The Popular Yet Overrated European Attraction Even Rick Steves Says Is 'Lame'

Poetry, literature, food, drinks, scenery, castles, music, film — you name it. Ireland is famous for it all. However, The Emerald Isle's folklore especially makes Irish culture stand out. Leprechauns, fairies, myths, legends, and of course symbols of luck have permeated the globe just as much as pints of Guinness. While Ireland is well worth the visit, from the large city of Dublin to the miles of vast scenery dotted with castle ruins, not all of the country's attractions need to be on an ideal Ireland itinerary.

Less than an hour northeast of Cork on Ireland's southern coast is Blarney Castle. Buses take tourists from Cork to the small town of Blarney multiple times per day. This destination is most famous for the Blarney Stone, part of the exterior wall of Blarney Castle's tower. Tourists climb the stairs to the top of the tower, lie on their backs, and kiss the Blarney Stone upside down with the help of a castle staff member. Travel expert Rick Steves is usually quite upbeat, but even he cannot hide his feelings about this attraction. On his website, he calls the attraction "lame."

Why do tourists kiss the Blarney Stone?

Rick Steves found kissing the Blarney Stone to be rather lackluster. "The best thing about this lame sight is watching a cranky man lower lemming-like tourists over the edge, belly up and head back, to kiss the stone while an automated camera snaps a photo — which will be available for purchase back at the parking lot," Rick Steves described. To make matters worse, you may have to wait in a long line beforehand.

The truth behind the Blarney Stone is not clear. One common story asserts that the Crusades brought the stone back from the Holy Land and that Jacob used it as a pillow when he dreamt of a ladder to heaven. This became known as Jacob's Ladder and is mentioned in the Bible. Another theory believes that Lord Blarney refused to give his land to Queen Elizabeth I and instead talked his way around doing so. This theory fits a common reason to kiss the stone: to receive the "gift of gab." The saying states, "There is a stone there, that whoever kisses, Oh! He never misses, to grow eloquent."

Better ways to spend your time at Blarney Castle

Perhaps when planning a trip to Ireland, the novelty of hanging your head down to kiss the wall of a castle intrigues people enough to consider visiting the Blarney Stone, but a major elephant in the room is the unsanitary nature of hundreds of people placing their lips on the stone one after the other. Do not write off the entire place, however. As an imposing medieval structure, Blarney Castle is still a sight to behold and features beautiful gardens as well.

The Blarney Castle dates back to the 1400s. Visitors can see what was once a dungeon, a banquet hall, and even remnants of 1600s wall decorations. Walks through the surrounding gardens include a river with otters and multiple species of plant life. Around the corner is the Blarney House, a Victorian-era mansion straight out of a fairy tale. While waiting in line to kiss the Blarney Stone definitely sounds like a tourist trap to avoid, the rest of the area makes for a lovely getaway or even just a day trip from Cork.