Blarney Castle and Kissing the Blarney Stone

First view of Blarney Castle

In one of my first All Things Irish posts, I asked what you might like to read about.  One of the requests was for any and all castles.  So here’s the first – the quintessential Irish (at least to Americans) Blarney Castle, in my own County Cork.

We lived only about 20 miles from the village of Blarney, though the drive took about 40 minutes.  A very pretty drive, but if you go, check GoogleMaps for basic directions first.  You’re on main roads all the way, so if your GPS says to take a side road (which ours did the first time), DO NOT LISTEN TO HER!  We left the main road, wound for miles on a tiny back lane, and then came out onto the same main road!

The other fun thing about getting there, from Kinsale at least, is that one of the roads is painted with messages for tourists.  As you drive on one particular stretch, it says Slow, then Reduce Speed, then Slow, and then SLOWER!

Anyway . . .

Blarney Castle needs several posts.  Everyone thinks of the castle itself and the Blarney Stone, but the grounds are extensive and gorgeous, and I’ll save them for later.

Blarney Castle was built by the MacCarthys, specifically Dermot MacCarthy, King of Munster (the southern-most of the four Irish provinces) in the mid-1400s.  Actually, it began in 1456, but you can’t build a fortress and its accompanying walled village in a year.  The only thing left is the keep, but there are ruins of other towers and you can see the remnants of the castle walls from the top of the keep.

Entrance to the Blarney Castle itself. The gift kiosk is just inside before you enter the castle proper.

Looking down from the battlements to the wall remnant. The path on the left leads to the grounds, and the one below the bedrock is the approach to the castle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The downstairs was for the guards and the cattle.  The floor above it is gone, so visitors enter into a cavernous room.

Youngest Son at the top.

The stairs from the great hall and family room up are quite steep and narrow for defense – they allowed only one attacker at a time, with the defenders holding the high ground.  There’s a huge knotted rope to help pull yourself up.  And you’ll need it!

I need to admit to being a bit forgetful here – some castles have Up staircases and Down staircases, and some you have to wait for the Down traffic to ease before you can go Up.  I don’t remember which it is at Blarney, so follow the directions!

Inside the castle, you’ll see the earl’s bedroom with its oriel window, the young ladies’ room, the garderobe (and its windows to empty chamber pots straight down the castle wall – yeech!), the kitchens and their massive fireplaces to cook a side of beef in.  Arrow slits give you glimpses of the outside, and there’s a gorgeous view from the top.  I loved seeing the corbels and recesses in the stone where the supports for the floors were, and imagining the banqueting hall on the top floor with tapestries, a roaring fire, and feasting and dancing.  I liked closing my eyes and imagining what the girls would be doing, how people would pass in the narrow halls, how the cooks would prepare food three stories up, how guards could see raiders coming from so far off.

Looking down where the banqueting hall and lower floors used to be.

The kitchen, almost at battlement height. You can’t see the huge fireplace. How did they get pigs and sides of beef clear up here?

To add to the atmosphere for imaginative visitors, there are tunnels through the bedrock (closed to the public), a dungeon, and yes, a murder hole.

The murder hole – can I pour boiling oil on my friend?

 

The Blarney Stone is at the top of the keep.  Sort of.  Actually, it’s on the outside wall of another tower, about a foot and a half away from the keep.  Stories of dangling upside down in mid-air to kiss it don’t give the right impression.  You lay on your back and scoot out, with steel bars to hold on to.  And there are several more bars beneath you closing the gap of open air.  Plus the castle staff who will help you into position and hold on to you if you feel insecure.  So don’t be put off – it’s just a weird position to be in.  (More to the point might be my daughter’s reaction: who wants to kiss a stone that a million other people have slobbered on?)

Youngest Son kissing the Blarney Stone. (I took the picture and it came out as well as theirs. The one he took of me wasn’t at as good of an angle.)

 

So why do you kiss the Blarney Stone, anyway?  Hubby O’Mine said I didn’t need to kiss it – I’ve already got more of the gift of gab than I need!  But kissing the stone isn’t actually for the “gift of gab.”  It’s for the gift of eloquence and flattery, with just a touch of exaggeration.  And that’s what a storyteller needs, right?

Mostly, though, visitors kiss the stone for tradition, and just to be able to say they did.  Which was a good enough reason for me.

More pictures, followed by tips for a visit:

The line on the battlements, waiting to kiss the Blarney Stone.

See where the floors would have fit in?

View out to Blarney Village.

One last picture.

When you go:

  • The grounds are lovely, and mostly handicapped-accessible, but the castle is not.  The floors are uneven, doorways and halls are narrow, and remember those stairs!
  • It’s cash only at the ticket counter, so come prepared.  (At least that’s what I remember.)  As of this writing, adult admission is €12.
  • The castle is cold.  Very nice if it’s a hot day in Ireland, but those are rare, so remember to have a sweater or jacket.  And well-cushioned shoes if you have leg or back problems – standing on stone for long periods is not comfortable.
  • If there’s a long line at the top to kiss the Blarney Stone, don’t worry – it moves quickly.
  • They’ll take a souvenir picture of you kissing the Blarney Stone, which you can buy at the gift kiosk at the castle entrance.  You can take your own pictures (well, you take pictures of your friend and vice versa, of course), but you have to stand where they say and you don’t get a second chance.
  • It’s a self-guided walk through, and there are informative signs along the way, but the little booklet at the ticket gate is worth the 3 or so euros.  At least it was for me.
  • If you haven’t made your hotel reservations yet, try Hotels in Cork (sponsored link). Discounted rates, 24/7 service.

 


Comments

Blarney Castle and Kissing the Blarney Stone — 21 Comments

  1. Hi,
    I loved your post about Blarney castle. We toured a lot of castles in Ireland and I loved Blarney castle because of the romance of the Blarney stone

    • Hi, Amy. Because we lived so close, Blarney was one of the places that *everyone* who came to visit us had to go. Except my parents, because my dad was in a wheelchair, but they had been there ten years before. Did you visit the grounds, too? The romance carries over to the Rock Close.

  2. I am so glad that you wrote about this and included all these awesome pictures Jennifer! As you know I have been to Ireland, but missed the Blarney stone. I just think Ireland makes for a fabulous family vacation. There is so much to see there and the people there are so friendly and kind. I can’t thank you enough for this series. It brings back fond memories! :)
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    • Contrary to popular belief, it *is* possible to enjoy Ireland without visiting Blarney. (grin) And you’re proof.

      One of my sons went to Blarney when a friend of mine visited us, and again with my husband, but no way was he going to kiss the stone. He didn’t even like being up on the battlements!

  3. Glad you liked them, Debra & Melinda. It brought back a lot of memories for me. I’d go back in an instant!

  4. I really enjoyed this post and your photos. My son and daughter-in-law went to Ireland for their honeymoon. They went on a tour, though. We watched their videos and they were awesome. I’d love to visit Ireland someday. When my son went to Blarney Castle, he was told that the locals tinkle (to put it nicely) on the Blarney Stone and not to kiss it! Were they pulling his leg? :)

    • Hmmm. I’m not sure. I never heard that before, and none of my Irish friends there mentioned it. But I’ll ask!

  5. Beautiful photos. Lots of inspiration.
    A long time ago, I *started* a story set in Ireland. I won’t finish though, not until I’ve visited the place in person. Thanks for the nudge!

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