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Visiting Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland

Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland

Every year, millions of visitors make the pilgrimage to the top of Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. But there’s so much more to this castle than the stone.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone twice now. They say kissing the stone gives you the “gift of gab”. Am I extra gabby now? Does my gab work for writing too? Because I’ve definitely been writing a lot lately!

Blarney Castle History

Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland

This is technically the third castle built here. Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster, built the current stone castle in 1446 on an 8 meter cliff rock.

During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, she commanded the Earl of Leicester to take over the castle. But whenever the Earl attempted to negotiate with McCarthy, McCarthy would delay with a banquet. In the end, the castle was never taken.

That is, of course, until Cromwell’s army came. They did manage to break the tower walls, but when they entered the castle, they found the defending garrison had fled through underground tunnels.

Sir James St. John Jefferyes, Governor of Cork, bought the castle in 1688. The family built a Georgian Gothic house up against the keep of the castle and laid out the magnificent garden. In 1820 the house accidentally caught fire and was destroyed. The family built a new house in the Scottish baronial style south of the castle, which has been the family home since 1874.

Touring Blarney Castle

The Castle Grounds

Blarney Castle Grounds, Blarney, Ireland

60 acres of sprawling parklands cover the castle grounds, including 6 different gardens: the poison garden, the fern garden and ice house, the arboretums and pinetum, the herbaceous border, the bog garden, and the Irish garden. There’s plenty to find hidden away on the grounds, making for a tranquil and magical setting that complements the castle.

The Rock Close is a combination of nature and art in an enchanted spot made up of Wishing Steps and the sacrificial altar of the ancient Druids.

In the Stable Yard you’ll find a quaint cafe serving Guinness stew, sausage rolls, and snacks as well as selling jams, juices, and loganberry ice cream made from ingredients from the estate.

The Blarney House is the family home of the Jefferyes, who bought the castle in 1688. The home began as a Georgian gothic house built against the keep of the castle, but that house burned down in 1820s. The Jefferyes intermarried with the Colthurst family, and Lady Colthurst is responsible for the new Blarney House in the Scottish baronial style built to the south of the castle, completed in 1874.

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland

On your way up to kiss the stone, you’ll walk up 128 steps, passing through rooms of the castle. Though many people are there just to stand in line for the stone, you should take a moment to look around the rooms and read the informational signs.

The top of the castle is wide open, allowing for stunning views of the Blarney estate and the Irish countryside. So take a look around before leaning back and kissing the stone.

You can explore the dungeons beneath the tower house, though most of the underground passages are now inaccessible. The Badger’s Cave also runs underneath the castle. When Cromwell’s general besieged the castle in 1646 expecting to find gold, he found that the main garrison had fled by these tunnels. Legend says that there are three passages: one that runs to Cork, one that runs to the lake on the estate, and one that runs to Kerry.

The Blarney Stone

Kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland

Legend surrounds the Blarney Stone, as it does much of Blarney Castle.

Some claim the stone was Jacob’s Pillow brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. This stone then became the Lia Fail, used as an oracular throne for appointing Irish Kings.

Or it may be the Stone of Ezel that David hid behind when he fled from Saul, or that it was the stone that gushed water when struck by Moses.

It is also surmised to be the deathbed pillow of St. Columba from the island of Iona, where it was then removed to Scotland to become the Stone of Destiny, the stone on which the Kings of Scotland were crowned. According to legend, the McCarthy’s helped Robert the Bruce of Scotland in his victory over England at Bannockburn in 1314. Bruce rewarded the family with a piece of this stone.

For over 200 years, people from around the world have climbed the steps of Blarney Castle to bend over backwards to kiss the stone and gain the gift of eloquence.

Visiting Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland

Blarney Castle and Gardens has opening times that depend on the season. I’ve outlined those below:

  • January through March: 9 a.m. — 5 p.m.
  • April: 9 a.m. — 5:30 p.m.
  • May through September: 9 a.m. — 6 p.m.
  • October: 9 a.m. — 5:30 p.m.
  • November through December: 9 a.m. — 5 p.m.
  • December 26 & January 1: 10 a.m. — 5 p.m.

Last admission is 1 hour before closing.

Admission costs €20 for adults, €16 for students and seniors 65+, €9 for children ages 6-16, and free for children 5 and under. Your admission includes entrance to the castle, the option to kiss the stone, the entire gardens, the rock close gardens, the dungeons, the caves, and the lake walk. You can purchase a souvenir audio guide for €6.

Since this is such a huge attraction, you can expect a lot of crowds. The best time to visit Blarney Castle would be either very early or very late. The big tour buses will be arriving mid-day, so you’ll want to aim for when the grounds open at 9 a.m. or closer to closing time.

Castle Count: 16

My first trip to Blarney Castle was part of one of my “two-castles-in-one-day” trips, and can easily be done in conjunction with a trip to Blackrock Castle.

My second trip to Blarney Castle was part of my “three-castles-in-one-day” trips, because the more castles the better! This can easily be done in conjunction with a trip to the Rock of Cashel and Cahir Castle. You can read about the tour I took here: A Day Trip Traveling Across Southern Ireland.

Ready to visit Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland? Plan your trip with these tips.



Visiting Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland

Have you kissed the Blarney Stone? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Sounds like you could easily fill a day visiting this castle. We haven’t yet been to Ireland, but we hope to get there someday. Looks like a great place to visit.

  2. Amazing! I loved this information. So much history. I kissed the stone back in 1996, but don’t remember ever walking the grounds and taking it all in. You’ve inspired me to go back for a second time! Back on the bucket list.

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