Kissing The Blarney Stone: One Of Ireland’s Most Unusual Attractions

kissing the blarney castle
Photo left by Chris Hill. Photo right by CLS Digital Arts (Shutterstock)

The ritual of kissing the Blarney Stone is one of the most popular things to do in Cork amongst visiting tourists.

While Irish myths and legends about Ireland are plentiful, there is one almost everyone has heard of… the fine tradition of bestowing a kiss on the Blarney Castle Stone.

For more than 200 years, tourists, statesmen and women, stars of the silver screen and more have made the pilgrimage up the steps to kiss the Blarney Stone. 

Some quick need-to-knows about the Blarney Stone

blarney castle and gardens
Photo by Chris Hill via Ireland’s Content Pool

Although a visit to see the famous Blarney Castle Stone is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

The Blarney Stone is located in Blarney Castle and Estate, in Blarney Village, 8km north-west of Cork City. From Cork Airport, follow the signs for the city centre and then Limerick. From Dublin, it takes about three to four hours to get to Blarney by car. Public transport buses or trains run regularly from Dublin to Cork

2. Why people kiss the Blarney Stone

It’s said that kiss the Blarney Stone will be given the ‘gift of the gab’. If you’re scratching your heading reading that, it means that those who kiss the stone will be able to speak eloquently and persuasively.

3. Admission

Opening times vary according to the time of year, with opening times longer in the summer. Tickets currently cost €16 for adults, €13 for students and seniors and €7 for children aged 8-16 (prices may change).

4. The future

After the 15 months we’ve just had, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen to the Blarney Castle Stone. Will people still be allowed to kiss it? Will they want to? Who knows! What I will say is that there’s much more to Blarney Castle than the stone, so it’s worth visiting regardless.

About the Blarney Stone in Cork

kiss the blarney stone
Photo by CLS Digital Arts (Shutterstock)

The tale behind the Blarney Stone in Cork is a long one, and there are several different versions online, as is the case with a lot of Irish folklore.

However, the history of the Blarney Castle Stone that you’ll find below tends to be the one that’s most consistent.

When the stone arrived at the castle

As you might expect there are a lot of stories about when the stone arrived at its current location.

One popular theory is that the castle’s builder, Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, was involved in a legal dispute in the 15th century and asked the Irish Goddess Clíodhna for her help.

She told him to kiss the first stone he saw in the morning. The chieftain followed the goddess’s advice and pleaded his case, persuading the judge he was right.

Why people kiss it

People kiss the Blarney Stone to get the ‘gift of the gab’. The ‘gift of the gab’ is Irish slang for being good at talking to people.

You could describe a great story teller or a great public speaker as having the ‘gift of the gab’. You could also describe someone who never stops talking as having it, too.

The Blarney Stone is also known as the Stone of Eloquence and the story goes that if you kiss it you’ll be granted to ability to speak persuasively.

Tales about the stone

In this story, Cormac Teige MacCarthy fell out of favour with Queen Elizabeth I, who wished to deprive him of his land rights. Cormac did not think he was an effective speaker and feared he would be unable to persuade the monarch to change her mind.

However, he met with an old woman who told him to kiss the Blarney Stone, which she promised would give him persuasive powers of speech and, sure enough, he was able to convince the queen to allow him to keep his lands.

More folklore about the Blarney Stone

There are plenty of other myths and legends about the Blarney Stone. Some people say the stone was Jacob’s Pillow (a stone used by the Israelite patriarch, Jacob, mentioned in the Book of Genesis), brought to Ireland by Jeremiah where it became the Lia Fail for Irish kings.

Another story has it that the stone was the deathbed pillow for St Columba. The Blarney Castle owners believe a witch saved from drowning revealed the power of the stone to the MacCarthy family.

FAQs about kissing the Blarney Stone 

kissing the blarney stone
Photo by Chris Hill via Ireland’s Content Pool

Over the years, we’ve received hundreds of emails asking us questions about the proccess involved in kissing the Blarney Stone.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Why do you have to hang upside down to kiss the Blarney Stone?

There’s a saying if something is easy, it’s not worth doing. The Blarney Stone is set in the wall below the battlements of the castle. In days of old, people were held by the ankles and lowered over to kiss the stone. In today’s more health and safety conscious times, visitors lean backwards and hold onto iron railings.

Do they clean the Blarney Stone?

When the castle reopened last year, special measures were put in place to maintain hygiene. Staff on site use a World Health Organization approved cleanser on the stone, which kills 99.9 percent of germs/viruses and is safe for humans. The railings, ropes, etc., are regularly cleaned too, as well as the mat the person lies on and the bars they hold.

Has anyone died kissing the Blarney Stone?

No, but a tragedy in 2017 did make people think someone might have died while doing so… Sadly, a 25-year-old man died when visiting the castle in May of that year, but the incident occurred when he fell from another part of the castle.

How high up is the Blarney Stone?

The stone is 85 feet (about 25 metres) up, on the east wall of the castle battlements.

Things to do near the Blarney Stone in Cork

One of the beauties of the Blarney Stone in Cork is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions, both man-made and natural.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the Blarney Castle Stone (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Blarney Castle and Gardens

the blarney castle stone
Photo via Atlaspix (Shutterstock)

Blarney Castle is much more than its stone, of course. It’s a proper afternoon out and it’s one of the most impressive castles in Ireland. The castle should be viewed from many angles to appreciate its architectural brilliance and imagine how imposing it must have been when first built.

2. Cork Gaol

cork gaol tour
Photo by Corey Macri (shutterstock)

Cork City Gaol is a castle-like building that once housed 19th century prisoners. The cells are filled with life-like wax figures and you can read the old graffiti on the cell walls where those long-ago prisoners make their fears known. There are plenty of other things to do in Cork City while you’re there.

3. The English Market

the english market
Photos via the English Market on Facebook

This covered English Market offers visitors a wealth of wonderful food. From organic produce to artisan cheeses, breads, local seafood and shellfish and more.

Take a big shopping bag and a hungry mind. Here are some other Cork City food and drink guides to nip into:

4. Historical sites

blackrock castle Observatory
Photo by mikemike10 (shutterstock)

When you’re finished at the Blarney Stone, Cork City has many historic sites to have a nosey around. Blackrock Castle, Elizabeth Fort, the Butter Museum and Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral are all worth a visit.

Emma Baird is a lifestyle editor and novelist. She has worked in the communications industry for more than 25 years, and loves animals, the countryside and lingering in a great pub for the food and the craic.

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