Kissing the Blarney Stone
The Blarney Stone is one of the best known advertisements of Ireland. So many people around the world know about it and want to kiss it but why? Most people in Ireland haven’t kissed the Blarney Stone and are not really sure why this strange tradition is done and definitely don’t know how it came about. It gives you the ‘gift of the gab’ they say but then most Irish people must have kissed it but it only manifests itself after several pints of beer! Kissing a stone is a little strange at the best of times but when you have to go to the top of a castle and literally bend over backwards over the precipice then it gets a lot stranger. The Blarney Stone in Blarney Castle is Ireland 9th most popular attraction so why head along? To be sure to be sure of course!
I am Irish and although I had been to Cork numerous times I had never been to the famous Blarney Castle even though it is just outside the city. So to join all the tourists I headed out to see what the fuss was about. Blarney Castle is located on what looks like a huge estate on the map they give you but in fact it’s really not that big. It has lots of well looked after trees, grass and a stream and is a good place to get some air but it wouldn’t be somewhere to spend hours going for a brisk walk. The €12 in would probably put a stop to that anyway. The grounds have a cave and several gardens including a poison garden and Arboretum as well as the castle. The focal point is Blarney castle and is impressive and although not half as big as Dublin or Trim castle, the location on top of a rock outcrop means it is an imposing sight as you approach. The castle that is there now was built in 1446 which was built on an earlier 13th century stone structure which was built on a 10th century wooden structure. As you approach the castle over the stream there is a balcony high above which is off one of the main bedrooms, presumably for the King. One of the funnier things though is that close to this balcony is a little hole in the wall which is…….the toilet. You see from inside that you have a little seat and hole in the wall which then nicely falls to the ground almost directly under this beautiful balcony. Not exactly the smell you want to inhale when surveying your kingdom in the morning!
Bending over backwards to Kiss the Blarney Stone
The famous Blarney stone is thought to have been given (one of many stories) by Robert the Bruce from Scotland after Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster, supplied him with 4,000 men for the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and it was placed in the battlements thereafter. Now why Robert thought Cormac needed a stone that would give him the ‘gift of the gab’ is a little beyond me but maybe it’s one of those virtues that has been lost in time. Queen Elizabeth I inadvertently named the castle after ordering its capture but with so many delays she said it was ‘blarney’ and hence the name has stuck since. As you enter the castle and make your way up through the narrow staircases through the main dining halls, bedrooms and toilets you are filled with wonder how such a structure was built 700years ago. It is still standing first of all but also well laid out and stylish, in a 15th century sort of way, that it would still be comfy today if you put down a warm fire. Blarney Castle has dungeons below and trapdoors above throughout so if you were trying to invade it you would have your work cut out.
As I was to discover the Blarney Stone is actually on the roof which I didn’t know before but more worryingly it is actually over the edge. So in order to kiss the Blarney Stone you need to lie on your back and slide down towards the green grass 30mtrs (90ft) below and kiss the bottom of an outer wall. At least these days there are posts to hold onto and a man there to guide and hold you but it is not exactly what I had in mind. Back in the day with nothing to hold the kisser had to be held by the ankles and lowered down. If you have a fear of heights then this might not be the best way to get this gift of eloquence. You would have thought King Cormac might have put it in a more accessible location! It started to rain as I was doing it so it was a quick affair and although I probably talked a bit more than normal while we had coffee in the cafe waiting for the rain to pass I am not sure that the gift from the Blarney Stone continues to this day. Maybe it does and this post should be shorter! We looked in the poison garden and wondered how we are still alive with all the plants that are poisonous including the rhubarb and marijuana plants. Keep kids on a close leash if walking through this one. Through the large gardens there is also the 150year old period house of Blarney House which is a super impressive attraction all by itself and is open to the public (except during winter).
Although the entry is steep it is worth the visit to see what the fuss is about and all the information boards throughout give you a good idea of the history of the area. If you do visit to kiss the Blarney Stone then you will be following in the footsteps of people like Winston Churchill, Laurel and Hardy, Mick Jagger and an episode of the Simpsons.
Practicalities – About Blarney Castle and Kissing the Blarney Stone
- Admission – €12 adults, children €5
- Opening times:
- Oct-April: Mon-Sat 09:00-17:30, Sun 09:00-16:30
- May-Sept: Mon-Sat 09:00-18:30, Sun 09:00-17:30
- Directions: Blarney Castle is in the town of Blarney 9km (5miles) north west of Cork City. The easiest way to get there is to head north on the Mallow/Limerick road (N20). Blarney is signposted 9km north of the city.
- Bus: The 215 Bus Eireann bus goes from Cork city center to Blarney which goes every 30min during the week and is more infrequent during the weekend.