Blarney (An Bhlarna, meaning "the little field") is a village in County Cork, nowadays incorporated into the nearby city of Cork. It's been on the tourist circuit for almost 300 years thanks to its castle and Blarney Stone. It's also a commuter town for Cork, with a population in 2016 of 2539.
Blarney Castle was built around 1210, destroyed in 1446 but re-built. Embedded in its battlements is a block of Carboniferous limestone known as the Blarney Stone (Cloch na Blarnan) or Stone of Eloquence. Various legends claim it was brought from afar, but that would have to be from somewhere with identical bedrock to Blarney, and it was obviously quarried nearby.
Those who kiss the stone are supposed to gain skill in charming, flattering deceit. This idea was first documented in Francis Grose's 1785 Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a dictionary of slang with many bawdy entries. Because the stone is set high on the castle walls, and getting into position to kiss it is tricky and dangerous, then to have done so is a badge of perseverance, courage and agility. Whereof many are supposed to claim the honour, who never achieved the adventure; and to tip the Blarney is figuratively used for telling a marvellous story, or falsity. So originally you deceived people not by having kissed the stone, but by inventing a story about doing so.
The legend was boosted in the 19th century by tourism, by music-hall stereotypes of comic romantic Irishness, and by an Irish diaspora (fluent in English, as other diasporas were not) willing to play to the role. Francis Sylvester Malony (aka "Father Prout") wrote: "Tis there's the stone that whoever kisses / He never misses to grow eloquent; / 'Tis he may clamber to a lady's chamber, / Or become a member of Parliament . . ." (Malony, himself a formidable exponent of the Blarney, is most remembered for his "Bells of Shandon", where he rhymes Moscow with kiosk-o.) The Blarney legend itself became the prototype example of Blarney and brought tourists flocking. But in the 19th century it remained hazardous to reach the stone - you had to dangle over the parapet, sure death if you slipped. Nobody did get killed but it inspired a murder mystery in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This was a US radio series first broadcast in 1946: the "new" was the give-away that these tales were only loosely based on the original Sherlock stories, and the idea that Conan Doyle was involved is, yes that's right, a load of Blarney. The word is thus sometimes broadened and conflated with "baloney," which means nonsense but lacks the Blarney element of beguiling flattery.
The castle parapet has been fitted with guardrails so what you do nowadays is hold tight, lean backwards and apply face to stone. Then you go away and record your experience on websites like this in a way that is scrupulously accurate, fair and objective.
Blarney is 9 km northwest of Cork along N20. Bus Éireann 251 runs from St Patrick's Street in Cork taking 20 min to Blarney village and continuing west to Cloghroe. It's every 30 min M-Sa and hourly on Sunday. Get off when you see the Woollen Mills to your left and the church to the right.
Blarney lost its railway in 1934, a narrow gauge line to Cork. In 2016 there was talk of reinstating a link: the Dublin-Cork mainline runs barely 1 km away, so a platform halt, shuttle bus and Park & Ride could be built without laying any new track. Nothing's come of this.
- 1 Blarney Castle, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 09:00-16:00. There was probably a wooden fort here by the 10th century, and a stone castle was built in 1210 but destroyed. It was re-built around 1446 for the MacCarthy clan, a branch of the Desmond rulers of Munster. They kept it in spite of the overthrow of the Desmonds by the Tudors - Cromwell's forces took the castle in 1646, but it was handed back at the Restoration of Charles II. But their leader the Earl of Clancarty was on the losing side at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690; he was exiled and his lands seized. Later owners preferred to build a new mansion than dwell in a dank gloomy tower so the castle fell derelict. The first mansion, The Court, was tacked onto the castle in 1739 but burnt out in 1820. The second attempt had more luck, see below for Blarney House. Some areas within the castle (eg the dungeons) can be entered, but the thing to do is to climb to the battlements, lean out and kiss the Blarney Stone, and admire the view. The setting is impressive, as the castle perches on an 8-metre cliff, from which its stone was quarried. It's surrounded by extensive gardens, which include an awesome collection of poisonous plants. Adults €18, conc €14, child €8.
- 2 Blarney House, 200 m south of the castle, is the Scottish baronial mansion built 1874. It's occasionally open for visits in summer but wasn't in 2020.
- See Cork for the old Powder Mills and castle ruin at Ballincollig. It's only 5 km south in a straight line but you have to wind about through the lanes to cross the river.
- Muskerry Golf Club is 3 km west at Tower Model Village, which sounds more interesting than it is. There's no trace of a tower, and the "model" means the 20th century concept of a planned suburb, there are no tiny plastic figures on platforms waiting for a Hornby Dublo train to pull in.
- Blarney Golf Club is another 2 km up the road by the Blarney Hotel, see Sleep.
- Lots of tourist-trappy shops in the village, and a couple of Centra convenience stores.
- 1 Blarney Woollen Mills, The Square, ☏ . Daily 10:00-18:00. The mill spun and wove wool from 1823 to 1973, then in 1975 re-opened as a retail centre. Sells woollen goods including Aran sweaters, jewellery, gifts and knickknacks.
- Muskerry Arms, The Square, Blarney (next to Castle), ☏ . Bar M-Th 11:00-23:30, F Sa 11:00-00:30, Su 12:30-23:00. Restaurant, food served daily to 21:00, also has rooms. B&B double €120.
- The Square Table, The Square, Blarney (next to Castle), ☏ . W Th 18:00-21:00, F Sa 18:00-22:00, Su 12:30-16:00. This relaxed Irish restaurant gets rave reviews.
- Lemon Tree Restaurant is within Blarney Castle Hotel, see Sleep. It's open daily 19:30-21:30.
- Quick eats: Lantern House does Chinese, Eat in It does pizza, and Fat Jack's does fish and chips.
- 1 Blairs Inn, Cloghroe (5 km west of village on R579), ☏ . W Th Su 12:00-21:20, F Sa 12:30-22:30. This restaurant out in the country is worth coming the extra distance.
- Pubs are Muskerry Arms, see above, and Malone's on R617 the through-road.
- 1 Blarney Caravan & Camping Park, Stone View, Blarney (2 km north of village), ☏ . Open April-Oct, this is the closest campsite to Cork. It has tent pitches, tourer hook-ups and a block for showers, laundry, kitchen and TV. Dogs permitted on lead. Two-person tent €23.
- Blarney Castle Hotel, The Square, Blarney (next to Castle), ☏ . Smart little hotel, rooms are large and modern. The bar often has live trad music. B&B double €120.
- Blarney Woollen Mills has a hotel, B&B double €100.
- Half a dozen B&Bs within a short walk of The Square, and more further out, but they didn't open in 2020.
- Blarney Hotel and Golf Resort 2 km west of the village is closed in late 2020.
As of Nov 2020, there's a 4G signal with Three and Vodafone and mobile coverage with Eir. 5G has reached the nearby suburbs of Cork but hasn't yet extended to Blarney.
- Cork needs a few days to explore.
- Near Cobh is Belvelly, a turret which you nowadays can't visit. During World War I, sailors on shore leave at Queenstown were brought to Belvelly by enterprising coachmen and told it was Blarney Castle - there was even a counterfeit stone to kiss. But it was a true example of "Blarney".
- Kinsale is an old harbour town less than an hour away.
- Durrow near Dungarvan in County Waterford also has a legendary stone, the huge "Answering Stone" which declares whether your statements are true or false. Or does it?