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The Blarney Gardens consists of over 60 acres of sheer horticultural possibility that have been cultivated and grown around the castle proper. Under the green fingers of the institution’s head gardener Adam Whitbourn, it contains special sections as graphically named as the Poison Garden, the Fern Garden and Ice House, as well as the Bog Garden, which is filled with waterways and where you must look out for the 600-year old yew trees and the Giant Rhubarb. The gardens are about danger in the heart of beauty and each season represents a fresh new reason for visiting: you might encounter a carpet of bulbs or a river or roses or even an avenue of arboretum, depending on how much rain and sunshine the area has enjoyed.
And of course, the Blarney Stone itself is an important must-visit part of the area, and for many visitors, the main reason the whole castle is visited. In the olden days, visitors were suspended by their ankles over the castle’s battlements, so that they could kiss the stone in the correct manner, prescribed by ancient Irish tradition. But fear not: these days, the establishment’s owners are a little more cautious and there’s an iron railing to hold onto from the parapet walk.
And the prize? Soon as you’ve kissed the stone, legend has it that you will magically be endowed with the gift of eloquence. If you’re shy to talk in public, suffer from a stutter or other form of speech impediment, this might be the answer for you.
But don’t take our word for it – thousands of celebrities have travelled from far and wide to have accomplished this odd but time hewn ritual. Does it come from Jeremiah in biblical times? Is it the stone pillow that Jacob used when he had his famous vision – or dream – of angels going up and down a ladder to heaven? Is it a relic of the Crusades? Did a witch who was saved from drowning in the 15th century really reveal its true identity and powers to Cormac McCarthy, the King of Munster? Or maybe this was the stone behind which a young King David hid, on the advice of his friend Jonathan when he was fleeing from his enemy Saul? Either way, it’s an area absolutely sparkling with all kinds of fabulous legends around this curious piece of quarry, many so mysterious and fantastical that you just have to go and see and kiss the thing for yourself.
And of course, seeing the thing for yourself – and even kissing it – won’t convince you of its origins. Or of the veracity or authenticity of the legends you will be told. But we do have it on geological authority from the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum that the stone is indeed made from Irish limestone, specific to the area. While this doesn’t detract from its age – it’s estimated to be some 330-million years old, it might cast a bit of a slur on all the glamorous and whimsical legends you’ve been exposed to. And according to the curator, the efficacy of the stone’s kiss in giving you the gift of the gab cannot be measured scientifically. Indeed, there’s only one way of finding out, for sure.
Had your fair share of walking through these ancient ruins? Blarney Castle has a café called the Stable Yard, at which you can kick back and indulge in traditional Irish scones, locally made Guinness and honey produced by a nearby beekeeper. There is also a very well appointed Blarney Castle shop where you can browse and buy from a series of Blarney collectables – from funky memorabilia of your visit to items which draw from serious historical collections; you can remember your trip to Blarney with a happy little t-shirt, a leprechaun pencil or an object made of Blarney pewter. There are no overnight facilities at Blarney Castle and its surrounds, but it is one hell of a fine day trip, whenever you visit.