There are several places in Ireland that are often referred to as ‘tourist traps’. Blarney Castle is one of them.
Up until 2016, I probably would have agreed with those that labelled it a ‘trap’, even though I hadn’t visited it at that point.
It wasn’t until a wild and wet October morning, on a trip with friends, that I first visited what is often described as one of the best castles in Ireland.
Since then, I’ve never said a bad word about Blarney Castle (the kissing of the Blarney Stone is a different story – see below).
In the guide below, you’ll get an insight into the history of Blarney Castle and Gardens, it’s very unique and often-missed attractions along with a load more info.
Table of Contents
Would I visit Blarney Castle Again: An Honest Answer
Before diving into the guide, I want to tackle the would-I-visit-again question that comes up time and time again. Look, you’ll read a lot of negative reviews online about Blarney Castle.
And you’ll read a sh*t-load of really good ones. I find that, personally, a lot of the people that I speak to that say they wouldn’t visit it again solely visited to see the stone.
Some begrudgers claim that they were lured there under the promise that the stone would be much more impressive.
Now, I didn’t do the whole kiss-the-stone craic. On the day that I visited, we had a good ramble around the gardens, we had a nosey at the castle and we explored as much of the grounds as we could.
If you’re only looking to see the stone and you’re not interested in exploring the castle itself and admiring the grounds, don’t bother. There are plenty of other things to do in Cork.
If you fancy exploring an Irish castle that boasts some of the most impressive grounds of the many castles in Ireland, Blarney is well worth a visit.
About Blarney Castle: Some Quick ‘Need-to-Knows’
You’ll find the now-iconic Blarney Castle and the world-famous Blarney Stone in the little village of Blarney, around 8km northwest of the buzzy Cork City.
The current castle dates from around 1446 and it’s the third castle to be built on the site. Blarney Castle, unsurprisingly enough, is one of the most popular fee-paying attractions in Ireland.
In 2018, over 460,000 people visited the castle grounds. It’s not clear how many kissed the Blarney Stone. Actually, as I’m typing this now in April of 2020, you’d wonder if people will ever kiss it again?!
History of the Castle
So, there have been three Blarney Castles over the years. It’s believed that the first castle to be built in Blarney was built from timber, before 1200. The second, which was made from stone, is thought to have been constructed around 1210.
This castle stood until 1446 when it was destroyed. Interestingly enough, it’s believed that the Blarney Stone was placed in the castle during the same year.
The Lord of Muscry, Cormac Láidir MacCarthy, rebuilt the castle not long after. The site was besieged during the Irish Confederate Wars (the mid-1600s) and was seized by Parliamentarian forces a number of years later, in 1646.
After being restored, the castle was given to Donough MacCarty, 1st Earl of Clancarty. Then, during the Williamite War, the castle switched hands again.
It was then that the 4th Earl of Clancarty was overthrown and his estate, which included Blarney Castle, was taken by the Williamites.
The castle was bought and sold by a number of parties before it was purchased by Sir James St. John Jefferyes, the governor of Cork City, at some stage during the early 16th century.
The Blarney Stone
Ah, the Blarney Stone. It’s arguably one of the best-known (and oddest) attractions in Ireland with hundreds of thousands of people planting their lips on it every year.
For a whopping 200 years, Hollywood actors, literary greats and many a man, woman and child have travelled to Cork to with the intention of kissing the stone.
Kissing the Blarney Stone
Kissing the Blarney Stone is on the bucket list of many a tourist that’s visiting Ireland for the first time. Back in the day, visitors to the castle had to be held by the ankles and lowered down to kiss it.
Can you imagine trying to get insured for something like that now… Today, kissing the stone is an awful lot more straightforward – the stone is set into the wall right below the battlements.
In order to give it a big aul kiss, you need to lean backwards (you’ll have an iron railing to cling onto), stick your head under the stone wall (pictured above) and plant your lips on it.
The Stone of Eloquence and the Gift of the Gab
Legend has it that each of those that kiss the stone will be given the gift of eloquence. Now, if you’re scratching your head and wondering what this means, it means that those that kiss the stone will have the ability to talk sh*te.
However, the more appropriate translation for the Gift of the Gab is that those who possess it are said to be able to chat away easily and confidently.
Unique Things to do at Blarney
There’s plenty more to experience at Blarney other than the stone. In the section below, you’ll find some of the most unique and unusual attractions that the grounds boast.
From incredible views and poison gardens to the witch’s kitchen (yes, a witch!) and a murder hole, you’ll find something below to tickle every fancy.
1. The Magnificent Gardens
Many people, myself included, tend to travel to Blarney Castle to see the castle. However, the best part of a visit here, in my opinion, is the castle grounds.
On the day that we visited, the weather was miserable. We grabbed a coffee from a little cart (I’m not sure if this is still here) and had a wander around.
The best place to get a look at the sheer size of the 60 acres of lush gardens and parklands is from the top of the castle. The view from here is will knock you sideways.
2. One of the only Poison Gardens in Ireland
Interestingly enough, you’ll find one of the few Poison Gardens in Ireland in Blarney Castle, not far from the Castle battlements.
It’s within the walls of this garden where a number of plants reside that are so toxic that some have to be contained in cage-like structures.
Inside, you’ll find a collection of poisonous plants from right across the world, including Wolfsbane, Mandrake, Ricin and Opium. Naturally enough, you enter this part of the grounds at your own risk.
3. The Murder Hole
Yes, the Murder Hole. Sounds very mysterious altogether, doesn’t it?! You’ll find the Murder Hole on the second floor of the castle, where it’s blocked off with an iron gate.
The Murder Hole was used when the castle walls were breached and the enemy was running about inside. The hole was used by those defending the castle to pour boiling liquids ontop of unsuspecting invaders.
4. The Wishing Steps
The Wishing Steps are missed by many that come to Blarney solely to visit the stone. The steps are found within an area known as ‘Rock Close’.
It’s said that if you can walk down and back up these steps with your eyes completely closed while making a wish (without stopping), your wish will come true within a year.
5. The Witch’s Kitchen
Yes, the Witch’s Kitchen. See there’s plenty more to this place than an aul stone! It’s believed that an area known as the ‘Witch’s Kitchen’ was home to the first Irish cave dwellers.
It’s said that, if you arrive at the kitchen in the early morning, you’ll find the remains of a fire that was lit by a witch late the night before.
6. The Dungeon
You’ll find a number of dark passages and chambers in the area right below the castle. Each section is believed to date from different periods and the majority of them are accessible.
One of the most interesting sections of the dungeon is what’s believed to be the castle’s prison.
Visiting the Castle and its Famous Stone
OK, so you’re going to visit Blarney Castle on your trip to Ireland. Happy days. In the section below, you’ll find info on the opening hours and ticket prices.
|Monday to Saturday|
|Jan – Feb||9.00am to 5.00pm (Last Admission 4.00pm)|
|Mar – Apr||9.00am to 6.00pm (Last Admission 5.00pm)|
|May||9.00am to 6.30pm (Last Admission 5.30pm)|
|June – Aug||9.00am to 7.00pm (Last Admission 6.00pm)|
|Sept||9.00am to 6.30pm (Last Admission 5.30pm)|
|Oct||9.00am to 6.00pm (Last Admission 5.00pm)|
|Nov – Dec||9.00am to 5.00pm (Last Admission 4.00pm)|
|Sundays & Bank Holidays|
|Nov – Feb||9.00am to 5.00pm (Last Admission 4.00pm)|
|Mar – Oct||9.00am to 6.00pm (Last Admission 5.00pm)|
|Blarney Castle Visitor Rates 2020|
|Adult Admission||€16 (Normally €18)|
|Student/Seniors||€13 (Normally €14)|
|Children (8-16 years / under 8 free)||€7 (Normally €8)|
|Family (2 adults + 2 children)||€40 (Normally €45)|
|Souvenir Audio Guide||€6|
Have you been here before? Was it worth the visit or did you think it was a tourist trap? Let me know in the comments below!