Exploring the Blarney Castle and Gardens in Ireland
During my trip to Ireland, I had a long list of places to visit, and the Blarney Castle was among them. Not only because it’s one of the many incredible castles the country has, but because this fortress hides the Stone of Eloquence.
“Stone of what?” you might be asking. The Stone of Eloquence, or the Blarney Stone, is a piece of limestone placed at the top of the castle tower. It is believed that if we kiss her, we get the gift of eloquence. And believe me, it’s not easy to reach it. But first things first…
Visiting the Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle in Cork County is a 2-hour drive from Dublin, but the trip is well worth it.
It was built in 1446 by Dermot MacCarthy, but this is the third building erected on this site, which would initially house a hunting lodge in the 10th century.
When I arrived at Blarney Castle, I didn’t guess what I would find here. But as soon as I started to walk the path that leads us from the ticket offices to the fortress, I was immediately enchanted by it.
The gardens spread out in front of us, in a serenity only broken by the sound of the waters of river Martin. But also by dozens of tourists walking around.
To get into the castle interior, we have to go around it until we find the entrance. That’s when the wait begins. The journey until the roof is made in a queue form, and there’s no escaping it.
Going up various levels, I climbed the 100 steps that took me to the top of the tower, where’s the main reason why so many make this pilgrimage: the Blarney Stone.
Blarney Stone, the Stone of Eloquence
The popularity of this stone is about 200 years old, and on it have already placed their lips several heads of state, big names of literature, actors and… Me! 🙂
It’s said that those who kiss the stone receive the gift of eloquence. So, I had to go there and try it.
The origin of this stone is uncertain. Some say that it served as Jacob’s Pillow, brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. It will have served as a throne for Irish kings and traveled to Scotland. Most likely, it was when Cormac MacCarthy, king of Munster, assisted Robert the Bruce in the battle against the English at Bannockburn in 1314 that the stone was split in two and brought to Blarney.
With so much mystery surrounding this rock and the promise of eloquence, I went up the inner stairs of the castle, walked the wall, and found myself in front of it.
To help visitors kiss the stone, there’s an assistant who holds us while we turn over an opening in the wall and stretch to reach the stone for the long-awaited kiss. All of this because the Blarney Stone has to be kissed upside down!
Through the halls of Blarney Castle
Having accomplished the goal, the way back is through the rooms that were once inhabited in that castle. From the kitchen to the bedrooms, to the bathrooms, and even the murder hole. In fact, there are several castles where you can see these holes that served to defend the fortress. This was where they threw fire or other materials, such as stones, arrows, scorching water, or tar, at the invaders.
Do you know why so many of the castle’s interior staircases are so narrow and spiraling?
Because it allowed a better defense of the fortress since they only let one person (attacker in this case) pass at a time.
The beauty of the gardens
The visit to this place is far from over when we leave the castle. The park stretches over 60 hectares, divided into several enclosures.
The first one I stopped at was the Poison Garden, right next to the fort. It is an inquisitive place as it gathers poisonous plant species from all over the world. It is worthwhile to waste a little time here and take a look at the various tablets that identify each one.
Another must-stop is Rock Close, a part of the gardens surrounded by mysticism and with many charming nooks.
It is said to have been a druid site, and perhaps that’s why you can find here the “Druid’s Cave”, the “Witch’s Kitchen”, or the “Wishing Steps”. Another legend tells that if you go down these stairs backward and with your eyes closed, all your wishes will come true. The two waterfalls around here are another reason why the Blarney Castle and its gardens are so unique.
HOW TO GET THERE?
I drove to Blarney Castle as I was traveling around Ireland, but there are day trips from Dublin. You can see them HERE.
WHERE TO STAY?
In my case, I stay the night before in Shanballymore as I was coming from Rock of Cashel, but there are several properties to choose from in Cork. From the city center, it’s only 15 minutes by car to the castle.
HOW MUCH DOES THE TICKETS COST?
I bought it locally and paid 18 euros to enter Blarney Castle and gardens. But don’t do it like me! If you buy online, the ticket is cheaper.
WHEN TO VISIT?
One of the biggest attractions of Blarney Castle is the Stone of Eloquence, which is outside the top of the tower. Therefore, it’s best to plan your visit for the summertime. Of course, you will have to deal with a lot more people.
I went early October, and although it was cloudy, I was lucky not to get rain. But the weather in Ireland is always unknown. Unfortunately, no time is precise and safe.
Want to know more places to visit in Ireland?
What did you think of Blarney Castle? Leave your opinion in the comments box below. Let’s talk!