Does kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland give you the gift of the gab?
Forty-something adventurer Tamara Pitelen went on a solo three month bicycle adventure around Ireland and kissed the Blarney Stone along the way. Here is her tongue-in-cheek tale and good-natured thoughts on this iconic experience.
Tamara cycles through the rain to reach the Blarney Village in Ireland
The ride from Cork to Kinsale via Blarney
I road the 8kms north from Cork for a visit to the famous castle and kissing stone of Blarney. The famous stone said to embue anyone who kisses it with the gift of the gab aka the eloquence of those silver-tongued Irish charmers who mix their soft seductive brogue with a touch of flattery and a twinkle in the eye.
This magical stone is located at the top of Blarney Castle in Blarney Village. And kissing the thing isn’t as easy as it sounds. First you’ve got to climb a narrow and steep spiral staircase, the steps of which get smaller and more perilous the higher you go.
Gain the gift of eloquence by climbing the steps of the castle and kissing the world famous Blarney stone (Photo: Patryk Kosmider)
Kissing the Blarney stone
The stone itself hangs over a long drop to the ground so to kiss it, you have to lie on your back then, holding some specially placed rails, lower your torso over the gaping hole, lean your head right back and smooch. Luckily, there is a man whose job it is to keep hold of you so you don’t do yourself a mischief.
I was one of about 12 billion people who snogged the stone that day, we all snaked up the castle stairs in a slow moving line waiting for our turn with the promiscuous piece of rock. Seeing all those tourist lips touch the famous stone made me wonder if there was an option to shake its hand instead, or simply greet it affectionately. After all, we hardly knew each other. But clearly this stone is not picky as to whose affections it accepts.
The Stone itself is still set in the wall below the battlements (Photo: Thomas Barrat)
What’s it all about?
Blarney Castle is making a killing though, it costs thirteen euro to get in, and ten euro for the official photograph taken just as you do the big kiss. Warning signs forbidding you to take your own photos for commercial gain are prominent. They want all the commercial gain for themselves.
But it’s not done very well, when it comes to questions like, where did the stone actually come from and who decided that kissing it gave you the gift of the gab? I tried asking the people so keen to take my money for everything else but they just mumbled something about not knowing and told me to buy one of their not so useful guide books. So I researched a bit of history about the castle myself.
Basically, Blarney Castle was built in 1446 by the fiercesome MacCarthys, an ancient Irish clan recognised as Kings of Munster, it was a time of continuous battling between the different Irish Chiefs. In its day, Blarney Castle was more of a small walled town built so the MacCarthys could defend themselves from attack from other clans looking to extend their land and wealth. But the legend of the kissing stone wasn’t born till about the 1800s long after Queen Elizabeth tried to tighten the screw on the Irish chiefs by demanding that they agree to possess their lands under legal tenure from her.
The inside of the Blarney castle is beautiful (Photo: Gerardo Borbolla)
Lord of the Blarney
Cormac Teige MacCarthy, Lord of Blarney, had no intention of submitting to the Queen’s demand yet as a shrewd politician, he answered all of her demands with a letter protesting his undying loyalty and making flattering references to the person of her most Gracious Majesty. On the receipt of yet another such letter, the story goes that Lizzy lost her royal composure and shouted in rage along the lines of “this is all blarney! He never does what he says” and so the word ‘blarney’ slipped into the vernacular being originally defined as ‘persuasive talk designed to deceive but not to cause offence’.
As for where the stone itself came from, this one is a bit murkier. One theory is that is was brought back from the Crusades, back in the days when they didn’t have souvenir teaspoons and tea-towels presumably. Or it may be the portion of the Royal Stone of Scone which Robert the Bruce of Scotland gave to Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, in gratitude for lending him 4000 men to help him in battle. I’m thinking it went something like, “Yeah, cheers for lending me your army, here’s a rock. . .”
While colloquial meaning of the word ‘blarney’ is thanks to Queen Lizzy, the public kissing of the stone seems to date to the late 18th Century but how it came about is anybody’s guess. Which just means that I don’t know and couldn’t find out on Google.
Take a free, virtual ‘tour’ of the spectacular Blarney Castle by clicking here.
The Poison Garden at Blarney Castle (Photo: Virtual Visit Tours)
The legend of the Blarney Stone
Over the past few hundred years millions of people have made the pilgrimage to kiss the Blarney Stone, which is believed to give the ‘gift of eloquence’. The promise? You’ll never be lost for words again after you kiss one of Ireland’s greatest treasures. In times past dedicated visitors were held by their ankles and lowered head first to get their lucky kiss. However, these days you just need to lean backwards whilst holding onto an iron railing. It was built nearly 600 years ago in Blarney, Cork in Ireland by Cormac McCarthy who was one of Irelands greatest chieftains.
(Featured photo: Wikimedia)
Have you ever kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland? Is it on your bucket list? Join our conversation below!