The only time in my life so far that I have stood in line to kiss a rock was at Blarney Castle. One of the most famous castles in Ireland, Blarney Castle is home to the Blarney Stone which gives the gift of eloquence to anyone who kisses it. While everyone goes to the castle to kiss the stone, there are also a lot of other things to do while visiting Blarney.
Getting to Blarney Castle
We almost never made it to Blarney Castle at all, which would have been a real shame because the castle and grounds are a great place to visit and one of Meagan’s dreams has been to kiss the Blarney Stone. Our cruise ship put in at Cobh, and taking the train from Cobh to Cork is simple enough. Where we got messed up was trying to get from Cork to Blarney.
What happened to us was that we got right on to the train at the Cobh station because it was leaving and apparently in Ireland you can just get on without a ticket, they just won’t let you out of the next station until you buy your ticket. When we got to Cork we had to get over to the ticket station and buy our tickets so that we could get out (and so that we could ride the train back). By the time we got out of the station everyone from our ship who was going to the castle was long gone.
We then had trouble finding the bus station, in fact we never did find it. The bus you want is the 215 North. It turns out we just didn’t walk far enough into the city center. When you go walk all the way down into the shopping area of the city and find Parnell Station.
When we didn’t find it after quite a while I then had the brilliant idea that we would just walk to Blarney Castle. This is very bad idea, do not try it. The Castle is much farther from Cork than you think it is. We did get headed in the right direction though and eventually after some harrowing experiences and locating the cell service we were able to get a bus outside of a petrol station to Blarney.
Most buses in the British Isles are double deckers and Ireland is beautiful, so ride on top if you can. The bus takes you right into Blarney, from there it should be no problem to get to the castle, but if you can’t find it, or you are being extra cautious like we were, the bus drops you right outside the visitor center and you can ask the people inside how to get there.
Once you get to the castle grounds you might have to stand in line to buy tickets, but that line seemed to move pretty fast. The real line is inside the grounds. Tickets are €15 a person to see both the castle and the gardens. You can also get an optional audio guide for €6 which I did, and I thought was well worth it.
Five Things to Do at Blarney Castle
In addition to the stone there are many things to do in the Blarney Castle grounds. You could easily spend all day here, but these are our top 5.
Climb to the Top and Kiss the Blarney Stone
If you want to kiss the stone, or you just want to go through Blarney Castle you need to do it first. There is no telling how long it will take, so definitely start with this.
The line was quite long when we were there and we get the impression that it normally is. The line runs from the top of the castle where the Blarney Stone is all the way through the castle and out down the path through the grounds.
We waited in line for a long time but it was well worth it. The castle is awesome to walk through even though it is in a ruinous state. I wasn’t going to kiss the stone because I thought it wasn’t very sanitary, but one you have waited in line that time it seems like a waste not to, so we both did.
In order to kiss the stone you have to sit down and have your head lowered by an attendant. They are very efficient because they have to have thousands of people do it every day, so have your camera ready and make a plan with your group to get everyone’s picture once you reach the top of the castle. Optionally you can buy picture they take of you for €20. We did not buy that picture.
Blarney Castle itself is not accessible, so if you have a wheelchair or stroller you will not be able to do this one.
Visit the Poison Garden
Just outside the Castle is the poison garden. In this garden they grow all kinds of plants that are poisonous, as the name implies. It is interesting to see all the plants, and you might be surprised at what you didn’t know was poisonous. The most dangerous of the plants are kept under cages.
The poison garden also gives you access to walk along part of the castle wall.
Find the Fern Garden
The grounds of Blarney Castle are extremely extensive. You could walk around them for a long time. A small area of the grounds that is hidden away is the Fern Garden. This is a peaceful area with huge ferns growing in it next to a waterfall, it is like a perfect little secret garden.
Explore the Rock Close
The most magical area of the Blarney Castle grounds is the Rock Close. This is where legend has it that the witch who is part of the Blarney Stone story lived. The wishing stairs, also connected to the witch, are here. And you might even spot a fairy in the Fairy Glade, which also has a small playground for children.
This area also has connections to the druids supposedly and you can see an ancient standing stone circle here. There is a mystical feeling that hangs over the whole Rock Close area.
Crawl Through the Caves
Next to the dungeons at the bottom of Blarney Castle are a series of caves that played important roles in Blarney’s history. They have lights hanging in some of these caves so that you can crawl through them. This of course is a bit risky if you are tall because you might hit your head, but it is pretty exciting to do if you are short like me.
Blarney Castle is an absolutely fantastic place to visit. There is so much to see and do here that I really don’t feel that the €15 price tag is very bad. The castle is exciting and the grounds and gardens are beautiful and imaginative. The whole place has a rich history.
The bathrooms are free, which is always great to find in Europe, at the main entrance and the stable yard. Also at the stable yard you can get lunch or a snack. I particularly like the scones with clotted cream, which you should eat as much as you can while in the British Isles.