A Blarney Castle daytrip is one of those checkboxes on the must-see lists of many visitors to Ireland. At under 10K away, a Blarney Castle tour from Cork is something to consider when building your itinerary.
I'll admit as an American living in Ireland, Blarney Castle was one of those things I didn't get around to until nearly 2 years after our move to Dublin. My family visited Cork once previously, but we spent more time in and around the city rather than looking at Cork day tours options.
When to visit Blarney Castle
A lot of visitors to Ireland schedule day trips from Dublin down to Cork in the summer. So know that this destination can get crazy busy from a seasonal perspective. We had American friends visiting us in November over the week Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States and so we were able to take advantage of a lull in tourism. Blarney Castle staff remarked that the climb up to the top of the tower and waiting to kiss the Blarney Stone would have taken 3-5 hours in summer months as opposed to the 5 or so minutes we experienced.
Timing is everything... As the weather can change at a moments notice in Ireland, it's best to keep Blarney Castle/Cliffs of Moher flexible in your itinerary. Blarney Castle would probably be great on a sunny day, but it is equally doable on a persistently wet and rainy day (similar to what we experienced). You really are going to want to see the Cliffs on a day where rain is minimal so consider switching up the order of Cliffs/Blarney Castle depending on your weather conditions.
How long should I plan for my daytrip?
This is a pretty subjective question and will depend on your traveling companions. With four children and two adults in our party we spent about 3 hours (even with the rain) but could have spent another hour or more had conditions been drier. The Blarney castle hours range from 9am to 5pm in the winter months to 9am to 7pm in the summer months (https://blarneycastle.ie/pages/plan-your-visit) and the castle grounds are massive which much to explore (dungeons, rock garden, poison garden, etc.)
Yes, you heard that right - poison garden - your kids will love it!
What should I bring?
This is Ireland - if you forget to bring a raincoat (like I did), you will be mercilessly punished by the rain gods... Fortunately you can get souvenir umbrellas (now that's a practical Irish souvenir) and those cheapo plastic rain ponchos in the gift shop conveniently located at entrance/exit. You might also want to bring a headlamp/flashlight as quite a number of the castle rooms are unlit/dark.
Alternatively, in a pinch you could probably use your phone flashlight to illuminate.
Tote along a water bottle if you are planning to roam the full park grounds. There are some onsite options for food/drink, but the castle grounds are quite large and having a water bottle handy is just good sense...
Blarney Castle history tips
There is some limited signage around the grounds that does explain a bit of the history, but you are probably going to get the most out of the experience through reading up on it prior to your visit. My kids had a lot of questions about the caves and the Blarney stone itself including such gems as:
Basically many of these Blarney Stone facts can be quickly gleaned from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blarney_Castle) or other online sources, but do yourself a favor and spend a little time familiarizing yourself prior to your visit. If you are visiting with a guided tour, I'm sure they go into much more colorful detail and for this attraction it might be worth it if you don't have the time for some pre-visit research.
The stone is said to impart the "Gift of Gab" to those that kiss and since we all know blarney means non-sense, the upside-down and backwards ritual just seems to be logical...
There are a host of theories as to the stone's origins - most steeped in legend/myth. TLDR: No one knows for certain.