I know that many of you who have been reading my blog for a while must wonder where I get my wonderful way with words… Haha…
Or maybe not! 😆
Either way, the Irish might say that it has something to do with the fact that I’ve kissed the Blarney Stone not once, not twice, but three times!
Kissing a stone, you say?!
I promise I haven’t gone completely crazy… (Well, no more than usual anyway!)
A visit to Ireland is not complete without a trip to Cork to kiss the Blarney Stone.
Legend has it that anyone brave enough (and agile enough!) to climb the dizzying steps up to the top of Blarney Castle in County Cork, Ireland, and kiss the Blarney Stone, is endowed with the gift of eloquence.
The Blarney Stone has been kissed by many, including Winston Churchill. Although, actually, I realise now that this little tidbit of fun information may put some people off…
But, I’m still alive to tell the tale! So it can’t be all bad!
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Where Is The Blarney Stone?
Anyway, let’s back up for a second.
Before you can plant a big smooch on this rather sizeable lump of limestone, you need to know where to find it.
The Blarney Stone is set in the battlements of Blarney Castle, which you’ll find just outside Cork City in Ireland. The Castle was built by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac McCarthy (aka the King of Munster), and is one of Ireland’s most visited attractions
I will say that an Irish castle isn’t quite the Disney fairytale setting you might imagine… They tend to be a bit more plain, and Blarney Castle is essentially just a big tower. Albeit an impressive one!
The current stronghold dates from 1446, although it is originally said to date back as far as 1200.
It was once a medieval fortress and although in partial ruin, you can still get a good sense of what it must have looked like once upon a time (a bit of a fairytale after all perhaps?!)
The walls are strong and secure though, so it’s perfectly safe to climb the 127 steps to the top.
Why Kiss The Blarney Stone?
Not everyone is willing to plant a kiss on a cold inanimate object… But, those who do will (according to legend) be endowed with the “gift of the gab.”
Kiss the Blarney Stone and you’ll never again be lost for words!
Instead, you’ll articulate with great eloquence and persuasiveness.
With the Blarney Stone located atop Blarney Castle’s tower, 27 meters high, kissing the stone isn’t the only reason to venture up the steep stairs. The view that you’re rewarded with at the top may well be worth the trip alone.
If you’re feeling adventurous though, you’ll have to hang backwards and upside down over a sheer drop in order to kiss the stone.
No mean feat and certainly something to get the heart racing!
Not to worry though. You’ll have a sweet (although usually slightly elderly) Irish gentleman to help guide you backwards over the parapet’s edge.
Also, for safety, the drop is fitted with wrought iron cross bars to avoid anyone toppling down. But, it’s still a pretty dizzying experience!
And, of course, you’ll have a photo to prove your bravery.
Not that you’ll have any trouble telling a compelling tale about your wonderful adventures once you’ve kissed the Blarney Stone!
A Brief History
Ok, yes, yawn….
History was never my biggest interest in school either so feel free to skip down past this section if you’re not a history buff.
But, there is so much history surrounding the famous Blarney Stone that I couldn’t leave it out altogether.
There are quite a few versions of the legend around where the Blarney Stone originated.
Some say that the Blarney Stone was the rock that Moses struck with his staff to produce water for the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt.
The most commonly accepted version, however, tells the tale that the Blarney Stone is half of the “Stone of Destiny” that Jacob (in the book of Genesis) used as a pillow and that the prophet Jeremiah initially brought to Ireland.
It is said that in 1314, a portion of the stone was returned to Ireland in a show of gratitude by the Scots to the King of Munster for supporting Robert the Bruce in the Scottish defeat of the English at Bannockburn.
Side-note: Munster is one of four provinces in Ireland. It is home to Cork along with Counties Clare, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.
Is It Just The Blarney Stone, Or What?
Kissing the Blarney Stone is really only part of what makes Blarney Castle worth a visit, though.
There are extensive grounds surrounding the castle with a multitude of paths taking through woodlands and gardens. Trust me when I say that you can happily amble around here for hours.
You may have spotted a mansion in the manicured lawns and parklands overlooking Blarney Lake when you were atop the Castle. This is the Scottish Baronial-style mansion known as Blarney House, built in 1874.
The house has been painstakingly restored to its former glory over the last number of years and is open to the public during the summer months.
As part of your exploration of the beautiful grounds, I’d highly recommend you take the time to (carefully!) investigate the Poison Garden just adjacent to the castle.
Not surprisingly, this particular garden gets its name for the numerous poisonous plants, carefully caged but clearly visible.
Spot deadly specimens including ones made famous in the Harry Potter series such as Wolfsbane, Mandrake, and Nightshade, as well as Poison Ivy, Opium and Cannabis.
Follow the signed paths to the natural rock formations of the Druid’s Circle as well as the Witch’s Cave and see the imprisoned stone witch of Blarney!
Or, maybe you’ll spot whimsical fairies gliding through the Fairy Glade?
Definitely go and make a wish while walking with your eyes closed up and down the Wishing Steps.
And if you have time and the weather is on your side, I’d highly recommend bringing a picnic to fully enjoy all the Blarney Castle grounds and estate have to offer.
There are a couple of cafes within the grounds, but finding a cozy spot to throw down a blanket feels much more relaxed!
Useful Info About Visiting Blarney Castle
From Cork city, it’s extremely simple to get to Blarney by bus.
Bus Éireann runs route 215 every 30 minutes, taking about half an hour to get to Blarney.
I’d suggest getting off at the Blarney Woollen Mills. But don’t worry, Blarney village is really small so you won’t have far to walk.
Entry for a single adult is €18 at the gate, and €8 for children aged 8-16.
If you’re like me and prefer buying things cheaper if possible, you can buy your ticket online for €16.
Or, if you’re a student, even better! Student tickets to Blarney Castle are only €13 online with a valid student ID.
The good news is that tickets are valid for 6 months after purchase so if you bought it online and the weather turns proper Irish on you, you can always go another day.
Note: Tickets are single-entry and do not include entry to Blarney House
Blarney House is only open from June 1st – August 31st from 10am to 2pm Monday to Saturday (for an additional fee).
To check the most recent prices and opening hours, visit Blarney Castle’s official website
Blarney Woollen Mills
If you have time and the inclination after kissing the Blarney Stone, I’d suggest a nice cuppa and a slice of the delicious flourless chocolate cake at The Mill – Blarney Woollen Mills’ café. Yum! The perfect way to end your day.
Are you planning a trip to Blarney or have you been?
Do you think you’ll be kissing the Blarney Stone on your visit to Ireland? 😘