The one place I didn’t want to go in Ireland was the Blarney Castle, one of the most popular tourist attractions, because I prefer the path-less-traveled experience. However, my mom bought my family tickets, so I really had no choice.
After spending some time at the castle, I was able to decide whether or not I was right about not wanting to visit. Controversial opinion, but I honestly think that there were better things I could have done in the three hours I spent at the Blarney Castle and Gardens.
The tickets are not overly expensive, and there were not too many people there, but the real blow was waiting in line to kiss the Blarney Stone slash tour the castle. I didn’t even kiss the stupid rock (germaphobe over here), and I didn’t want to have to wait in line to look around.
“This is like waiting for a ride at Disney World.” It was a weekday and not even peak-season, and we still had to wait in line for about an hour.
The castle was quite impressive, but not cool enough to spend an hour waiting in line for, especially given the number of castles in Ireland I could have freely explored. In my opinion, everything at Blarney could be found somewhere else. However, someone along the way was able to develop the castle into a tourist trap that kept the visitors pouring in.
The real hidden gem of the grounds were just that, the grounds. Surrounded on all sides by white flowers and the smell of wild garlic in the air, you can submerse yourself in a new world while walking along the trails of the magical gardens.
The gardens were dashed with small doses of magic explained on signs throughout the trails. My favorite part of the gardens were a little spot called the “Wishing Steps.” They were a set of stone steps that pass beneath some large rocks while a waterfall goes overhead. Walking up the wishing steps was magical and beautiful.
I asked my brother what percentage of Blarney Castle visitors he thought do anything besides visit the castle and go to the gift shop (which you have to go through on the way out). “Fifty percent. Maybe forty-five.” We saw very few people walking around on the trails, especially compared to the hoard of people waiting in the castle.
If you do end up visiting the Blarney Castle, please make sure you check out the trails. I promise you won’t regret it.
While the gardens are beautiful, the Blarney Gardens are not the only botanical garden in Ireland. You could visit the National Botanical Gardens in Dublin or the Fota House & Gardens if you are planning a trip to Cork.
Overall, I don’t think you’re missing too much if you decide to pass on the overrated Blarney Castle. However, visiting the castle and kissing the Blarney Stone are a once in a lifetime opportunity for most people, so you will have to weigh that into your decision.