One of the most popular things to do in Ireland is to kiss the legendary Blarney Stone, housed at the (you guessed it) Blarney Castle. As a result, this attraction is as touristy as they come, which kind of puts a small damper on the visit. However, we still highly recommend checking it out; just try to overlook the hoky-ness of the whole operation. The castle grounds are amazing; the 60 acres encompass a variety of themed gardens, rivers and caves. Make sure to allot a couple hours to get your money’s worth, as entry is 15 euros, or 12 euros for students. It’s also just outside of the fun town of Cork, so it’s not too far out of your way if you’re in that area.
How to Get There
Blarney Castle is a 20 min drive north west of the city of Cork. If you are without a car, there are definitely day tours that will take you from Cork city to Blarney, but those will be more expensive. Alternatively you can take a public bus from Cork to Blarney and back! Use the Transport for Ireland site to plan your trip on Bus 215 to Cork and back (about a 30 minute trip).
What to Do
- Kiss the Blarney Stone – Obviously this is the main draw for tourists to visit the castle. The fabled stone is at the top of the castle, and you’ll have to lean over backwards and look straight down the 37-foot high castle walls, so this one might not be for those who fear heights. There is someone working who will guide you and hold on so you don’t fall, and there’s also a net just in case, so it’s perfectly safe. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t give you some shivers as you shift to kiss the stone and feel your butt slide off the edge. Legend has it that kissing the Blarney Stone gives you the “gift of the gab”, or in other words, allows you to always be eloquent and never at a loss for words. This is a skill literally Irish person has already, so if you want to blend in you should definitely kiss the stone. NOTE: The locals warn NOT to kiss it because apparently locals pee on the stone at night, but considering the safety precautions put in place, there is no way they can get up there! You’re safe! The line to get to the stone winds through the castle and up a very old narrow stairway, which isn’t a bad place to wait in line. It is a 45 minute wait from the entrance of the castle where we lined up; go early to try and avoid it!
- Gardens – There are multiple themed gardens to check out on the castle grounds. Our favourite was the poison garden, which was literally a garden full of labelled plants, each explaining how the plant could kill or poison you. There is also a rock garden, jungle garden, and a boardwalk around a river garden and waterfall that has plants with leaves growing that were as big as us! These gardens are east of the castle, or to the left as you approach the castle from the main entrance into the grounds. However there’s plenty of other places on the grounds to see, so make sure to do some exploring.
- Wishing Steps – Again, a little hokey, but the wishing steps were pretty fun. These stone steps descend through a narrow cave, and apparently if you walk backwards down and back up the stairs with your eyes close and make a wish it’ll come true! Just attempting to manage this task while also getting in the way of a bunch of other tourists was entertaining in itself.
- Tourist Shops – With a large tourist destination, comes multiple tourist shops. If you still need to buy some souvenirs, or some presents for the people that you left back home, this is a great place to do it. Just outside the main entrance, the town of Blarney itself provides lots of options.