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The first thing that probably comes to mind with the mention of Blarney Castle is the Blarney Stone. To visitors, it’s the large stone that grants the gift of eloquence and persuasiveness from a kiss. To locals, it’s the topic of years of rumors. Let me just say, after reading up on the rumors, I decided to skip kissing the stone during my visit to Blarney!
But to the contrary, Blarney is a fantastic destination that boasts over 1000 years of history and beautiful gardens. The Castle stands as a partial ruin with some accessible rooms and battlements. The famous Blarney Stone was constructed in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster, and is set in the tower of Blarney Castle.
The Blarney Castle we see today is the third building at this site. The first was built with timber in the 10th century, the second with stone in 1210, and the final product in 1446 by McCarthy. With the castle is over 60 acres of gardens, which includes features such as a prehistoric Fern Garden and deadly Poison Garden. To me, the grounds are what made this visit truly an experience to remember.
Blarney Castle sits directly on an eight-meter cliff of rock and has a dramatic look because the walls slope gradually inwards. The seam you can see on the right-hand side of the wall shows that the Castle was built in two stages. There are also three large square holes in the wall, left for the garderobes, aka indoor lavatories, which were state-of-the-art features for the time.
Under Blarney Castle is Badger Cave and the Dungeon, which consists of passages and chambers that you can explore. Not too many people venture into the tight nooks, but it can be pretty neat if you aren’t claustrophobic!
Once inside the castle, my fiancé, Corey, and I viewed the ruins of old rooms such as the Family Room, the Castle Kitchen, and several of the bedrooms. The route through the castle brought me up a narrow staircase, which is an intentional design – to keep people out. If the Castle was under attack, the enemy would have to proceed up the staircase in single file. A wounded attacker would then fall back on his comrades, making it hard for attackers to siege the Castle. The Castle contains other features that deter an enemy takeover, such as the Murder Hole, which allowed the Castle defense to surprise unwelcome visitors by pouring boiling liquids, shooting arrows, or throwing rocks through a hole in the story above the lobby.
Corey and I entered the Blarney Castle close to the end of the day when the line dwindled. The Castle is self-guided, at your own pace, with another line forming at the top of the Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. Rather than kissing the stone, we took in the incredible views from the top of the Castle.
Following the Castle, we explored the grounds, with one of the first stops being the Poison Garden. This unique garden displays poisonous plants from all over the world. Some of the most dangerous plants are contained within steel cages to prevent even an accidental touch that could kill. The purpose of this garden is to educate visitors on poisonous plants that can be found in the wild and their uses within modern and traditional medicine. Some have unique uses within history, including the Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna) that was once used by women to make their eyes dilate to appear beautiful. Little did these women know that this plant causes a plethora of health complications prior to death. Tales call this plant the property of the Devil, most likely to deter children from eating the berries from this plant.
Our next stop was Rock Close, where Druid’s Cave is. Druid’s Cave is a natural rock formation that is said to have been the home of a religious hermit who was cared for by the Jefferyes family who purchased Blarney in 1688. The Jefferyes also built Blarney House, which is viewable from the top of Blarney Castle. In 1846 the Jefferyes intermarried with the Colthurst family, who still reside at Blarney House today.
The remainder of the property has stunning gardens and walking paths. One of the paths brought us to a garden with nine stones. This area was Druid’s Stone Circle that had stood for millennia. Legend says the King of Munster had ridden off to battle with his two sons at the forefront. Although the King won against his enemy, both of his sons were killed in the battle. When the army returned to the Castle, the King instructed them to push over two of the nine stones at the sacred site to commemorate his two fallen sons. The seven standing stones that remain represent the King’s seven daughters.
Blarney Castle and Gardens may be condemned by some as a tourist trap, but I couldn’t disagree more with this. The property offers a unique and immersive experience of Irish history. Not only are the grounds worth the visit alone, but Blarney Castle will leave guests breathless with the intricate architecture that remains standing to this day.
Visiting Blarney Castle and Gardens
Blarney Castle is a short 25-minute drive from the Cork airport and a 3-hour drive from Dublin.
When is Blarney Castle & Gardens open? Blarney Castle & Gardens is open year-round, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
How long to spend at Blarney? To see everything on the grounds, I recommend a minimum of 3 hours.
Need to know: Blarney Castle is not handicapped accessible, but most of the grounds are. If visiting with children, they need to be kept close to their parents’ side. The Castle does not have many modifications that would prevent injuries. The Poison Garden is also entered at your own risk.
Where to purchase tickets: Tickets are available at blarneycastle.ie/tickets but can easily be purchased at the entrance the day of. Prices are as follows:
€18.00 for adults
€8.00 for children
€14.00 for seniors and students
€45.00 for two adults and two children
Where to stay: We stayed about 1.5 hours away from Blarney at Aghadoe View Bed & Breakfast in Killarney. This was a fantastic Bed & Breakfast with some of the friendliest hosts I’ve met. This hotel included breakfast and cost us USD 107 for one night.
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