I finally had an excuse to visit Blarney Castle! Dario’s family was visiting from Italy, so I took the opportunity to head up the hill and gain the gift of eloquence (about time!). I dragged my friend, Steven, along, too. He’s a bad, bad Irishman and had never been there. That situation is now remedied, whew! (I am saving Ireland’s residents from themselves one person at a time.)
I just remembered that the first place I heard of the Blarney Stone was in a Richard Scarry book. It is sadly out of print, but available used and on VHS. Patrick Pig learned to talk! Woohoo!
A view of the castle from the grounds.
The walk from the ticket booth (€ 10 per person) to the castle is lovely. There is a path that passes through a few picnic areas, green fields, and trees, and crosses a few picturesque streams (not pictured; oh the irony). Actually, looking at the map, I see that the bodies of water in question are labeled the River Martin and Blarney River, respectively. Hmm. I suppose a small child could get swept away after a particularly heavy rain, but I am not sure that anyone other than my cat would hesitate to cross. (They are really quite wee.)
Bridges crossing the strea– er, rivers — reveal that many visitors to the grounds have tossed in a coin or two to commemorate their visit. Maybe it’s to appease the fair folk, in which case I have failed, as I did not toss in any coins. I may actually deserve all the misplaced keys and sunglasses that I now anticipate during my stay in Ireland.
Queen Elizabeth I is reputed to be the first to equate the name Blarney with the idea of smooth talkin’.
As much as I love Rick Steves and his travel guides, I have to disagree with his assessment of Blarney Castle. He says “…the 15th century Blarney Castle is an empty hulk (with no effort put forth to make it meaningful or interesting).” We found numerous helpful and entertaining signs posted throughout. In fairness, I believe the signs are new. Heck, they could even be in response to the unflattering description by Mr. Steves.
According to the official castle website, Queen Elizabeth I was said to have to have commanded the Earl of Leicester to take possession of the castle. The sign above further states:
Her emissary, Sir George Carew, was charged with persuading the MacCarthy chieftain to abandon his ancient rights and accept the authority of the English throne. Every time he tried, he was met with long and eloquent protestations of loyalty and honeyed flattery of the Queen — but also with no agreement. In frustration, Elizabeth exclaimed, “This is all Blarney. What he says he never means.” And a new word was born.
I say good for the MacCarthy chieftain! *applause!*
Badgers Cave. Naturally I thought of the Weebls song. Is it stuck in your head now? You’re welcome.
Below the castle there are numerous openings, some natural, some human-built. They all seem to have connected with the castle at one time or another. Badgers Cave is said to have allowed nearly all the castle inhabitants to escape the invasion of Oliver Cromwell and his army. (They even managed to take a fabled golden plate with them, later shipping it to Utah for safe keeping.) Good thing, too. I hear that guy was a jerk.
Ah! Bella Capri!
Funnily enough (wow, “funnily” is actually a word!), a sign near the entrance to the dungeon showed a picture of a traveler heading from Blarney to Capri. The caption mentioned something about a Discovery Channel list that says kissing the Blarney Stone is among 99 things you should do before you die. I’m guessing that visiting La Grotta Azzurra is likewise on the list. I’m sure Dario’s parents were glad they traveled all the way from Italy to Ireland to be shown a picture of someone going to Italy.
Serenella escapes from the dungeon. She’s good like that.
Edgar Allen Poe-esque scene. Or perhaps Edward Gorey. No, the tower is not actually leaning
— but maybe THAT’S WHAT’S SO SPOOKY!
The priest is on top of the young lady. Erm, I mean, uh…
On the climb up to the famous stone, we passed through feasting halls, the kitchen, a chapel, and a priest’s bedroom. It was situated very close to the Young Ladies Bedroom. Disturbingly close, in fact, considering that there was no floor betwixt the two! I assume there used to be a floor, but you know what they say about the word “assume…”
I had done a bit of research and realized that mad yoga skills and a sense of adventure would be necessary to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. I did not, however, realize that just getting there would be such a trek!
Ooooh! So that’s what he meant about it being an empty hulk.
Whew! Made it to the top! Narrow, squeezy, spiral stairs that got narrower toward the top. One wonders how Oliver Hardy and Winston Churchill, who both visited the castle and kissed the stone (though probably not at the same time) managed to make it up here. Glad I had the picture-taking excuse to stop several times on the way up.
A very Blarney warning.
Along the way to the Stone, there were several signs discussing the history of the castle, the Stone’s place in pop culture, poetry, the difference between baloney and blarney, and what it means to be Irish. Also a warning not to be fooled by false claimants to the title of Blarney Stone!
The above poem, by John Hogan, reads:
Here, on the top, exists the wondrous stone,
Which to the tongue imparts that soft’ning tone;
Its high pretensions are acknowledged wide,
And with the nation ’tis identified:
Nor can its long-established fame subside
Throughout the world, till tongues themselves have died;
But this strange feature multitudes have got
Who know no other of this charming spot.
…aaaaand there it is! Is it all you imagined it would be?
I turned around after this and grabbed a quick shot across the inside of the castle. Somehow in turning back around I bumped a setting on the camera and managed to mess up the picture of Serenella. Sigh. Sorry about that. But still, it’s proof that she did it, so I’m including the blurry pic anyway:
Yay! Now she’ll stop being so shy in crowds!
I have a gap-toothed grin. This means I am very friendly. And now I know how to talk.
Steven is now properly Irish. That’s good. The fake accent was getting a little weird.
Renato now speaks fluent English.
A view from the top. The stable yard, presumably part of the 17th century Blarney House, is to the right.
On the way back down, we passed by several more informative and silly signs. Included was one of the Banqueting Hall that finally explained what the heck “craic” is!
“It Was Great Craic”
The funny thing is, it’s pronounced like “crack.” It makes it difficult to tell Dario he’s been “smokin’ the crack” when he’s all wrong-headed about something, because he just thinks I’m telling him he’s had a jolly good time.
Hmm… greet or kill?
This charming little gap is called a “murder hole.” Nice, isn’t it? You can either welcome your guests and drop rose petals on their heads or, if you suspect the pizza boy is a Cromwellian agent, pour boiling liquid on him. I LOVE Irish hospitality!
The Blarney Stone from the outside.
Woooow! That is a ways up there, gosh. I’m glad I’m not particularly afraid of heights, or I would have been really concerned about that drop. Well, if anything had gone wrong, I wouldn’t have had to worry for very long.
After kissing the stone and visiting the castle, we took a quick stroll through the Rock Close, an area with lots of great rock formations, gardens, and waterfalls. But that’s a whole different set of pictures! …Oh, ok. Since you insisted, I’ll put in one picture of the Dolmen.
If you get the chance to visit Blarney Castle in the winter, it’s really worth going. No crowds and plenty of time to position yourself for a proper smooch without pressure from tour groups building up behind you. The gardens are a bit dreary, but still lovely in their own way. Dario’s family and I discussed coming back in the summertime to have a picnic and look around at the plants and such. Probably the best way to do it, since I would NOT want to be squeezing through the narrow castle passageways with hundreds of other people pressing to move forward at the same time. (Edit: went back with a friend and took some lovely photos of the gardens.)
Also, we had a GREAT time! We laughed and chatted and giggled the whole way. In this case, Rick Steves can stuff it — Blarney Castle is TOTALLY worth a visit! And you never know — your Italian relatives just may end up with fluent English. ;)
Have you kissed the Blarney Stone?
So fun to read your post and see pictures, having just returned from Ireland myself! (Yes, I kissed the Blarney Stone :)
I found your blog while searching for the said “Discovery Channel list” of 99 things to do before you die. When we read the plaque at the castle, we became curious as to the other 98 things. Alas, I cannot find a Discovery Channel list anywhere- not on their website or any other for that matter. Could the Blarney Stone plaque writers have made a mistake? Or am I not looking in the right place? Any ideas what “list” they are referring to?
(For those who might be wondering, the stone is disinfected between kisses :) Blessings!
Hi, Holly! Thank you and glad you enjoyed the read. :)
I searched online for that list you mentioned and found a few references to it, but it seems they removed the link a long time ago. I think it was put up in 2006, which is eons in internet time, so it’s not surprising.
I found a reference to the fact that the list may, originally, have had 101 things on it (!), so this copy might be accurate: http://pandorastravelbox.blogspot.ie/2006/03/travel-channel-101-things-to-do-before.html
…and now I have to go see how many more things I need to check off that list!
Thank you for the tips!
My pleasure! Please do let me know how it goes. :)
Next month will be my 3rd trip to Ireland. I had not gone to Blarney Castle on 1st two trips. This time, I am traveling with my sister, this being her first trip. We are stopping at Blarney to kiss the stone because she wanted to, but after reading your post and similiar commentary from others, I’m looking forward to it:) I really enjoyed your description and photos.
I’m hoping it won’t be too crowded mid-April. I was wondering if you would recommend buying the tickets in advance online? Is there any benefit,eg; will those who have tickets not have to wait in line? Thank you much.
Hey, Stacey! I don’t think there’s an advantage to buying them in advance. You buy them right at the turnstile before entering the grounds, so I think everyone has to go through that space anyway. I will say that I have only been there on days that were not especially crowded, however.
I think the big thing to worry about is not showing up when the hordes of tour buses are unloading. You might want to give them a call and see if they can give you any hints for avoiding the busiest hours. Phone number and email info are here: http://www.blarneycastle.ie/pages/contact
Let me know how it all turns out – and have a great time!
Definitely going to do this!
Oh, you must, James! It’s one of those kitchy tourist things that is, nevertheless, so much fun. Let me know how it goes. :D
I have been to Blarney castle but I didn’t go up to kiss the stone. I have a terrible fear of heights but my friends did go to the top. I just stood on the ground and blew kisses toward the stone. I actually had some other tourists there doing the same thing. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories.
That’s brilliant, Catherine! I’m sure, given the circumstances, a blown kiss was just as efficacious. (It’s great when you get people to join in, too, eh? :D) Well done!
Saw this place featured for the first time on television (yes, TV) on Samantha Brown’s Passport Through Europe. I was fascinated then, but even more fascinated now. But knowing me, I may have a hard time kissing the stone upside down, as I’m not that limber. I’ll have to wait and see!
You’ll be fine, Sherry. You don’t actually have to be that limber AND you have help. When you go, please let me know! :D
Love this! I will totally do this next time I am in Ireland
Glad to hear it, Jade! If you’re a fan of fish and chips, there’s a lovely chipper in town across the square from the entrance. It’s called Fat Jacks Takeaway (mmm… could use some fish and chips right now!). The Blarney Woolen Mills look to have some nice eateries, but quite pricey and touristy.
Be sure to let me know how the kiss goes! ;)
Hmnmm… I don’t think it was the Blarney stone that got my dad start speaking fluent English all of a sudden. Red wine and lemoncello may have had something to do with it :)
I agree that somewhat dreary gardens is the perfect price to pay to avoid huge crowds and coachloads of tourists.
Ah, so you skipped Ireland, followed the advice of the sign, and went straight to Capri? Well, there are worse ways to learn a new language than in the embrace of delicious Italian beverages. ;)
I really enjoyed our trip to Blarney Castle – and you guys were the ones who recommended it to us, I believe – so thanks! =)
Our pleasure. And so glad you enjoyed it. It really deserves a whole day, I think, rather than an afternoon because the grounds are so beautiful.
Ah, some day soon we will buy ourselves a house on Beara and drive to Cork for Big City Weekends. A Blarney Castle picnic day will have to be in the mix! *sighs and continues dreaming…*
Blarney Castle really is worth a visit. I thought it was very interesting & the grounds are beautiful. Also admit that I very much enjoyed kissing the Blarney Stone. Glad to know that you’re giving your Irish friends a tour of their wonderful country, too.
I know, what would the world do without Americans, right? ;) I really enjoyed it. I’ve discovered that I have a think for kitsch and touristy things. Sometimes I roll my eyes, but most of the time I giggle in delight. I’m aware of the cheese but love it anyway!
OK, let me see if I understood the contortionist antics: you get on your knees with your back to the stone, do a half back bend to grab the metal struts, kiss the stone upside down, and hope you can a) keep from falling, b) get yourself back up. Right? Did Renato’s fluent English sound somewhat like cursing, perhaps?
Actually, you lay on your back, then reach over your head to grab the bars. The helpful helper guy (whose name is Ken, btw) helps. If you have family present, they hold your feet. If you don’t, I’d suggest you tip Ken in advance. Generously.
Here is a picture of a sign at the castle explaining the position: http://media.tourabsurd.com/images/blarney_position.jpg
Here is an unflattering, but more explanatory, picture of me doing the stretch: http://media.tourabsurd.com/images/blarney_stretch.jpg
And Renato’s English mostly sounds like laughter. ;)