Kissing the Blarney Stone is one of those iconic things every visitor to Ireland is expected to do, which is precisely why I didn’t want to do it. Legend has it that the kiss gives you a little bit of blarney and you’ll become a smooth talker.
Yeah, right. Truth be told, we only had 10 days in Ireland and I wasn’t interested in wasting a day in Blarney seeing some over-hyped tourist attraction. I didn’t even want to stop in Blarney to pee. I was convinced that our limited time could be better spent in some less-touristy destination. And yet, I knew our son Jimmy wanted to go, so I bit my tongue.
The things we do for family. 😉
Our picturesque drive from Cobh to Blarney didn’t take long. It was a pleasant drive on a good highway, and we drove through some nice farmland. Then we arrived at Blarney itself, and I was surprised at how small it actually is.
Actually, we only found two pubs, both on the large central town square. Oddly enough, only one seemed big enough to handle tour bus crowds. I’m guessing they must turn quite a good profit during tourist season.
Getting to Blarney Castle
It’s easy to see Blarney Castle’s imposing tower from downtown, but to us it appeared to be far enough away that it would be easier to drive there.
Ha – joke was on us. After a number of wrong turns, we realized that the entrance was just catty-corner to where we’d parked on the square to eat. It just looked far away because of all the land and gardens surrounding it. It would have been much easier if we’d simply walked.
But really … does this look like a ticket office?
Blarney Castle grounds
The path leading up to Blarney Castle was lined with flower beds and a pond. Some were themed gardens, like Fern Garden, designed to feel like a tropical jungle. My personal favorite was Poison Garden, beside the battlements, with its fascinating collection of toxic plants like deadly nightshade, wolfsbane and poison ivy.
I don’t know why, but we were surprised at how beautifully landscaped and extensive the grounds are.
But not the castle itself. After having been uninhabited for centuries, it no longer has a roof. Still, most of the walls are intact, which means there are intriguing rooms to explore on the way up to the top, especially on the lower floors. And you have to go to the top, because that is where the actual Blarney Stone is.
If you have knee problems, consider yourself warned. There is only one way up: via a narrow spiral, stone stairway. Then you’ll have to navigate another tight, steep flight going down.
If you don’t let that deter you, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view.
Legend of the Blarney stone
There is no end of stories to the origin of the Blarney stone. One legend claims that Jacob used it as a pillow (Genesis 28:18) and the prophet Jeremiah brought it to Ireland. A slightly more credible tale is that Queen Elizabeth I requested Cormac Teige MacCarthy, the Lord of Blarney, be deprived of his traditional land rights. Cormac, who wasn’t an effective speaker, met an old woman who told him that anyone who kissed a particular stone in Blarney Castle would be given the gift of eloquent speech. Cormac went on to persuade the queen that he should not be deprived of his land. After that, anyone who visited asked to kiss the stone, hoping for the same result.
Whatever. I was there, so I was going to kiss it, too. If I had to spend a whole day at Blarney Castle, I at least wanted to say I had done that!
Dan waited on line with Jimmy and me, but he had absolutely no interest in kissing some germ-infested rock. I was slightly reassured when I saw a bottle of spray cleaner next to the attendant. Still, I didn’t ask him to sanitize before my turn came. I figured that putting my lips on chemicals might not be any safer.
And speaking of safety, you can’t help but wonder….
Has anyone died kissing the Blarney Stone?
We’ve heard that at least one of Cormac’s visitors met his unfortunate demise that way. Once upon a time, visitors had to be held by the ankles and lowered headfirst over the castle wall. Not a good idea if you might have any enemies nearby.
It’s still a long drop these days, but it’s a lot safer, due in no small part to the attendant who helps visitors kiss the rock. And you don’t have to be lowered over the edge of the parapet. That’s a big part of it as well.
ⓘ TIP: If you’re afraid of heights, this is one tourist attraction you will want to miss. It’s a long way down.
Kissing the Blarney stone
Sit down. Reach behind you and grab onto the rails on each side, thumbs down. Lean back. Drop your head back. Lower. Still lower. Kiss.
“Sit up, now. Are you all right, my dear? Fine, then, off you go.”
Next thing I knew, I was being handed a numbered slip that I could take downstairs, so I could purchase my very own souvenir photo of me kissing the cold, dry, well-worn stone. It felt a little Disneyland-esque with their special camera setup, artfully designed to catch every Blarney smooch.
What isn’t in the photographs: a sign informing visitors that they are only permitted to take personal photos from one direction, which (quite inconveniently for me) is directly behind the attendant.
Unless you pretend not to have noticed the sign and they aren’t watching. I peeked over the attendant’s shoulder and captured Jimmy’s kiss myself:
After the obligatory kiss, visitors can also see the more luxurious Blarney House, where Lord Blarney and his family lived in more recent years. I’m sure those cold stone walls were enough incentive to move out of the castle, especially when winter rolled around.
That said, learn from our mistake: If you plan to visit, check the Blarney Castle website before you visit so you don’t miss out. I was really disappointed when we found out that we were too late to go inside. They are only open for a few hours each day and we missed it because we spent so much time with that ridiculous stone.
Well, since that wasn’t possible we spent some time walking along the boardwalks and paths running through Rock Close. It’s an enchanting enclosed garden and quite fanciful. Some claim that it was built on Druid ground, but I suspect that might be just a little bit more blarney.
End of our day in Blarney Ireland
Surprisingly (to me), the castle grounds closed before we were ready to leave. After checking into our cozy B&B, we went back into town in search of something to eat. Little was available save a five-star establishment at Blarney Woollen Mills. I must say, the food was worth the price.
I guess spending a day at Blarney Castle was worth it, after all.
Wherever you go in Ireland, the best way to end a day touring Ireland is in a pub. Few things can beat local Irish fare with a pint of brew or cider and some traditional Irish music, except for maybe staying at a nearby B&B.
What about you? Would you spend a day at Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone?
- Plan your own visit at the official website for Blarney Castle and Gardens.
- See more photos from our day on our Blarney Castle photo gallery.
- Shop for Irish souvenirs online at Blarney Woollen Mills.
- Read more about Blarney on Amazon: