Thousands of tourists flock to Blarney Castle every year to kiss the Blarney Stone. But why? We’ve got the full story below.
Ah, the Blarney Stone. It’s one of those tourist attractions in Ireland that is something of an enigma.
Why on earth would thousands of people want to smooch the stone that’s built into the battlements of Blarney Castle, let alone all the while being upside down to do so?
Why do people kiss the Blarney Stone, you ask? Well, let’s take a look at the Blarney Stone’s history and origin to find out what’s what.
The Blarney Stone – what is it?
The word ‘blarney’ itself means ‘skilful flattery or nonsense’, and it apparently first came about during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled England and Ireland in the 16th century.
The word came about because of an incident involving the queen and the McCarthy family. When Queen Elizabeth I sent the Earl of Leicester to seize Blarney Castle, the talkative head of the McCarthy clan managed to keep stalling him.
In the queen’s frustration with the unresolved matter, she appeared to refer to the whole ordeal and the reports being “blarney”.
In regards to the stone, it was added to Blarney Castle’s grounds in 1446 to reinforce the castle in the form of a battlement.
Address: Monacnapa, Blarney, Co. Cork, T23 Y598, Ireland
Why do people kiss the Blarney Stone? – the origin story
So, kissing the Blarney Stone has been a years-long tradition that sees millions of people flock to Blarney Castle every year. So, it begs the question: why?
Well, kissing the stone is said to give the kisser the “gift of the gab”, better known as the ability to sweet-talk and charm with one’s words. This is a characteristic that many often apply to the Irish.
However, while the stone’s addition to the castle dates back to 1446, people only really started kissing it way later in the 18th century.
Although the first person said to kiss the stone was Cormac McCarthy (Cormac Laidir MacCarthy), an Irish lord and the man who built the original castle. The current castle, as it stands, was built by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster.
He did so under the advice of Clíodhna, the legendary Queen of the Banshees. Cormac was having legal trouble, so Clíodhna advised him to kiss the first stone he came across on the morning of his court date.
In turn, McCarthy won his case, all the while showing incredible fluency and confidence in the dock. Old pictures of the stone show it to be pretty wobbly and in bad condition. Today, the stone is sanitised several times a day due to the number of visitors kissing it!
Why upside down? – why do people kiss the Blarney Stone upside down?
So, if you’re wondering why people kiss the Blarney Stone upside down, the simple answer is that it’s the only way to reach it.
Due to its placement in the castle wall below the battlements, visitors have to lie down, lean back while gripping the iron rails, and kiss it. Staff will also be there to hold and assist you.
This is much safer than how people used to kiss the stone. Visitors were formerly taken over to the stone and kissed it with their ankles tied together! Well, as they say, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!
Visiting Blarney Castle – tips and advice
Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone are open all year round for visitors. However, we recommend visiting out of peak times, like the summer, to avoid big queues and long waiting times.
January and February are great times to visit with fewer crowds for you to kiss the stone and explore the grounds in peace.
Admission tickets to the castle cost €20 for adults, €16 for students and seniors, and €9 for kids (children five and under go free).
Fun facts about the Blarney Stone and Blarney Castle gardens – interesting facts
- Celebrities who have kissed the legendary stone include Winston Churchill, Laurel and Hardy, and Mick Jagger.
- The initial Blarney Castle was a timber fortification built in the 10th century for Saint Blarney.
- There is a poison garden on-site featuring over 70 toxic species of plant. Visitors will see the sign that warns, ‘Do not touch, smell, or eat any plant!’
- During the Covid-19 pandemic, visitors were unable to kiss the stone for the first time in 600 years.
Other notable mentions
Jacob’s pillow: Another popular story about the stone is that it was initially used by the Israelite patriarch, Jacob, mentioned in the book of Genesis. This theory states that the stone was brought to Ireland by Jeremiah as the stone of destiny for Irish Kings.
Witch’s blessing: Another theory states that a witch bestowed the stone’s power as a thank-you to an Irish king who saved her from drowning.
A gift from Scotland: Some theories suggest that Cormac was the first person to kiss the stone after receiving it as a gift from King Robert the Bruce of Scotland.
FAQs about the Blarney Stone
What is the Blarney Stone?
The Blarney Stone is a famous stone at Blarney Castle & Gardens that is said to give those who kiss it the gift of eloquence.
How old is the Blarney Stone?
The stone itself is said to be over 330 million years old. However, it was embossed at Blarney Castle in 1446.
When did the kissing start?
The first person to kiss the stone was Cormac McCarthy (or Cormac MacCarthy), to give him luck in an alleged legal proceeding in the 15th century. However, regular people didn’t start kissing the stone until much later in the 18th century.