Blarney Castle – Home of the Stone of Eloquence (History & Travel Tips)

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Blarney Castle is best known as the home of the Blarney Stone, granted to Cormac MacCarthys. He was the original builder of the Blarney Castle we know today. There is, however, much more to this castle that has stood for nearly 800 years. It has survived several wars and changes of ownership. This is a smattering of the history that Blarney Castle has stood witness to throughout the ages:

A stone fragment displayed at Texas Tech University since 1936 is claimed to be a piece of the Blarney Stone, it’s unknown if the claim is accurate.

The Blarney Castle's view in the fog with green surroundings.
The Blarney Castle’s view in the fog. Blarney Castle in the fog flickr photo by Donncha Ó Caoimh shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

The land that Blarney Castle stands on was originally settled before 1200, with a suspected wooden building. Soon after 1200, a stone fortification was built that stood until 1446. Not long after, Cormac Láidir MacCarthy, Lord of Muscry built the current castle.

The castle was held by the MacCarthy family until the 1690s, except for a brief period in the 1640s during the Irish Confederate Wars. During the 1690s’ Williamite War, the castle was confiscated by the Williamites and never returned to MacCarthy ownership.

The beautiful Blarney House that can be found across the gardens from Blarney Castle.
The beautiful Blarney House that can be found across the gardens from Blarney Castle.

The castle transferred ownership several times until the early 18th century. The governor of nearby Cork City, Sir James St John Jefferyes purchased the property. A manor was built nearby that eventually burned. It was replaced in 1874 by Blarney House which still stands, about a three-minute walk across the gardens from Blarney Castle.

Blarney Stone

Of course, the castle itself doesn’t attract quite as much attention as a solitary stone. Set into a machicolation (an opening between protruding corbels, designed for dropping items on ground-level attackers) atop Blarney Castle is the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that a kiss on the Blarney Stone will grant the notorious Gift of the Gab. Some people call it a gift of eloquence … but if you’ve ever chanced upon a native Irish weaving one of their tales, you’ll know “gab” is something a bit more spicy than eloquence.

There are several tales about the origin of the Blarney Stone. Some say it came from Scotland, a gift from Robert the Bruce for Cormac MacCarthy’s support in the Battle of Bannockburn. Seeing as the stone turned up at Blarney nearly sixteen years before the battle took place, there must have been time-travel involved too.

Kissing the Blarney Stone, around 1897.
Kissing the Blarney Stone, around 1897. National Library of Ireland on The Commons, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Another suggestion is that the Blarney Stone is a piece of the Lia Fáil–a stone at the Inauguration Mound used by ancient Irish kings. It’s a clever stone if so. The geo-tested composition of the Blarney Stone matches limestone local to Blarney. It does not match the Hill of Tara in County Meath, where the Lia Fail still stands.

There are also various stories of how (and why) the goddess Clíodhna granted the stone to Cormac Laidir MacCarthy. Given the suggested divine intervention surrounding the stone, it is notable that there was no mention of the Blarney Stone until the late 18th century.

The Blarney Stone (and reinforcing safety features) today.
The Blarney Stone (and reinforcing safety features) today. Srleffler, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A local legend says that if the stone is ever removed from Ireland, the Irish will lose their way with words. It’s a potentiality that frightens the local quick-tongued tour guides. They will cajole you to not consider it (despite them having suggested it in the first place).

A full view of the imposing tower of Blarney Castle set on top of a rocky outcropping.
A full view of the imposing tower of Blarney Castle set on top of a rocky outcropping.

Current Times

In the mid-19th century, the Jefferyes and Colthurst families were joined by marriage. The castle, house, and grounds transferred to its current family: the Colthursts. The estate is currently owned by Sir Charles St John Colthurst, Baronet.

Blarney gardens with the castle in the background, in 1955.
Blarney gardens with the castle in the background, in 1955. Ben Brooksbank / Blarney Castle, 1955

Interesting Blarney Castle Facts

  • Cormac Láidir MacCarthy, Lord of Muscry was a prolific builder: he also built castles at both Kilcrea and Carrignamuck.
  • A stone fragment displayed at Texas Tech University since 1936 is claimed to be a piece of the Blarney Stone, it’s unknown if the claim is accurate.
  • The MacCarthy family that built Blarney was an off-shoot of the MacCarthy Mor dynasty that had ruled Desmond after the old Kingdom of Munster split in 1118.
  • To put history into perspective: Blarney Castle, as we know it, was built about 400 years after the Book of Kells was illuminated.

Visiting Blarney Castle – Tips and Tricks

Even locations steeped in mystery and lore have to have the pinnings of a modern monument visit, so here’s all the information on how to get to Blarney and what the visit will cost you (plus tips for your visit!)

Kissing the Blarney Stone activity at the Blarney Castle.
The Kissing the Blarney Stone activity at the Blarney Castle. Kissing the Blarney Stone flickr photo by Matt From London shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How to get to Blarney Castle?

From Dublin, your quickest public transportation choice to Blarney Castle is the Cork/Mallow train line from Heuston station to Cork Kent station, then a bus from Summerhill North to Cork City Bus Station (line 208, 205, 214, 207, or 209) and then a final bus from Drawbridge Street to St. Annes Road (line 215). In total, it will take about three-and-a-half hours for €33-48 ($38-56 USD). The easiest method is to take the 704-x bus line from Dublin to Cork, St. Patricks Quay, then the 215 bus line to Blarney. This method will take around four hours for €23-26 ($27-31 USD). Driving can get you there in two-and-a-half hours, for between €30-43 ($35-51 USD).

If you are staying in Cork, then the 215 bus line will take you straight to Blarney in about 25 minutes for €6-9 ($7-11 USD). A taxi or driving would take 11 minutes, €18-22 ($21-26 USD) for the taxi or about €2 ($2 USD) in gas if you’re driving yourself.

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

Ticket prices are for access to Blarney Castle, including visiting the Blarney Stone and exploring the grounds. €16 (19 USD) for adults, €7 ($8 USD) for children 8-16 (under 8 are free), €13 ($15 USD) for students and seniors, and €40 ($47 USD) for families of 2 adults, 2 children–if you purchase your tickets online. At the door, the prices are €18 ($21 USD), €8 ($9 USD), €14 ($17 USD), and €45 ($53 USD). An audio guide is available for €6 ($7 USD). These tickets don’t include Fastrack for the Blarney Stone line or entry to Blarney House, neither of which have any information available currently.

The castle and grounds are open daily from 9 am – 5:30 pm (last entry at 4:30 pm), except for December 24th & 25th when it’s closed. On December 26th & January 1st the hours are 10 am – 4:30 pm (last entry again an hour earlier at 3:30 pm). The car park (parking lot) has the same hours as the castle.

Dogs are not permitted on the property unless they are service animals, and shoes are required at all times. Guidebooks/maps are available in English, Spanish, German, Italian, French, and Chinese.

The beautiful garden of flowers at the Blarney Castle.
The beautiful garden of flowers at the Blarney Castle. Blarney Castle flickr photo by Sean MacEntee shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

The Colthurst family recommends around three hours to thoroughly explore the Blarney castle and gardens–the grounds are definitely worth the time.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • The line to kiss the Blarney Stone is the only way to see inside the castle ruins, but the line can also be a “short” wait of 60-90 minutes during the busy season (the longer waits get up to 120-180 minutes).
  • Skip the Blarney Stone if you have a fear of heights: to get to the stone requires laying down over a sheer drop while an attendant grasps hold of you.
  • Be sure to visit the Poison Garden, but keep a close eye on any children you are traveling with as some plants are within reach of small hands!
  • The gardens and grounds as a whole are well-worth the visit, even if you don’t take a fancy to kissing a stone.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Blarney Castle Areas

Elora Holt
Elora Holthttps://whimz.medium.com/
I am a part-time personal assistant & part-time freelance writer/editor. Full-time architecture geek, especially Gothic & Art Nouveau varieties - the quickest way to convince me to travel is to describe the architecture of the local (not that it will take much effort, I have a bucket list of locations that will take a lifetime). I’m a design geek as well, so my long-term focus is to work in 3D architectural rendering. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying grabbing a cup of coffee and writing about castles around Europe!

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