Discover Ireland: Blarney, County Cork

Blarney Castle

Exciting times for Tine at Home! As you may have noticed already, I changed the description for my blog from ‘Delicious recipe for a lovely meal at home’ to ‘A Belgian foodie at home in Ireland’. I’ve always wanted to write more about Ireland and now I get to explore this beautiful country even more as I moved here back in June 2015. Don’t worry though, my main focus will still be home cooked meals!

As I am living in County Cork, I decided to discover one of the towns here first. And what better place to start with, than the town where I live? Blarney is a small town, north of Cork city and only a short drive away from the motorway, but more importantly, it’s the home of Blarney Woolen Mills and Blarney Castle & Garden, home of the Blarney Stone. The town itself, however small has plenty to offer in nature, walking trails, mystical sceneries, shopping and of course delicious food. Wheather you come in Autum or Summer, there is always something to see and do and friendly faces to welcome you.

It has been a very welcoming town to me, whenever I’m stuck there’s always someone offering to help. The local butcher and fish monger are always up for a nice chat and whether you walk into the pharmacy or the supermarket, everyone makes you feel like you’ve known them forever. This place has won my heart and I hope it will win yours too so allow me to take you on a trip through my home, Blarney, county Cork.

Jump to: Blarney Castle and GardenBlarney Wooolen MillsWalking TrailsThe Town: food, drinks and where to stay

Blarney Castle and Gardens

Blarney Castle and Gardens

Bog Garden waterfalls

The main attraction in Blarney is of course Blarney Castle, home of the Blarney Stone. As soon as I entered the domain, I was immediately taken away by the large gardens surrounding the castle. As most tourists go straight for the castle, the gardens themselves were very quiet and empty (mind you, I went in March) and I can safely say I’ll be going back for plenty more walks around the grounds whenever the comes out.

The gardens are accessible all year round, as different plants and trees will spark your interest in every season. “In summer  the herbaceous borders and rose beds provide the visitor with a splendid display of colour and structure. Autumn is the time for arboretums to shine, with the trees taking over the show. Looking from the top of the castle provides an exceptional view. Winter is traditionally the quiet time of year, but  the winter scenery around the estate, particularly the lake and woodlands provide endless interest. There is something to see all year round in what is a constantly changing and evolving environment. Your visit to the Blarney Gardens need never be the same.”

Amongst the garden you’ll find the poison garden, right next to the castle, with more lethal plants than I’ve ever seen in my life. It contains a collection of poisonous plants from all over the world including Wolfsbane, Mandrake, Ricin, Opium and Cannabis. Many of these are labelled with information about their toxicity, traditional and modern uses.

Hidden in the back of the domain you’ll find the Fern garden and ice house. The fern garden was my second favourite discovery on the grounds of the castle. Hidden in the back where we saw no one else wandering around, you’ll find yourself surrounded by big and little ferns. Once you make your way down across a path however, you end up in a place that in no way will make you feel like you’re in Ireland, but rather in paradise.

Fern Gardens

Fern Gardens Waterfall

Fern Gardens

Fern Gardens

My favourite part of the whole domain for sure though was the Bog Garden and the Rock Close, which to me was just exactly what Ireland has always been about for me: Mystical lands and stunning nature. When I went to visit it, there was not a soul in sight so we had the entire garden to ourselves and it was so beautiful it sent shivers down my spine. Waterfalls in an atmospheric background with the weirdest (almost prehistoric looking) plants I have ever seen.

You can also find the oldest trees in the domain right here in this part of the garden. A group of three Yews sit together on an island, and may have been there for up to 600 years! Also look out for the willow tunnel at the end of the boardwalk.

To actually get to the actual Bog Garden I suggest you take the big ‘Forest Trail Route’, start at The Seven Sisters, a Neolithic style stone circle featuring seven standing stones and two fallen (my first stone circle ever!).

Bog Garden

Bog Garden

Bog Garden

Bog Garden

Bog Garden

Bog Garden

When you take the Forest Trail tour, you’ll get a chance to see some mystical elements in the gardens, called the Rock Close.

“In this romantic spot nature and art (a combination rather uncommon in pleasure grounds) have gone hand in hand. Advantage has been taken of accidental circumstances to form tasteful and characteristic combinations; and it is really a matter of difficulty at first to determine what is primitive, and what the produce of design. The delusion is even heightened by the present total neglect. You come most unexpectedly into this little shaded nook, and stand upon a natural terrace above the river, which glides as calmly as possible beneath. Here, if you feel inclined for contemplation, a rustic couch of rock, all festooned with moss and ivy, is at your service; but if adventurous feelings urge you to explore farther, a discovery is made of an almost concealed, irregularly excavated passage through the solid rock, which is descended by a rude flight of stone steps, called the “Wishing Steps,” and you emerge sul margine d’un rio, over which depend some light and graceful trees. It is indeed a fairy scene, and I know of no place where I could sooner imagine these little elves holding their moon-light revelry. “ – Croften Croker: “Researches in the South of Ireland,” 1824

Whether it’s the wishing steps, the giant dolmen, the druids altar or a Witch’ kitchen, they all speak to the imagination, while being surrounded by the trees seemingly reaching the sky, chirping birds and boasting plants and flowers, you’ll find it all in Rock Close.

The Druids Circle - Rock Close, Blarney Castle and Gardens

The Druids Circle – Rock Close, Blarney Castle and Gardens

Dolmen - Rock Close, Blarney Castle and Gardens

Dolmen – Rock Close, Blarney Castle and Gardens

The Druids' Altar - Rock Close, Blarney Castle and Gardens

The Druids’ Altar – Rock Close, Blarney Castle and Gardens

And then of course we have the castle and the famous Blarney stone. As I have a massive fear of heights, I was only able to enjoy it from the ground up, which already was quite impressive but if you are more fearless than I am, I do highly recommend going up the castle stairs, for the view and to see the stone in person, and if you’re in need of some eloquence you might want to give it a kiss or two.

What I didn’t get to visit yet, unfortunately, is Blarney House as this is only open during the Summer season. It looks beautiful from the outside as it was built in Scots Baronial style, to the designs of Sir Thomas Lanyon of Belfast who strangely also incorporated a number of classical details into the design. I will be visiting it this summer of course and I’ll be adding photos to this post once I’ve seen it myself, but for now you’ll have to make due with the castle and gardens.

Blarney Castle Gate

Blarney Castle Gate

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Blarney Woolen Mills

When in the area you should never miss out on the opportunity to pop into Blarney Woolen Mills, the largest Irish Store in the world. Irish Gifts, Wool & Aran sweaters, foodie souvenirs, Irish Crystal and Celtic Jewelry: you’ll find it all here! If you’re more into home goodies or cooking gear, you should either pay a visit upstairs or to the building next door, The Mill Restaurant where they sell loads of great cooking gear.

Blarney Woolen Mills

Walking trails

There are a few walking trails you can follow in Blarney. So far I’ve done two of them: the Waterloo walk (aka the Blarney River Walk Loop) and part of the Slí na Sláinte walk, which includes the Clogheenmilcon Sanctuary. Keep in mind though that the sanctuary isn’t a loop so whatever you walk.. you’ll have to walk it again to get back to where you started.

Clogheenmilcon Sanctuary

Clogheenmilcon Sanctuary

The Town: food, drinks and where to stay

The Town Centre

The Square, Blarney

The Square, Blarney

The town centre itself is pretty small and all local amenities are situated around the same area: The Square. You can find the police station, bank, post office, butcher and supermarket here as well as most of the restaurants and pubs. If you are staying in a place with cooking facilities, I would highly recommend paying a visit to our local butcher!

Golf and spa

The 4-star Blarney Hotel Golf and Spa Resort in Cork – a World Class Resort in a World Renowned Location, one of the finest in Ireland. Set amongst 170 acres of the beautiful wooded Shournagh valley, Blarney Hotel, Golf & Spa Resort boasts a stunning golf and spa resort location close to the historic town of Blarney in County Cork. It is surrounded by breathtaking scenery and is rich in folklore, nostalgia and legend.

The Blarney Hotel Golf and Spa Resort Cork offers a challenging and enthralling experience to any golfer, no matter what their level of skill. Co-designed by one of the games most colourful and best-loved characters, two time Major winner and infamous ‘big hitter’ John Daly, you can be sure there will be some unique holes to play along the way. Take the 601 yard par 5 that has John Daly’s signature written all over it at one of the finest Golf Hotels Cork.

You will come across some of the best greens in Ireland at Blarney Golf Hotel as you wind your way along this 6712 yard, par 71 course. Its location nestled in the stunning Shournagh Valley in Cork creates the most wonderful atmosphere and breath-taking views where you can’t help but feel at one with your natural surroundings. The fact that John Daly singled out Blarney as his only project in Europe just shows how strongly he felt about his involvement with this particular course.

Having completed your round of golf you can take advantage of the impressive club house facilities which include a sauna in the locker room and the superb Lion’s Den bar and restaurant where you can relax and enjoy great food and beverage from the balconies overlooking the 18th green.

The Blarney Hotel Golf & Leisure Resort,

The Blarney Hotel Golf & Leisure Resort, photo courtesy of the resort

The Blarney Hotel Golf & Leisure Resort

The Blarney Hotel Golf & Leisure Resort, photo courtesy of the resort

Where to stay

As it is a big tourist attraction town, there are loads of places to stay in Blarney. I haven’t tried any of them myself, as I live here obviously, but you can find plenty of options for hotels and b&b’s on Tripadvisor.

Where to eat

Though it’s a small town, there are quite a few good spots to eat. Now as much as I’d love to endorse all my local businesses, I can of course only comment about those places I’ve actually visited. If I have forgotten anyone, please let me know and I’ll make sure to add it. Meanwhile I’ll do my best to visit all the places I haven’t done before so I can recommend something off their menu too.

Blarney Chocolate Factory, The Square
Christy’s Pub / Bar, Blarney Woolen Mills

Had drinks here a few times but no food just yet. Christy’s pub as a beautiful interior and great atmosphere and some very friendly staff!

Claddagh Restaurant, The Square

Enjoyed some good lunch here, although the place was very cold and quiet, the food was basic but tasty, maybe slightly overpriced for what you get.

Inniscarra Restaurant, The Blarney Hotel Golf & Spa Resort
Lantern House
, The Square
Muskerry Arms, The Square
The Golden Panda, Unit 6a, Blarney Shopping Centre, Monacnappa
The Lemon Tree Restaurant, Blarney Woolen Mills Hotel
The Lions Den, The Blarney Hotel Golf & Spa Resort
The Mill Restaurant
The Square Table, 5 The Square
Tung Sing Chinese, Unit 2, Ashdale House

The Square, Blarney

The Square, Blarney

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