We made Blarney Castle our final destination of the trip because it is only about 30 minutes from our hotel at the airport. We got an early start because the rental car was due back that afternoon.
I was extra happy to get an early start because I wanted to beat the tour buses! For this trip, my goal was to get to the top of the castle –even though I didn’t want to kiss the Blarney Stone. On our first trip to Blarney Castle a few years ago, it was a very busy day and the line to get to the top of the castle was gridlocked. I stood in it for about 20 minutes, barely inside the entry door and it hardly moved at all. On that visit, we had other plans for the day that couldn’t wait for the line to move, so I had to give up.
We arrived at the welcome center and it didn’t look very crowded yet. YAY! We had pre-booked our tickets and so it was quite quick and easy to get through the entry gates.
Laura and Gail probably wondered what was going on because I started making a bee-line for the castle and barely slowed down to take any photos and leaving them in my dust.
OK, I did take some pictures on the way. 🙂 But I did want to get in line as soon as possible. When I got there, I noticed they’d changed the entry area set up and as we got closer to the door, I noticed a new sign outside on the sidewalk. It said “The line to the castle is 90 minutes from this point”. I took it as a good sign that there wasn’t a line of people next to it. A bit closer to the entry door was a second sign that said the line to the castle was 60 minutes from that point. Today the line started just inside the actual entry door, thankfully, but I was disappointed to see that it was almost as long as it had been on my last visit. This time I vowed to stay in it as long as it took.
The present structure at Blarney was built in the mid-1400s. It is mostly a ruin. I think it has probably been several hundred years since it was habitable. There have been many owners over the years, but the present owners have had the keys since the 1800s. In the late 1800s a mansion was built on the property. We were able to see it from the top of the castle.
This time the line actually moved. Slowly (and I do mean S.L.O.W.L.Y.), but surely, Gail and I worked our way to the top. Laura climbed a bit of it, but when she saw a sign saying “Last chance to leave the line and go back down”, she went back down. Most of the trip up (and down) is via a claustrophobic spiral staircase. 127 steps up (or down) to be exact.
For the pictures above, I was able to find a gap in the crowd. Sometimes we stood trapped on the stairs for a couple of minutes waiting for people to get moving. (For the pictures above, I was able to catch a rare moment without a person in the way!)
Each time we got to the next floor up, the staircase would open into a small room. Where possible, if the room or rooms leading off of it were intact, they’d have a sign saying what that room might have been used for, and you could walk around them, but all of the rooms were basically empty -4 stone walls and a stone floor, sometimes with a window.
As long last, we popped out at the very top. The walkway was along the four sides of where a roof used to be. Below us we could see the Banqueting Hall -and that’s because a couple of floors between us and it were also missing.
We were still in line to get to the Blarney Stone, but we were finally in fresh air with a view. I didn’t plan on kissing the stone and Gail wasn’t going to either, but we still had to shuffle along as it was single file.
There are several stories about the legend of the Blarney Stone. There were some signs up there to read while we were waiting.
As we got to the spot where it was do or die –Gail decided to do! According to legend, if one kisses the stone, they are said to be bestowed with the gift of eloquence and the skill of flattery. Or as I say, kiss it and you get the gift of the gab!
You can’t be afraid of heights to kiss the Blarney Stone. They have two helpers to make sure you don’t fall through the opening. You have to lay down on your back and, while the helpers guide and stabilize you, you hang onto the poles and inch backward with your upper body going down into the opening in the tower head first. You have to tilt your head back, while your upper body is dangling upside down 130+ feet in the air, to kiss the stone.
They do a picture for you, which you can buy at the gift shop when you get back down. Next!
Once past the stone, there wasn’t really an organized line anymore, so we had time to take a few more pictures from up there.
Just step through this door to begin the trip down!
The odd thing is after the “kissing”, it seemed like all of the people had disappeared on the way down. We could move at our own pace and we made much faster progress going down than up.
Just before getting to the ground level there was a sign for the “Murder Hole”. I wasn’t able to get into the small room to see it because there were already too many people in there. A murder hole in a castle is basically a hole in the floor above an entry door where defenders could basically ambush anyone breaking through the door. They could shoot arrows, drop rocks, molten lead or burning tar…and even poop!
I did take my life in my own hands and get a picture of it from below.
When I got back to the entry hall, it was completely empty. There was no line! I think our timing was just accidental -where the tour groups ahead of us inside the castle were already in line as we were approaching so while the grounds didn’t seem crowded, evidently everyone was already in line! If we’d dawdled a bit on the way to the castle itself, we probably would have had quite a bit more elbow room inside.
Outside, there’s a nice bench for people to sit and watch for their friends or family to get to the Blarney Stone above (if they can even tell from that far away).
If you look at the picture below, just above the highest window you can see a little square of light. That’s where the stone is.
Not far from the castle was an area where the stables would have been. I was trying to find both Laura and Gail at the time -so I only grabbed these two photos. Across the stable yard from the gypsy wagons they had a display of traditional carriages and other horse drawn vehicles.
As we headed back to the welcome center, a few more pictures:
Next, we decided it was time to go shopping. Just a short distance from the castle is Blarney Woolen Mills. It is a big store with lots of Irish-made items- like sweaters and woven items. There are areas for souvenirs, jewelry and Waterford Crystal too.
Once we shopped until we dropped –which didn’t take long- we had lunch and went back to our hotel. Mike and I dropped off the rental car at the airport and walked back to the hotel, which was conveniently located right across the street.
Our evening was spent packing up and getting ready to fly home.
Our Ireland trip came to an official end bright and early the next morning when we all boarded a flight to London and continued our travels home from there.
I can’t say enough how much we all enjoyed everything we saw and did while in Ireland. It is a beautiful country. We especially enjoyed and appreciated the invitation to stay with Yvonne for a few days. It was fun to feel like a “local” for those days. (As long as we didn’t ruin the illusion by talking with our American accents!)
“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.” – Ursula K. Le Guin
Categories: Blarney Castle