My first trip to Cork saw all four of us cabin crew heading to Blarney Castle for the day. We landed in Shannon in the morning after an overnight flight and immediately taxied to Cork (about two hours). We planned to leave right for the bus stop to get there bright and early; however, we made it to Cork much earlier than expected so we caught an hour nap. We were lucky to be in a hotel a block from the bus station so there was no chance of getting lost (though we did wander around the station itself trying to find which bus was ours…but I’m not going to count that).
From Cork to Blarney Castle takes about a half hour on the 215 bus and round trip costs about €7. Additionally, there are different options for what to see when you reach Blarney. Since we knew we wanted to spend the whole day, we opted to see the garden, castle, and house (which is only open from June to August, and closes at 2) for €23 (€18 if you’re a student).
Because we got there around 12:30, we had to get to the house before we checked out much of anything else. But the walk between the ticket counter and the house is beautiful, through the gardens and past the castle, and gave us ideas of what to see next (AKA pretty flowers, caves, and kissing a certain stone).
A family uses the Blarney house regularly, which is why it is only open in the summer and pictures were not allowed. However, I suggest going to see it if you have the opportunity. It is cool to see the rooms knowing that they are still in use and the ceiling is absolutely stunning! I’m not kidding, go see for yourself!
Even if you don’t get to see the house, though, there is plenty of other sites to take in on the grounds. There are many trails to follow, including a lovely one in the woods along the river and farmlands. See how close you can get the cows and sheep to come towards you! My favorite was rock close, which led to a magical area where witches were said to be seen and you can feel the fairies lurking in the shadows of the bushes. If I were to direct a rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I would do it here.
Once you leave here, follow the covered bridges to a henge and a modern art garden.
Stay on the wooded trails and make sure you look out for all the little gems hidden throughout them! You never know what you will find when you venture even slightly off the worn paths.
Obviously the highlight of this trip will be seeing the Castle and the Blarney Stone itself.
At the bottom of the castle is a cave you can go in, though there isn’t much to it. My guess is it used to be much more vast (there are rumors that it was used for escape by garrisons during a siege by Cromwell to smuggle gold out, but the gold plate can’t be found).
Climbing the castle takes time and each level has rooms you can break off from and venture around. My two favorites were the main hall, where because of ruin you could see at least three floors up, and the murder hole, where those in the castle would throw anything within reach, such as rocks or hot oil, on unwanted visitors. Talk about guarding your territory!
As one would probably assume, as you go higher up to the towers, the stairs get much more narrow. But unlike when I went to Kiek in der Kök in Tallinn, Blarney stairs are all one way, which makes it feel much less treacherous. However, it is still nerve wracking climbing those winding stairs with nothing a rope to hang onto.
If you are unfortunate enough to get there on a day when there’s a line throughout the entire castle and out the door, you’re going to be waiting at least an hour to kiss the rock (there’s a sign) but we were lucky enough to only hit a line when we reached the very top and were only waiting for about ten minutes at most. Make sure you have your cameras ready because the guy working there and holding you as you kiss has his rhythm going and isn’t gonna stop it to wait for you to take a picture! So make your wish as the person in front of you is kissing the stone!
Was it touristy? Most definitely, but there’s a reason everyone wants to go: it’s enjoyable and beautiful and makes for a great day trip. A half hour later we were back in Cork and getting a delicious dinner before passing out at the hotel.