancement.
**Believe it or not, this isn’t the only time you’ll hear the name ‘murder hole’ in Ireland. There’s also a Murder Hole Beach in Donegal (but more on that later).
Yes. Despite there being a murder hole and a poisonous garden, it is safe to visit the castle as well as kiss the stone.
There are guardrails set up by the battlements at the top as well as a member of the crew that helps each visitor position themselves under the stone. Also, in the last year or so, the establishment that runs the visitations has teamed up with a company called Enva. This environmental company created a spray that will kill 99.9% of bacteria on the stone.
It is not only safe to humans, but also safe to the preservation of the actual rock (the main attraction). For more information on the spray, visit the official Blarney Castle site.
**If you don’t feel comfortable kissing the blarney stone, you can still experience Blarney Castle and climb to the top. You’ll have an excellent view of the sites from the top, and it is still quite the experience whether you kiss the stone or not.
Rock Close houses its own magical little garden. This is said to be the home of the Blarney witch.
In this area, you’ll come across a Druid’s circle, a dolmen, a fairy glade, wishing steps, and many more enchanting finds.
This is a great place to take the kids; they’ll love exploring the gardens and stones.
You’ll want to wear comfortable clothing. Flat shoes are best, also ones that aren’t slippery as you’ll be walking up stone steps.
It rains a lot in Ireland too, so definitely check the weather that day. You may need a raincoat, hoodie, or a small umbrella.
If you go during the high season, you could spend about an hour waiting in line to get to the top of the tower. But then you’ll also have nicer, warmer weather. And the flowers will be blooming in the gardens.
Also, during tourist season, the Blarney House is open to visitors in case you were interested in touring through there as well.
In the off-season, it will be colder certainly but much less crowded. Also fall in Ireland is absolutely beautiful. And to get a bird’s eye view of the changing leaves is really lovely.
So I guess what I’m saying is you can’t really go wrong, and you know yourself and your travel buddies best when it comes to weather and crowds.
As of this writing, an adult ticket is 18€, seniors are 14€, children under 8 are free and ages 8-16 are 8€.
If you purchase tickets here, you’ll receive a slight discount.
Yes. The Colthurst family still live in Blarney House. They leave during tourist season to live at another property which in turn opens up the house to visitors.
Blarney Castle is located in the southern part of Ireland, not too far outside of the city of Cork (roughly a 15 min drive).
There is public transportation that will get you there. Try this site.
If you have rented a car, there is parking at the grounds.
If you’re not staying in Cork, you can take a day tour of Blarney Castle & Gardens.
Well, if you’ve read this whole post, then you know I’ve already said yes. But I think it bears repeating.
For sure Blarney Castle is worth visiting! It’s such a lovely place. It’s wonderful for taking the kids to visit, for multi-generational trips, and really just for anyone who enjoys getting out in nature and soaking up some history.
Definitely consider a visit. You’ll love it.