If you decide to be a real tourist and kiss the stone you have to pay admission to tour the castle. Thats the easy part. Then you have to climb to the top of the castle. Thats the hard part! As it is with any old castle or ruin, the steps in the towers are very narrow and steep. And this castle is quite tall. Its a big of a task to take the climb, but if your agile, and adventurous then go ahead and make the climb. Even if you decide not to kiss the stone, the views from the top are beautiful. Take a look at my photos here. You will see the tower where the stone is located. You have to be at the top, where you lay down on your back and tilt you head back over the top of the tower to kiss the stone. There is someone there to help balance you, and there are several small bars below the stone to protect you from falling through. If you look at the second photo here you will be able to see the opening where the stone is located.
For all of its mythical magical qualities, the main thing I noticed after kissing the stone, was that I was a little dizzy. Keep in mind, I had to remove my glasses which at my age I seldom allow to happen. Then I had to lay down on my back and tip my head downward from the top of a very tall tower. So of course the blood ran right to my head. So when the gentleman at the tower helped me back up I was quite dizzy for a second. I mentioned this to him, and he said it happens to most people because of the angle of you head when you kiss the stone. then he politely showed me his cup for tips and bid me goodbye. I didn't mind tipping him though. After all he was not young either and he spends the day lifting fat tourists like me off their backs when they kiss the stone.
Blarney is a very beautiful little village in Ireland. If there were not castle or stone in Blarney, it would still be a nice place for a day trip. But there is a castle, and there is a Blarney Stone, which are the main attractions to see in Blarney. The castle is over 600 years old and is one of Irelands big tourist attractions. There is lot of history attached to the castle. The castle you see today is the the third to have been built here. The original building was in the tenth century and made of wood. It was rebuilt in stone around 1210, and the one standing today was completed in 1446.
The cost for admission is 10 euros for adults. We paid an additional 5 euros to tour Blarney House which is also on the property.
It is unlikely that you will be visiting Blarney if you don't have intentions to visit Blarney Castle. Originally built nearly six hundred years ago as the home of Chieftain Cormac McCarthy, the Castle is the home of the Blarney Stone (also called the Stone of Eloquence), said to give the "gift of the gab" and leave a person who kisses it never lost for words again.
The Castle has been visited by many famous people and famous orators, including Sir Walter Scott and William Churchill, who are said to have kissed the stone.
Opening Hours :
Monday to Saturday
* May : 9.00am to 6.30pm
* Jun-Jul-Aug : 9.00am to 7.00pm
* Sept : 9.00am to 6.30pm
* Oct-Apr : 9.00am to sundown
* Summer: 9.00am to 5.30pm
* Winter: 9.00am to sundown
Last admissions 30 minutes before closing
Entrance Fees (valid October 2008) :
Adult Admission : Euro 10
Student/Seniors : Euro 8
Children (8-14 years) : Euro 3.50
Family (2 Adults, 2 Children) : Euro 23.50
Although I was told by some people to avoid Blarney Castle because it was a bit of a tourist trap, I went anyway since we were staying within walking distance of the castle. We timed our visit to get there shortly after it opened at 9 am which was a good decision as there were only about 10 or so other people at the top of the castle and no line at all to kiss the Blarney Stone. Around 10:30am, the tour buses started to arrive and they were all flooding in as we left.
The current castle is the 3rd castle on this site, it was built in 1446 by the King of Munster, Dermot MacCarthy. The Castle was taken by Oliver Cromwell's men in 1646, it was restored to the MacCarthy's in 1661 but the MacCarthy's left the castle for good in 1690 when Donagh MacCarthy was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He eventually escaped and went to France but the family never returned to the Castle. I'm not sure when the castle became totally uninhabited but the interior is now mostly gone. On your way up to the Blarney Stone, you will pass through what's remaining of the castle with explanations on how each room was used.
Admission to the Castle is currently 10E, check the website below for updated prices and opening times. The Castle itself did not appear to be handicap accessible, the website says that you can view the stone from below it but there is no way to go up to where it is without climbing a lot of stairs.
After visiting the Castle and smooching the stone, we toured the grounds for a bit and ran across Blarney House. The current house was built in 1874 by Sir James St. John Jefferyes, long after the MacCarthy's had relinquished control of the land.
According to the website it contains "a fine collection of early furniture, family portraits, tapestries and works of art." It also says there are guided tours of the house, which I believe is still occupied by the family, however, there was a sign on the front saying they would start tours again next spring. It regrettably did not specify which spring that would be....
After visiting the Castle, we took a stroll around the Castle grounds, if you pick up a map of the grounds when you enter or from the attached website, you'll see that there are a couple of walks of the grounds, one that goes by the lake and another through the woods.
There's also another section called the Close which was landscaped by the Jeffereyes family after they had bought the castle in 1703. The land is said to have been an ancient druidic settlement, as you walk along the marked trail which was dark and mysterious on the day we went thanks to the cloudy sky and abundance of trees, you'll pass by such places as the Druids cave, the fairy glade, the witches stone and the witches kitchen. It's up to your imagination whether you see any of it.
If you've made it all the way to Blarney Castle, forked over 10€, walked up all the stairs to the top, you can't say no to kissing the Blarney Stone, can you? Or at least pretend to if you are a germaphobe, as it was recently voted as the #1 germiest world attractions on a Trip Advisor poll, it's estimated that 400,000 people planted their lips on the stone in 2008.
There are many theories as to the origin of the stone and how it came to Ireland, the one that the castle signs seem to support is that it was "The Fatal Stone" used to choose kings of Ireland, removed to Scotland to become the Stone of Destiny (Stone of Scone) used to select Scottish kings, then finally split in half when Cormac MacCarthy supported Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English, half of the stone went to Blarney Castle, the other half is now in Edinburgh Castle after a several century stop at Westminster Abbey in London. The story continues that a witch saved from drowning revealed it's power to the MacCarthys stating that "There is a stone there that whoever kisses, Oh! He never misses to grow eloquent."
Now I may have been sufficently eloquent before I kissed the stone or I may have, in the excitement of having the blood rush to my head, missed actually kissing the stone, but I certainly haven't noticed any difference in my eloquence of speech!
I am glad though that they have repositioned the stone, at one time you were held by your ankles and lowered head first, now you just lay on your back, grip a couple of metal bars and plant a smooch on the stone.
For entrance into the Castle and grounds, you first need to purchase your ticket!
Handing over 10 Euros entitled me to enter the castle, kiss the Blarney Stone and wander around Rock Close.
We had a short while to wait at the turnstyles - I can't imagine how long this would take when it's busy!
Prices and conditions are displayed, so you can read these while you're waiting (pic 2 + 3)
May and September 0900 - 1830
June to August 0900 - 1900
October - April 0900 - Sundown or 1800
Summer - 0900 - 1800
Winter - 0900 - Sundown or 1700
Adults - 10 Euros
60+ - 8 Euros
Students - 8 Euros
8-14 yrs - 3.50 Euros
Family (2 adults 2 children) 23.50 Euros
The lady in the ticket office was very helpful - she spotted Gillybobs case, and offered to keep it for her in a room nearby.
There were guide books for sale. I purchased one 'Blarney Castle, the story of a legend' for 3 euros. This was pocket sized, and had lots of useful information, including a guided tour of the Castle and grounds.
The Village Green and its surrounding houses were part of James St John Jefferyes model estate village, considered at its time to be one of the finest of its kind in Ireland.
In 1703, his Grand Father, Sir James Jefferyes, who was the Governer of Cork, bought 'the Castle, Village, Mills, Customs, all lands and the park thereto belonging, containing 1401 acres'.
This property had had 2 previous owners in a space of less than 12 months. The estate had been auctioned in 1702, following confiscation by the State of all estates of the native chiefs. (Following The Battle of The Boyne, and loss of the Irish Cause in 1609)
The state has remained in the family ever since.
James Jefferyes began improvements to the estate in 1765. By recognising that the fast flowing streams could be utilised to provide power for mills, thereby bringing industry into the area, the village would prosper.
To accommodate the number of mill workers and their families, he designed the village green, and built 90 cottages, each having a long garden, on 3 sides of the Green. On the 4th side, a church was built. Prior to this, there had been a handful of 'mud cabins'.
During this era, in Europe, it was a period of elegance. This forward thinking landlord, recognised the need for good taste in design, and in embracing new ideas to make it a model estate village. As in the European Estates, he planned to develop the village around the Castle.
Visitors came from home and abroad, not just to visit the Castle, but to witness the mills at work, and the prosperity of the workers and their families.
By 1900, there were around 800 workers employed in the mills. Village life revolved around the Mills, with even lunch time being dictated by the factory hooter sounding over the estate. Children followed their parents into the mills, with many generations of Blarney families earning their living in the various Mills. (Woollens, stockings, paper, blades, cotton etc)
During WW1, production increased to provide the uniforms for the British Forces.
Sadly, by the 1970's, the Woollen mills weren't able to compete financially with cheap imports of man made textiles and mass produced clothing from Asia. Fashions had changed (remember glam rock?) leaving little demand for the traditional tweeds. The mills closed one by one. When the Blarney Woollen Mills was forced into closure, it was the sign of the end of the local community, and its knock on effect. People moved away to find work in Cork or beyond, so the local shops and businesses lost their income.
The Blarney Woollen Mills were later to be regenerated into a tourist centre, with its gift shop, hotel and restaurant. Once again, high quality clothing is being produced here, for the fashion trade.
The Workers houses can still be seen today, though some are now hotels, restaurants or shops, including the village Post Office. (Please see my pics below)
Most visitors to Blarney head straight for the famous castle or The Blarney Woollen Mills. The village itself is worth a look around too. (well if you miss your bus back to Cork, like Gillybob and I did, you make the most of your 2 hours!)
I should imagine that in the height of Summer, the place is crammed with day trippers, arriving as part of a coach tour. The coaches don't jam the streets though, there is a designated coach and car park at the Blarney Woollen Mills.
The day that we visited, it was a wet Sunday in October, so it wasn't too over run. Many of the locals had left for 'The City' (Cork) as Blarneys Hurling Team were in the Championship final. Those who hadn't left appeared to have taken up residence in the Muskerry Arms pub, for an afternoon of listening to the match and watching Soccer, Rugby and horse racing on the many TV screens.
The Tudor-style village of Blarney is very charming and has a well-preserved village square which is maintained by Blarney Castle.
In the eighteenth century a landlord created a village adjacent to his estate for his workers, supplying housing for the workers and their families and creating industry so that they would prosper. Today Blarney Village has many pubs and restaurants that offer excellent atmosphere and great food that add to the character of the village.
Blarney Castle was originally a timber hunting lodge built in the 10th century, which was replaced by a stone castle in 1210. The present day construction was completed in 1446. The Castle remained the ancestral stronghold of the McCarthy family until the arrival of Oliver Cromwell in 1646. Fifteen years later with the arrival of King Charles II on the English throne saw the return of the McCarthys to the Castle.
Following the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, all Irish chiefs were stripped of their powers and the McCarthys were again forced to leave Blarney Castle. The Castle was sold to Sir James Jefferyes, Governor of Cork in 1703. The Castle is now owned and managed by the Trustees of the Blarney Castle Estate.
Over 300,000 people visit Blarney Castle every year and some hike 1,000 acres of magnificent woodlands that surrounds it.
For many of the 300,000 visitors to Blarney, their first priority is to kiss the famous Blarney Stone high up on the 90 feet of Castle battlements. Tradition holds that those who kiss the Blarney Stone will be endowed with the gift of eloquence - "the gift of the gab", as the locals call it.
There are many stories relating to the "stone", one is that this is the stone Moses struck with his staff to produce water for the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt, another is it had once been Jacob’s Pillow and that the prophet Jeremiah had brought it to Ireland. Some, however, believe it was the Stone of Ezel, which David hid while fleeing from King Saul, and that it was brought to Ireland during the Crusades. The one usually accepted is in gratitude for Irish support at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 (a Scottish defeat of the English), Robert the Bruce gave a portion of the stone to Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster. Installed at Cormac McCarthy’s stronghold, Blarney Castle, it became known as the Blarney Stone. A century later, in 1446, King Dermot McCarthy then installed the stone in an enlarged castle he constructed.
Whichever you believe it is worth the experience of trustingly being held by a gentlement as you lean backwards and look down six stories to the ground and kiss it, the stone that is.
Francis Sylvester Mahony, an Irish bard of the early nineteenth century, wrote:
There is a stone there, that whoever kisses,
Oh! He never misses to grow eloquent:
Tis he may clamber to a lady's chamber,
Or become a member of Parliament.
The Witch stone - it was easy to see why this small rock had been so named - next to it was a plaque, with the following blurb
It takes little imagination to see who is imprisoned here. The Witch of Blarney has been with us since the dawn of time. Some say it was she who first told MacCarthy of the power of the Blarney Stone.
Fortunately for visitors, she only escapes the witch stone after nightfall – and we close at dusk