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The Spirit of Ireland

Blarney Castle

Get the gift of gab...

The early morning mist shrouds the castle walls in a hazy blanket while dew clings to the grass sprouting up from the ground below. Tucked away at the top of the castle lies a famous stone, promising the gift of gab for anyone who kisses it. Visit Blarney Castle to experience one of Ireland’s most famous legends.

The History of the Stone

Located a mere 15 minutes outside Cork, Blarney Castle transports visitors out of the bustling city and into a medieval paradise. Meander through gardens and climb to the top of the castle to kiss the famous Blarney Stone.

According to Irish legend, anyone who kisses the stone will receive the gift of gab, which means they will be able to speak eloquently. This myth has attracted millions of hopeful visitors to Blarney Castle over the centuries, each one hoping to gain the precious gift. 

A view of Blarney Castle.

The area has been occupied long before the stone was installed there. Paul O’Sullivan, marketing manager for Blarney Castle and Gardens, said the current castle is the third to be built. In the 1100s, a wooden structure was built followed by a larger stone structure in the 1200s.

 

The Blarney Stone was built into the top of the third and most recent castle in the outer battlements. There are many stories about the origin of the stone, one of which says it came from the Holy Land, according to O’Sullivan.

 

“The Blarney Stone was an altar stone that was brought over from the Holy Land during The Crusades and was given as a gift to the lord of the castle,” O’Sullivan said.

 

Legend says that anyone who kisses the stone will be blessed with the gift of eloquence, also known as the gift of gab. There are almost as many stories as to how that myth came about as there are visitors to Blarney Castle. O’Sullivan said it began with a lord who had a speech impediment.

 

“He was walking around Blarney Lake one night and he heard these awful screams coming from the lake,” O’Sullivan said. “When he looked in, there was a woman drowning so he jumped in and saved her.”

 

The woman turned out to be a witch who lived at the estate. As a thank you for saving her life, she told the lord if he kissed the stone, it would get rid of his speech impediment.

 

For centuries, millions of people have made the trek to the top of the castle to kiss the stone. Visitors have to lie down on their back and lean backwards in order to kiss it.

 

Colum O’Driscoll, keeper of the Blarney Stone, assists guests with the acrobatic movement. He took over the famous role last year when the previous keeper retired after 13 years of service. He said he enjoys meeting all the groups that come through the castle.

 

“You just have a laugh every day and hear interesting stories,” O’Driscoll said.

Despite the stone’s famous legend, O’Driscoll said many people who visit don’t know much information about it.

Colum O'Driscoll assists visitors in bending backward to kiss the stone.

“They think it’s actually a jewel or a diamond or a ruby or something and that it’s somewhere else in the castle,” O’Driscoll said. “And the fact that they don’t realize they have to sit down and lie backwards.”

 

O’Driscoll said the stone attracts between 300,000 to 400,000 visitors every year. 

 

“We’ve got thousands of castles in this country, which we’re lucky to have, but the unique thing with ours is that we have this famous stone that you have to do this acrobatic move lying backwards to kiss it,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s such a strange thing that I think that’s why it’s so unique.”

Tips for Kissing the Blarney Stone

Pack Light

The spiral staircase to the top of the castle is very small. Visitors with larger bags may not be able to make it through the tight spaces.

Wear Comfy Clothes

In order to kiss the stone, visitors have to lie down and bend backwards. Avoid dresses, skirts, jewelry, and other loose articles of clothing.

Arrive Early

This is a very popular tourist site so the lines to reach the stone can be long. Arrive early in the morning before the tour buses arrive to have the shortest wait time.

Visit in Off-Season

Summer is the busiest time of year, so for the smallest crowds, visit in the fall or winter.

Top 3 Must Dos

Kiss the stone

Explore the rooms

Walk through the gardens

Getting There

Drive along the N22 highway from  Cork to the R617 exit to Blarney. It takes about 15 minutes. 

Take the 215 bus from Cork heading toward Mulgrave Road and get off at Blarney Village. It takes about 30 minutes.

Pro tip: Check out Blarney Woolen Mills right by the bus stop. They offer thousands of Irish goods.

Blarney Castle Info

Address:  Monacnapa, Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland

Website: www.blarneycastle.ie/

Phone: 00 353 21 438 5252

Cost: Adults - $20.35 (€18)  Senior/Student - $15.83 (€14)  Child - $9.04 (€8)