I mentioned in my last blog post that, while we were in Cork for the weekend, we magically did NOT kiss the Blarney Stone — even though we did day trip to Blarney Castle from Cork City. How exactly did we manage to do this? Well, let me tell you. And don’t worry, there will be plenty of information on how to day trip to Blarney Castle yourself — and kiss the Blarney Stone if you’re so inclined — at the end of this post. It’s definitely one of the castles in Ireland that you can’t mis!
So, let’s get started.
Our Visit to Blarney Castle
We awoke bright and early Sunday morning, packed up our things, and walked back down the giant hill into central Cork City. We stopped by a cafe for coffee and muffins for breakfast and then sought out an ATM so that we could actually pay for the bus tickets that we wanted to buy. Then it was on to the bus station, where we hopped on a bus to Blarney Castle.
A short half hour later, we (and the rest of the bus) got off in the center of Blarney Village, only a few minutes walk from the gates of Blarney Castle.
From first glance, we could tell that Blarney was the sort of tiny tourist town that popped up solely because of how popular Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone are. The cute storefronts where every other sign had some sort of reference to Blarney Castle gave it away. But did that stop me from immediately falling in love with the place? No way.
Exploring Blarney Castle
I don’t want to sound clichéd, but the moment we walked through the gates of Blarney Castle (you know, after paying for our tickets at the less-than-beautiful ticket office) we were pretty blown away. I don’t know what it is about castles and green grass, but I’ll never get bored of them. My first inclination was, naturally, to take as many pictures as possible.
How NOT to Kiss the Blarney Stone
After getting my fill of picture taking (and forcing Daniel to take some of me on the Insta-perfect bridge on the way to the castle), we sauntered up to the line to kiss the Blarney Stone, fully expecting that, since it was September, we would be in and out in no time. BOY, were we wrong.
Instead of an annoying but bearable fifteen minute wait, we would have to stand in line for a full hour if we wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone. I don’t even want to think about the wait during peak season.
Considering we only had a few hours to explore the place, we decided to take a pass. After all, the Blarney Castle gardens HAD to be more interesting than standing in line for an hour. And definitely more interesting than kissing some random rock that hundred of thousands of other people’s germs are on.
Blarney Castle Gardens: A Mini Guide
So, instead of waiting in line to kiss the Blarney Stone, we kept walking, and spent the next few hours peacefully meandering around Blarney Castle’s gardens. And you know what was amazing? There was no one there. I’m serious. We had these amazing gardens ALL TO OURSELVES. All because everyone else was so concerned with kissing the Blarney Stone that they didn’t even care about exploring. It blew my freaking mind.
The Rock Close
The Rock Close was the first part of the gardens that we found ourselves in, and it ended up being my favourite. Complete with a fairy glade, witch’s kitchen, druid’s circle, and a SACRIFICIAL ALTAR, this place was like something straight out of a fairy tale. We let our imaginations run wild while we explored this gorgeously eerie part of the Blarney Castle gardens.
It’s even said that you perform the correct ritual on the witch’s staircase, your wish will be granted.
Just up the path from the Rock Close, you’ll find Blarney House — the baronial mansion built in 1874. The architecture of Blarney House is absolutely stunning, so be sure to make the slight trek to go visit it.
If you have extra time, you might even follow the path out to Blarney Lake for a stunning view over the water towards the mansion. We didn’t get a chance to do this, but I so wish we had. The pictures of it are freaking magical.
If you visit in the summer months, you can even go inside!
Maybe I just love mysterious looking places, but the Fern Garden was another one of my favourite parts of Blarney Castle’s gardens. The hike down was a bit slippery, but the little waterfall at the end of it made it SO worth it. All of that greenery made it pretty clear why Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle.
The Poison Garden
I LOVE the idea of a poison garden. Purposefully growing things which can kill you is so counterintuitive, and yet so much fun. The Poison Garden was one of our last stops while touring Blarney Castle’s gardens, and it was definitely yet ANOTHER highlight.
The Blarney Castle gardens, in addition to being the perfect escape from the madness of the line to kiss the Blarney Stone, are also a great place for a relaxing woodland walk. There are several to choose from at different lengths. Be sure to pick up a guide at the ticket office to see all of the options!
How to Day Trip to Blarney Castle from Cork City
How to Get to Blarney Castle
There are plenty of organized day trips from Cork City to Blarney Castle, but if you want to save some money and do it yourself a day trip to Blarney Castle is still totally doable.
To get to Blarney Castle from Cork City take the 215 bus from the Cork Parnell Place Bus Station towards Mahon Point. Tickets cost €7.80 return and buses leave every half hour at :05 and :35.
The bus from Cork City to Blarney Castle takes approximately half an hour and drops you off in the center of Blarney Village, the smallest tourist town of all time, only a few minutes walk from the entrance to Blarney Castle.
Blarney Castle Hours & Prices
Blarney Castle’s hours vary depending on the time of year. From November through February, Blarney Castle is open from 9am-5pm. In March, April, and October, it is open 9am-6pm. May and September the hours are extended until 6:30pm, and in the peak summer months of June, July, and August, Blarney Castle is open until 7pm.
Ticket prices are €15 for adults, €12 for students and seniors, €6 for children ages 6-14, and €37 for a family of four (two adults and two children). If you book online there is a small discount.
Blarney House is open June 1st-August 31st from 10am to 2pm and is included in the main ticket price.
What to do at Blarney Castle
If you want to kiss the Blarney Stone, be sure to get to Blarney Castle bright and early. We rocked up a little before noon in September and the line was already an hour long.
If you’re less inclined to have the same germs as hundreds of thousands of other people, then I highly suggest ditching the line to kiss the Blarney Stone to go and explore the castle gardens. See the mini guide to the gardens earlier on in this post for all of the best information on how to do that!
What to do in Blarney Village
Chances are your visit to Blarney Castle won’t take all day. Unless you visit in the summer, of course, in which case if you want to kiss the Blarney Stone you’ll be in line all day. If you decide NOT to kiss the Blarney Stone, though, then you’ll have enough time to explore literally ALL of the tiny village of Blarney.
Start off with a visit to the Blarney Woolen Mills, the ‘world’s largest Irish shop’. This place is like the Irish version of the Mall of America — you can even stay the night in their on-site hotel!
After shopping till dropping, it should only take you about fifteen minutes to wander through the rest of Blarney Village. Be sure to stop by the central park and take the time to photograph some of the storefronts — they’re too cute to pass up!