I’m not sure about visiting Blarney Castle. Kissing the Blarney Stone, which according to legend gives the gift of eloquent speech, sounds like a lot of…well…blarney (not to mention germs). But like going to London without catching a glimpse of Big Ben, I can’t visit Ireland’s County Cork without stopping to smooch the ridiculous rock. I have to do it. So I begrudgingly go, but what I find amazes me. Rather than disappoint, Blarney Castle ends up being the highlight of my trip to Ireland. Why? I discover 8 secrets that win me over…

Blarney Castle

1) The Blarney Stone is the Least Impressive Thing about Blarney Castle
Not that this comes as a huge surprise. Add to that a queue that starts at the bottom of the world’s most claustrophobia-inducing spiral staircase and doesn’t stop until way after the top, and it makes it even more of a challenge for me to get excited about it.

Blarney Castle in Autumn

Oh, and add to that the fact that to kiss the Blarney Stone you have to lie down on your back and lean four feet down a castle wall, risking life and limb and looking ridiculous in the process. I think the Irish, who seem to be born with the gift of gab and have no need to kiss the stone, are laughing all the way to the pub at how easy it is to trick us silly foreigners.

Queue for the Blarney Stone

2) The Gardens are Amazing
The Blarney Stone is only one tiny piece of Blarney Castle and its grounds, though. In fact, the biggest secret of Blarney Castle is that it has huge gardens, a gigantic lake, and a lot of forest land to explore.

Blarney Castle Gardens

The Herbaceous Border and Rose Pergola garden, with their end-of-summer flowers, are lovely places to walk through. Add to that the fact that most visitors seem to leave as soon as the Blarney Stone infects them with whatever disease the person ahead of them was carrying, and it’s also pretty much deserted.

Blarney Castle Gardens

3) Blarney House is Stunning
I spot Blarney House from the queue at the top of Blarney Castle. At first I think it’s some kind of stately home nearby, but I later discover that it’s on the grounds and part of the castle complex. It’s closed for autumn now, but if it’s anywhere near as lovely on the inside as it is on the outside, it deserves to outshine its crenelated counterpart across the arboretum.

Blarney House

4) There are Fairies!
Now for the fun part. There’s an area near the castle called the Rock Close that’s dedicated to all things magical and mystical. This being Ireland, it’s not without a beautiful wooded fairy glade. Amazing!

Blarney Castle Gardens

5) There are Witches!
Next to the fairy glade are the Witches Stone and Witches Kitchen. The former is a large rock that looks like a witch, and legend has it that when night falls smoke rises through the rock chimney in the latter, which is a cave in the roots of a huge tree.

Blarney Castle

6) There are Waterfalls that Grant Wishes!
As if fairies and witches aren’t enough to make me love Blarney Castle, there’s another secret: wish-granting waterfalls! If you walk backwards with your eyes closed down a (terrifyingly steep) set of steps carved through a rock, the waterfall at the bottom will grant your wishes. Admittedly, it sounds even more baloney than the Blarney Stone, but the waterfall is a lot prettier and doesn’t have a queue, so I’ll suspend my doubt on this one.

Blarney Castle Waterfall

7) There are Walking Paths that Go on Forever…and Nobody’s on Them
My amazement at Blarney Castle continues when I discover that there are miles of walking paths through forested land and around swan-studded lakes. Moving along them, I don’t see a single other visitor. Again, it seems everyone gets waylaid by the stone and doesn’t bother to discover the rest of the grounds. Such a shame, as they’re gorgeous!

Blarney House

8) There are Kissing Trees and Poison Gardens
There are lovely arboretums on the grounds that have collections of rare trees, both old and new. In addition to magical trees with roots that grow back up out of the ground in circles of new trees, there’s a little kissing tree with branches that grow upside-down to provide the perfect secret shelter for a cheeky kiss (take that, Blarney Stone!).

Blarney Castle Gardens

Not far from them is the Poison Garden, which contains everything from the leaves of the deadly hemlock plant to the forbidden purple flowers of monkshood. They’ve even somewhat bizarrely included a marijuana plant (it’s under a cage…don’t get any ideas).

Blarney Castle

So there you have the 8 secrets of Blarney Castle. Now please keep them secrets. We wouldn’t want anyone straying from the Blarney Stone and crowding up the kissing tree.

32 Comments on Lady’s 8 Secrets of Blarney Castle

  1. Haha, I wrote a slightly less upbeat post about the Blarney Stone a while back. The castle and grounds are gorgeous, but the stone itself terrified me! I may have thrown a tantrum and cried when my husband announced his intentions to lean back into what looked to me like certain death 😂

  2. I never realised it was such a challenge to kiss the stone! I could totally do with the gift though, I can ramble on fairly eloquently when I’m writing but as for face to face conversation I’m a lost cause!

    It looks like a lovely day out, the poison garden sounds really interesting!

  3. I visited Blarney Castle a couple of years ago, and was so enchanted by the grounds and the castle itself, I didn’t actually end up kissing the stone!

  4. I lived in Ireland for five years and never thought to visit Blarney Castle! It looks beautiful though, I’ll have to try and visit next time I’m over in Ireland. I’ve honestly never heard anything about the place except the stone, so it seems like these really are all secrets!

  5. We are heading to Ireland next summer. Wasn’t sure I wanted to visit the Blarney Stone. Ha. You had me at claustrophobic spiral staircase. I will spend my time investigating the grounds. I’ll leave the kissing of the stone to others.

  6. I’m so happy you enjoyed your visit to Blarney as it’s where I grew up but left in 1966 for Long Island New York, it has changed these past few years but all for the better,

  7. Thanks for sharing your tips. We will be in Blarney in October this year so its nice to see someone else who has gone during the early fall too.

  8. I was there with a group of retired people and was one of only 6 out of 45 that actually climbed the spiral staircase. The view from the top was amazing, however I didn’t bother with kissing the stone when I saw what they did to the lady in front of me to get her in position ( yikes! ) You are absolutely right about the grounds, I took a ton of pictures and absolutely thought they were the best part of the tour! I especially liked the stables where they have Gypsy wagons and wheel barrows and other neat stuff. We went in late September and the weather was beautiful, not too crowded. and the floral gardens were magnificent! Loved the whole country, I can’t wait to go back!!

  9. You are absolutely correct that the interior of Blarney House is as lovely as the exterior. The house was open for tours when I visited and I found it’s history every bit as intriguing as that of Blarney Castle. I too enjoyed the solitude of the grounds and the lovely gardens.

  10. Went to Blarney, kissed the stone, most frightening thing I’ve ever done. Loved the gardens and the walk to the castle. Also loved the unique wraps on the trees.

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