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Every year about 400,000 people flock to County Cork to kiss the Blarney Stone. If you’re wondering what the heck the Blarney Stone is, it’s a famous stone that’s built into the battlements of Blarney Castle.
So the legend goes, anyone kisses it will be given with the gift of eloquence, or the “gift of the gab”.
Before we went to the Blarney Stone, I envisaged just kissing some boulder on the ground or something. No big deal.
But it turns kissing the the Blarney Stone involves LYING DOWN on your back, holding on to some railings, and edging yourself over a HUGE gap meters above the ground.
Now I don’t think this is something I’ve mentioned before, but I’m a little afraid of heights! It was nothing to worry about though, as there was someone holding onto me and I couldn’t see the ground anyway because I was on my back.
But why do people kiss the Blarney stone? What’s the story behind it? In this guide I’ll cover everything you need to know about it, plus practical info such as entrance fees and how to get to Blarney Castle.
Where is the Blarney Stone?
The Blarney Stone is located at Blarney Castle in County Cork. The nearest town is Blarney, which is about 9.5km northwest of Cork city.
Cork is near the south coast of Ireland and has its own airport, which is the second largest airport after Dublin.
What is the Blarney Stone?
The Blarney Stone is an ancient block of Carboniferous limestone that was built into the battlements of Blarney Castle in 1446. Nobody knows the exact story behind its origin, as there are several myths and legends surrounding it.
“Blarney” has come to mean “skilful flattery” or ‘beguiling but misleading talk’ and you’ll often hear people saying, “What a load of Blarney!”
How to Kiss the Blarney Stone
Millions of people from all over the world have kissed the Blarney Stone, including famous people such as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and Mick Jagger.
In order to kiss the stone you must first climb to the top of the castle and line up with all the other tourists. When it’s finally your turn the assistant will get you to lay down on your back so you’re leaning over the parapet’s edge. It’s really not that scary as there are hand rails that you can hold onto in order to support yourself.
How to Get to the Blarney Stone
The best way to get to the Blarney Stone is by renting a car. There’s on-site parking at Blarney Castle which costs €2 for the day. You could fly into Dublin and rent a car from there, or you could fly into Cork Airport and pick up a car. I use Rentalcars.com to check prices. Remember that they drive on the left in Ireland, which will take some getting used to if you’re coming from a country like the US or or other countries in Europe.
Driving directions from Cork Airport:
- Follow signs for City Centre
- From City Centre follow signs for Limerick (N20)
- Travel for 7 km; exit left (signposted Blarney)
- Arrive at Blarney
Driving Directions from Shannon:
- Follow the road to Limerick.
- Follow the signs for Mallow and take the turn off before Cork City
- Arrive at Blarney
Driving directions from Dublin:
- Journey time is 2-3 hours from Dublin
- Take the N8 motorway and follow the signs south for Cork
- Then follow the signs to Blarney.
You can also get to Blarney Castle by taking a tour. I did a Paddywagon Tour and entry to Blarney Castle was included, so the driver handed us our tickets and we were able to go straight in!
Aside from Paddywagon Tours I also really like GetYourGuide. They’re so easy to use for booking tours. Here are some tours to Blarney Castle:
Public Transportation Between Dublin and Cork
If you don’t want to drive from Dublin to Cork, you can take the train or bus. Check www.irishrail.ie for train timetables and www.buseireann.ie for bus timetables. There’s also an Aircoach that leaves Dublin airport eight times a day directly for Cork. The journey time for the bus can take anywhere from 5-7 hours depending on traffic. See www.aircoach.ie for tickets and timetables.
History of Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle is a large tower house that dates from 1446 and was built by the MacCarthys of Muskerry. It consists of two towers – the second one was added in the 1500s and you can see the line where the two phases meet. The towers are 18ft thick at the base and slope inwards towards the top in order to make it more stable.
According to legend, Queen Elizabeth 1 ordered the Earl of Leicester to take over the castle. However whenever the Earl visited, McCarthy always suggested a banquet or thought of some clever way to delay things. Whenever Elizabeth asked for a report on his progress, he sent a long letter with the story always ending that the castle remained untaken. She was reportedly so annoyed that she said it was a lot of “Blarney”.
Myths and Legends of the Blarney Stone
There are numerous legends about the Blarney Stone. Here are just a few of them:
MacCarthy Rescued a Witch
One legend says that Cormac McTaidhg Láidir MacCarthy rescued a woman from a drowning river and she turned out to be a witch. The witch was so grateful for him saving her life that she told him about a stone in the castle that had magical properties.
A Gift From Robert Bruce
According to another legend, the Blarney Stone was given to the MacCarthy Chieftain by Robert Bruce. The stone was a thank you gift for the support MacCarthy offered in sending 5,000-foot soldiers to Scotland to help Bruce against Edward II. According to the tale, it is a piece of the Stone of Scone, which has been used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland and the United Kingdom.
A Pillow in Jacob’s Ladder
Another story says that the Blarney Stone was used by Jacob as a pillow when he dreamed of a ladder that ascended to heaven. The story of Jacob’s Ladder is a biblical story that appears in the Book of Genesis and supposedly the stone was brought from the Holy Land after the Crusades.
Queen of the Fairies Had a Broken Heart
The most romantic Blarney Stone legend is that the Queen of the Fairies fell in love with a gallant chieftain who broke her heart. He was killed in battle and she found his body on a stone by the banks of the River Lee. She kissed and cried on the stone, causing her magical powers to be absorbed by it. She advised Cormac Láidir MacCarthy to build the stone into the battlements and told him that if he kissed it his troubles would be gone.
Other Things to See at Blarney Castle
When you visit Blarney Castle there’s so much more to see and do than just kissing the Blarney Stone. Your ticket grants you access to the castle as well as 60 acres of gardens filled with plant life, flowers and sculptures.
The woodlands, lakes and rivers within the estate are home to a variety of native wildlife, including badgers, otters, red squirrels, barn owls, kingfishers, trout and salmon. There are also stables with many horses and donkeys on-site.
Blarney Castle Gardens
Highlights of the gardens include:
The Carnivorous Courtyard – A courtyard filled with carnivorous plants that trap insects and animals such as frogs and lizards.
The Fern Garden – A quiet and peaceful garden filled with tall Dicksonias (tree ferns) that are survivors of the Jurassic period.
Board Walk and Water Garden – A pretty garden with waterfalls and a raised board walk surrounded by Gunnera manicata and water loving plants.
Herbaceous Border – A 100-metre-long double herbaceous border, topped off with an 80m rose pergola. The border is filled with colorful flowers and a variety of herbaceous plants.
Blarney Castle Walking Trails
There are 3 walking trails at Blarney Castle – the Woodland Walk, the Lake Walk and the Riverside Walk. I’d recommend allowing yourself a few hours at Blarney Castle so you can take a stroll amongst nature.
Lake Walk – The walk around Blarney Castle’s lake takes about 45 minutes to complete. The scenery here is very beautiful and you’ll be able to see swans and waterfowl that live on the lake.
Riverside Walk – Follows the river Martin west to the far end of the estate. The walk is covered in a dense canopy and you’ll have the chance of seeing the otters and kingfishers that live on the estate.
Woodland Walk– A peaceful woodland walk that leads to a circuit of the 21-acre Blarney Lake. While walking along the path you may hear the sound of Squirrels and Jays that live within the woodlands.
If you’re feeling hungry or thirsty after your walk, there’s an on-site cafe and a coffee stand just inside the entrance.
FAQs About Kissing the Blarney Stone
Yes, the castle is open and you can kiss the Blarney Stone.
With over 400,000 tourists kissing the Blarney Stone every year, it’s often been listed as one of the world’s germiest attractions. However, since the COVID pandemic, different processes have been put into place to make sure it’s more sanitary. Staff clean the stone between kisses using a cleanser that kills 99.9% of germs and viruses. They also wipe down the railings regularly.
It’s really not too difficult to kiss the Blarney Stone. I’m afraid of heights and edges but since I was laying on my back I couldn’t see the big drop. You just have to lay on your back and hold onto the hand rails. Plus there’ll be a member of staff helping you.
Generally you need to be 8 years old to kiss the Blarney Stone, although it says on the official website that kids under the age of 8 are up to the discretion of the staff member.
In order to kiss the Blarney Stone you’ll need to pay the entrance fee to enter Blarney Castle. You can buy tickets online or you can get them at the ticket office when you arrive. The entrance fee is currently €18 for adults, €14 for seniors and students, and €8 for children. You can also purchase a family ticket for €45, which includes two adults and two children. Visa and Mastercard are accepted.
A Final Word…
Kissing the Blarney stone is one of the top things to do in Ireland and is usually included on most Ireland itineraries. Does it actually give people the “gift of eloquence”? I think it’s safe to say that the stone has no magical powers and it’s all just legend, but it’s still a fun thing to experience.
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