Nearly every town and city has a tourist trap. For a Corkonian, it is the Blarney Stone. I grew up ten minutes away from this attraction but did not actually visit it until my early twenties when an American friend came to visit. The Blarney Stone is to Cork as the Space Needle is to Seattle. An enthrallment that foreigners flock to and locals stay well away from.
My good friend Julie, who also lives in Seattle, had a wedding in Kinsale over the weekend. So when I got a text from her on a Tuesday morning saying she would be visiting Blarney Castle and would I like to join, I thought why not! And me oh my! Was I surprised.
On the other two times I had visited The Blarney Stone, I had only ever visited the castle. I had never explored the rest of the grounds. This place has a lot more than meets the eye and the kids and I spent four lovely hours taking it all in with Julie and her crew. It was a surprisingly fabulous afternoon!
The fifteenth century Blarney Castle and tower house greet you when you first enter.
There are also little caves under the castle that you can explore. They are tight though! Not recommended for anyone prone to claustrophobia. We got about half way through before turning back.
The grounds themselves are stunning. Three or four trails lead you into gorgeous lush gardens such as the fern garden and the arboretum.
There is also the famous Poison Garden tucked right behind the castle hosting a collection of poisonous plants from around the world. The brochure reads, “It will either kill you or cure you.” The kids were enthralled.
The castle is not the only structure on the grounds. The gardens are also home to Blarney House, which is in of itself impressive.
My favorite feature of Blarney Castle and Grounds was the magical Rock Close and Water Garden. This beautiful place reminisces on mystical druidic times in Ireland with mini waterfalls and a megalithic tomb.
If you’ve ever watched The Never Ending Story, the following photo will draw on the heartstrings…..
We stumbled upon The Wishing Steps in the garden. Story has it if you walk down the steps backwards with your eyes closed, all your wishes will come true.
But the main attraction of this place is The Blarney Stone itself. It has legendary status all over the world. The story goes that if you kiss the stone, you will receive the Gift of the Gab (something I clearly don’t need!) Now listen, the stone is not in the middle of a field. It is right at the top of The Blarney Castle. You have to lean out over a steep ledge and shimmy your back over a 37 foot drop with the support of a gentleman who works there year round in order to kiss it. Not for the faint of heart! When we first arrived at noon, the line to climb up the castle was two hours. No thanks! Instead we explored the rest of the grounds and came back at 3pm. At that stage the line was forty five minutes. Still not ideal when you are on your own with a four and six year old. (Julie and crew had left at this stage).
(That’s the line winding its way up the castle!)
KJ was too small to kiss the stone, but Ro braved the heights and smacked one on. Afterwards she remarked, “That was kind of gross! So many people are kissing the same place!” Can’t disagree with her there. I am going to pretend that the reason I didn’t kiss the stone on this day was because I had already done it on a separate occasion (I really had!)….. and not that I chickened out when I looked down the 37 foot drop!
All in all, a really wonderful way to spend an afternoon in Cork. Thanks for inviting me Julie!!