Home See & Do Visiting Blarney Castle: all you need to know to visit the most famous Irish Castle

Visiting Blarney Castle: all you need to know to visit the most famous Irish Castle

by Mama Loves Ireland

All you need to know for visiting Blarney Castle: what to expect, how to go, if the visit is worth it, how to kiss the Blarney Stone.

Blarney Castle is one of the most famous castles in Ireland and one of the countries most visited destinations.

It is famous for being a medieval stronghold and for a peculiar story attached to the famous ‘Blarney Stone’ a stone that, if kisses, will give the kissed the gift of eloquence.

But is visiting Blarney castle worth it?

After many years in Ireland, during which I had ignored this castle, writing it off as a tourist trap without giving it a chance, one summer we fianally went and wow! I fell in love!

I was not expecting Blarney to be as beautiful as impressive as it is and now I can say with confidence that it is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland and one that 100% worth seeing.

In this article I will explain why visiting and how to make the most if your time at Blarney.

Why is Blarney Castle famous?

Blarney Castle is most famous for being the home of the Blarney Stone.

This is a stone, high up at the top of the castle and that, if kissed, it is said to give the kissed the ‘gift of the gab’, aka the gift of eloquence.

It is not clear where the stone and its legend originally comes from however, there is no doubt that the stone attracts people from all over, thanks to its magical powers: over 200.000 people each year go kiss it!

The stone is by far the strongest reason for people to see the castle however, there is much more in Blarney than that.

The castle itself is stunning and atmospheric, the gardens around the castle are beautiful and the whole estate is rich of history and magical stories, which make it a wonderful place to visit also if you are visiting Ireland with kids.

Image of Blarney with text Is it worth visiting Blarney Castle

What is near Blarney Castle?

Blarney Castle is in the town of Blarney, in County Cork. It is an easy day trip from Cork city, and less than 2 hours away from Kilkenny and Killarney.

While far from Dublin (259 km, over 5 hours drive one way), the castle is so famous there are organized bus tours from Dublin to Blarney that make it possible to visit the castle as a day trip from Dublin too.

Best trips and day tours from Dublin to Blarney Castle

Many companies offer day tours to Blarney Castle.

They can be an excellent alternative to driving a car if you don’t feel like driving in Ireland or if you are on a road trip around the island and want to take a break from being behind a wheel for a day.

These are Blarney coach tours worth considering:

Good to now: if you are already in Cork, you can visit Blarney Castle and other tourist locations in the area with the hop-on hop-off bus service Cork Hopper.

How do you buy tickets for Blarney Castle

There are three main ways to book tickets for Blarney:

On day day, at the castle reception.

Online, from the castle official website

Taking a coach tour: they include entrance.

Need to know! The tickets to Blarney castle are NOT fast track and you will have to queue to visit the stone. They are however discounted if booked online so, if you are sure of the date of your visit, they can be worth it.

How to kiss the Blarney Stone

The most famous attraction of all in Blarney is the stone. It is at the very top of the castle and getting to it takes a bit of patience (the line can be VERY long) and not to be afraid of heights.

The stone sits in a peculiar position atop of the castle and to kiss it, it is necessary to lie on your back and bend over backwards over a sheer drop between the castle top and the ground below.

To do this, you hold onto a railing and you also have staff to hold onto you: depending on your height, you are not really dangling down, however, the top part of your body is, hence my note about only doing it if you are not afraid of heights.

Due to the peculiarity of the manoeuvre, kids under 8 are not allowed to kiss the stone unless this is deemed safe by the attendant. If you are planning to visiting Balrney Castle with kids, read our family guide here.

Is Blarney Castle worth visiting without kissing the stone?

Absolutley yes! While the Blarney Stone is the most famous thing about the Blarney Castle, there are very many more things to do here that make a stop worth it.

I myself have no interest in the stone (definitely not with that queue anyway) but always love a day at Blarney. You can very easily ignore the stone altogether and have a wonderful day here.

Things to see in Blarney Castle

As I mentioned, there are several things that make Blarney Castle worth seeing, beside the stone.

The castle itself

Blarney Castle is a medieval castle originally built in 1200s and then rebuilt in the form we see today in 1446. It is one of the most most impressive castles surviving in the country and it is very beautiful.

Its wall are made of dark stone and the main part of the castle is a might tower, complete with battlements.

The castle sits on a cliff and this position plus its height make it positively imposing!

The castle also has a circular tower beside it which adds to the might of the complex.

Need to know: Blarney Castle is a castle in ruin and is to be visited for its outside and structure. Do not expect plush interiors of regal decor inside it!

The poison garden

Probably my favorite bit of all the Blarney Castle Estate is the poison garden, the garden of medicinal herbs just beside the castle

This is a pretty, very well kept garden with medicinal herbs (poisons) and it is also a bit of a scary place as these plants truly are active if touched or ingested and can be very dangerous: some so much that they are kept in cages!

Among the others, there are wolfsbane, mandrake, ricin and opium.

Need to know: if visiting with kids (see below also) it is paramount that you make sure they do not touch the plants. This is not a place to let a toddler run free.

The wishing steps

Below the castle, you find the so called ‘Rock close’ a very atmospheric part of the gardens with evocative forests, a cave and magical corners such as the Blarney wishing steps.

The wishing steps, as the name suggests, are said to grant wishes to the people walking up and down them, with their eyes closed.

They are a cool corner of the garden and an absolute hit with our kids but fun for all visitors, regardless of age: if you are looking for ‘Romantic Ireland’, you will find it at these steps!

The witches’ stone

In the same are as the steps you will also find the witches’ stone, a stone that has the features of a witch!

This is a fun this to see and the darkness of the stone, plus the mossy appearance of the area and the canopy of trees, make it truly atmospheric.

The witch’s kitchen

Blarney Castle doesn’t only have a stone in the shape of a witch but also a real witch!

She is said to come out at night and, if you head early enough in the morning to her kitchen, in the rock close, you are said to be able to sometimes see the embers of her fire still burning!

As you can see, Blarney Castle is a wonderful place for anyone interested in Irish legends and folklore.

The woodland walks

One of the things that make a visit to Blarney castle so worth it there are the woodland walks around the castle.

Immediately beside the most visited part of the garden, the nature gets wilder and you will quickly find yourself in a beautiful wooded area that feels very far away for the castle and the city.

The walks doesn’t require any especial equipment or level of fitness and it is peaceful and beautiful.

Visiting Blarney Castle with kids

We visited Blarney castle with our two kids and we all had a blast.

The castle grounds are lovely for kids to run around and the wishing steps, the story of the Rock close area have that magical feel that will truly transport them in a work of magic potions and concoctions!

The castle is well equipped with shop and facilities however, there are a few things to take inot account:

  1. Kids under 8 are not allowed to kiss the stone, unless this is deemed safe by the Blarney attendant. Kissing the stone is dependent on height so also older kids with smaller height may be refused to participate.
  2. The poison garden truly has poisonous plants so you must make sure kids do not touch the plants or get to close.
  3. The inside of the castle is fun to visit with kids but hard with toddlers since the terrain is uneven and you do get pretty high up
  4. The gardens are easily accessible by stroller but the castle isn’t

Aside from this, the castle is a lovely place for a family day out and one I highly recommend. Find our tips for visiting Blarney with kids here.

Blarney castle practical info

Blarney castle is very well equipped to welcome tourists and has a shop with snacks and souvenirs.

Immediately outside the castle, we had lunch at the Blarney Hotel which has a welcoming restaurant and cafe and is conveniently located just in front of the the castle.

The castle gets very busy and while there is no problem for the gardens, even at busy times, the visit to the inside of the castle can be a problem. I recommend you try come as early as you can or later in the afternoon.

I hope you enjoyed this overview of Blarney Castle and it helped you plan you day and answer the question: is a visit to Blarney castle worth it?

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