I have to confess that I’d never heard of the Blarney Stone before moving here, but got the impression from E’s family that it’s one of the most well known attractions in the country.
In typical kiasu Singaporean fashion (we had a word for ‘fear of missing out’ before FOMO was even a thing), I decided that we couldn’t not visit the Blarney Stone when it’s a mere 25 min drive away.
So off we went, on a very cold – but dry – day. I’d read in Lonely Planet that Blarney Castle isn’t the most impressive in the area, so I definitely wasn’t expecting this:
I mean, this is more than what you’d get in castles up north! That shot above was a hurriedly snapped one, as we were rushing to get ahead of a massive tour group from Texas. We managed to out walk some, but not all:
We stood in line to make our way up the steep steps. The spiral staircase is narrow too – it’s definitely not recommended for the claustrophobic, and some visitors might find it a tight squeeze all around. There were good views of the castle grounds from the top:
You can just about make out the person kissing the Blarney Stone on the right corner below. You lie on a smooth, flat plastic mat, grab the bars at your head, then slide yourself backwards until you can kiss the stone.
From the ground, you can see people kissing the stone too – there’re metal grilles below so you can’t fall to the ground. The stone also gets a clean and a wipe ever so often, by a staff member who sits next to the kisser to grab them if necessary.
Schedule plenty of time when visiting Blarney Castle though, as there’s plenty to do besides kissing the Blarney Stone. The castle grounds are beautiful, and include various attractions including a poison garden. The Japanese Holly and hellebore below are pretty but can be deadly:
There’s also a fern garden – it was strange to see familiar plants from home in such a cold place:
There’re other interesting features dotted around the castle grounds too, such as caves that were used by soldiers to escape/defend, a stone lookout tower and Blarney House (closed to visitors):
However, I enjoyed the walk around the Rock Close the most. There was water cascading down into a stream, a Witch’s Cave and Witches’ Stone, and druid circles and sacrificial altars. I was lapping up the myth and legend.
We spent about 2.5hrs on the Blarney Castle grounds, even without much of a queue to kiss the stone and having skipped the longer walks around the edges of the grounds. The queue after we’d kissed the stone was not moving at all, so it’d take considerably longer if it’s crowded – do allow plenty of time to take in the beautiful grounds when visiting Blarney Castle!
Do also check out my other post about the Rock of Cashel and Hore Abbey in Cashel – it’s a great pit stop if you’re heading to Cork from the north (or heading there from Cork)!