The legend-surrounded Blarney Stone is one of Ireland’s major attractions. Located at Blarney Castle within County Cork’s small village of Blarney, it is easy to reach by public transport from the county capital of Cork. Cork is Ireland’s second largest city, and County Cork is the country’s biggest county.
Whilst the Blarney Stone is often the main reason many people visit the castle, you might be surprised to find that there are lots of other things to do and see at the impressive Blarney Castle – it’s not just about kissing a stone!
Blarney Castle and the origins of the Blarney Stone
The present castle dates back to the 1440s, although it is believed that earlier constructions stood on the site since before the 1200s. With a long history, the castle was involved in battles, such as during the Irish Confederate Wars (1640s and 1650s), and has been owned by several prominent Irish families.
Differing tales about the Blarney Stone’s origin abound. Some people say that it was once part of the famous English druid stone circle of Stonehenge, whilst others say that it was a gift from Scotland to thank Ireland for helping Robert the Bruce to defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314).
There are stories that claim the stone came from much further away; some people believe that it is the biblical stone that Moses used to get water for the Israelites who were fleeing Egypt, and others recount tales of it being the Stone of Ezel (another biblical stone), brought to Ireland during the Christian Crusades. There are also those who believe that the stone was taken to Ireland by Jeremiah, a prophet, and that it is the Stone of Jacob, a stone used as a pillow by the biblical character of Jacob.
Location and legends of the Blarney Stone
Wherever the mysterious stone came from, it is commonly believed that it has magical powers. Some say that a witch, saved from drowning, revealed the stone’s powers, whereas others say that the witch actually cast a spell to create the powers.
And what is the stone’s magical quality? Supposedly, anybody who kisses the stone will be blessed with the gift of eloquence, also referred to as the gift of the gab! Yes, if you kiss the stone you will, according to local lore, be able to speak confidently, clearly, and persuasively. You should never be tongue-tied or lost for words again!
The stone, named after its Irish village home, led to the creation of the word blarney – a noun for a witty type of speech that seeks to persuade, charm, and flatter. It is often used when talking about people from Ireland.
The tradition of kissing the Blarney Stone is several hundred years old, with thousands of visitors coming to test the stone’s magic each and every year.
If you thought the Blarney Stone would just be sitting nicely in a courtyard for you to kiss, you’d be sorely mistaken! The celebrated stone is built into the castle’s walls, high up near the top. Indeed, it is around 11 metres (37 feet) from the ground!
First you must climb 127 stone steps up the battlements, a number proudly displayed on signs, and then walk around the high walls to the stone. Many signs point the way – you can’t fail to spot it!
Kissing the Blarney Stone – a dizzying challenge!
After climbing up to the top of the castle, you must queue to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. Mats are placed on the floor of the parapet walkway to keep your clothes clean(ish), and you need to lie flat on your back with the upper part of your body hanging over a gaping hole. Metal bars have been installed to make the experience a bit safer, but it’s still not recommended for anyone with a fear of heights!
Grip the iron bars at each side, whilst a member of staff holds you tightly around the waist, and wonder what on earth made you think this was a good idea! You then need to wriggle backwards even more and bend your head down for your lips to make contact with the stone. Don’t forget to hold on tight! Try not to look down, pucker up, and plant a great big kiss on the Blarney Stone, before wriggling your way forwards and being helped back up to a standing position by the assistant.
If you think it sounds a bit scary, keep in mind that visitors in the past were held upside down by their ankles, with no safety rails in place, to kiss the stone! The only thing stopping them from plunging to an almost certain death was the strength of their comrade holding their boots … it certainly needed a lot of trust and faith!
Other things to enjoy at Blarney Castle
If your knees have stopped knocking together after your kissing experience, there are several other attractions within the castle’s grounds.
The ruins of the castle are quite impressive, and you can enjoy the views from the top walkways, probably considering how far down you could have fallen!
There are several pleasant gardens surrounding the castle. See native Irish flora in the Irish Garden, keep your distance from deadly plants in the Poison Garden, and admire the waterfalls in the Bog Garden. Take a stroll through Rock Close and uncover delights such as the Wishing Steps, Fairy Glade, and an ancient Druid stone circle. There are interesting rock formations to enjoy, and you can’t help but shudder somewhat at the ancient Druid altar, previously used for ritual sacrifices.
Explore dark caves and dungeons, and enjoy a leisurely stroll around the lake.
Admission to Blarney Castle is 13 EUR (approximately 14.50 USD), with slight discounts available for booking your tickets online through their website.
Kiss the Blarney Stone to see for yourself whether the magic works for you!
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