No trip to Ireland is complete until you visit Blarney Castle for the age-old ritual of kissing the Blarney Stone. It was a chilly day in June 1994 in Ireland, but the lines moved quickly, and I received my dose of eloquence when I kissed the Blarney Stone.
Blarney Castle is located near the town of Blarney in County Cork, Ireland. It is about 5 miles (8 kilometers) northwest of Cork City.
Getting to Blarney Castle is straightforward once you are in Ireland, particularly after you arrive in Cork City. Ground transportation is an easy way to reach the impressive structure. You may choose a bus, taxi, or rental car.
Well-marked signs direct travelers to the famed fortifications. The castle is a popular tourist destination, so transportation options are available.
The Allure of Kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle
People from around the world journey to Blarney Castle. The adventure includes historical significance among spectacular views and one special reason: kissing the Blarney Stone. But what creates such a magnetic pull for this particular ritual?
The tradition is rooted in Irish folklore. Anyone who kisses the stone is believed to be bestowed with the ability to speak with eloquence, charm, and persuasion. This gift is assumed to benefit those in professions requiring strong communication skills, such as politics, sales, or law.
The experience of climbing up the narrow, angular steps to reach the stone offers an adrenaline rush and a sense of adventure. It’s not an everyday experience. The stunning view is well worth the climb.
What is the Blarney Stone?
The Blarney Stone, a famous limestone block, is integrated into Blarney Castle’s upper wall. Accessible only after climbing approximately 120 spiral stone steps that date back to the castle’s construction in the mid-1400s.
Situated at the tower’s topmost elevation, the Blarney Stone is a distinct element within the masonry. While some may opt not to kiss the stone, ascending the historic stairs offers a valuable opportunity to appreciate the castle’s interior architecture. From the tower’s pinnacle, panoramic views encompass expansive landscapes of forests, rivers, and open pastures.
Legends and Intrigue
In 16th-century Irish folklore, ‘blarney’ originated as the MacCarthy clan skillfully navigated Queen Elizabeth I’s demands regarding property rights. “Blarney” became a common term for mere flattery and sparked numerous origin legends about the enigmatic Blarney Stone.
Jacob’s Pillow and the First Stone Legend
The Blarney Stone, it is said, once cradled Jacob’s head while he slept outdoors. In a dream, he witnessed a celestial ladder extending to heaven. Angels ascended and descended. This stone, infused with the essence of divine revelation, became a vessel for dreams and the angels’ whispered wisdom.
An alternative origin tale speaks of the stone’s alleged journey from the Holy Land after the tumultuous era of the Crusades. On the journey, it absorbed historical events and battles. When it reached Blarney Castle, the stone held the weight of centuries and became a silent witness to history’s ebb and flow.
The Drowning Revealed a Secret
Another legend awaits. Cormac MacCarthy, lord of Muscry and part of the powerful MacCarthy clan, is said to have rescued an old woman from a treacherous river. This ordinary act unraveled into a magical narrative. The woman turned out to be a witch. In gratitude, she shared the secret that a specific stone within the castle possessed magical properties.
By kissing it, MacCarthy could unlock the solutions to his most perplexing dilemmas.
Queen of the Fairies
However, the grandest and most romantic legend unveils a mystical story of love and loss. Captivated by a gallant young chieftain, a beautiful Queen of the Fairies found her heart shattered by unrequited love. Tragedy struck when he died in battle. His lifeless body was discovered on a stone along the river bank.
Here, the queen grieved.
Her tears mingled with his blood on the stone. The poignant union of love and sorrow transformed the stone into a repository of magical powers. In her eternal sadness, she kissed the stone and transferred her fairy enchantments into its very essence.
As fate would have it, Cormac Láidir MacCarthy sought guidance from the mystical realms. The Queen of the Fairies, still grieving her lost love, revealed that the stone on which she had wept had become part of his castle. A kiss would reveal the magical energies infused by her sorrow and resolve his troubles.
The diversity and richness of these many examples contribute to the timeless allure and intrigue of the Blarney Stone and the MacCarthy family. Each narrative layers the Blarney Stone with a mystical history that transcends time.
The Blarney Stone brought me to an understanding of Ireland’s enduring magic. During my trip, I visited England, Wales, and Scotland too.
How to Kiss the Blarney Stone
It’s awkward, but millions have kissed the stone to gain eloquent speech during the last few hundred years, so it’s certainly achievable. A guide helps you to the correct position, hanging upside down.
You will lay on your back on the cold concrete, then scooch towards the outer wall while tilting your head backward.
Pucker up and kiss the overhead rock (see the arrow). The guide will pull you back onto your feet in a few seconds, and you’ll have great eloquence. Don’t worry about the photo. A quick internet search revealed that mine is fairly typical.
In addition to the Blarney Stone, the castle is a historic site that dates back to the 15th century. The grounds feature lush gardens such as the Rock Close or the Poison Garden. The overall experience combines history, tales of Irish kings, and the opportunity to enjoy the scenic beauty. It’s a destination worth visiting while in Ireland.
Blarney Castle Gardens
While at Blarney Castle, visit the many gardens. These garden areas range from rugged to finely manicured. There is even a Poison Garden for those brave enough to explore the toxic plants from around the world. You’ll be on your own there; I’m not ready for that adventure!
Safe and cozy, The Bog Garden features two waterfalls. Ahhhh….
In addition, there is a walking trail for a one-hour course through the grounds. After a hike, wander to the stable yard for cakes, fresh scones, and other snacks at the cafe. They offer coffee and tea with a place to relax.
Blarney Woolen Mills
Yarn lovers, prepare yourselves! You are near the incredible Blarney Woolen Mills, with 60,000 square feet of merchandise on three shopping levels. Known as “the largest Irish store in the world, family-owned,” this business is just a 4-minute drive and offers free parking.
You’ll find authentic Irish woven goods, crystal, china, ceramics, plus the usual tourist souvenirs here. Blarney Woolen Mills was built in 1823. It was originally a business for spinning and weaving wool but is now more of a heritage shop inside the original building with period architecture preserved.
For me, much of the “gab” is in my writing. I’m still shy in large groups but will talk on and on and on and on in small groups or among friends, especially when the topic is crochet!
So, fellow crocheters, isn’t it time you embraced Ireland’s charm yourself? Between the lush landscapes, rich history, and irresistible allure of fairy tales, Ireland is a treasure trove for exploration. You may find yourself inspired to use the ‘Irish green’ in your next crochet masterpiece.
Frequently Asked Questions
Visitors often have questions about how and why people kiss the Blarney Stone.
Q: Is it safe to kiss the Blarney Stone?
A: To kiss the Blarney Stone, visitors lie on their backs and lean backward over a gap in the parapet with the help of an attendant. Kissing the stone requires a certain degree of physical flexibility and courage.
While safety measures are in place, some people may find the experience intimidating. After all, you will be suspended, and it’s pretty high at the top of the tower. The downward view can trigger exhilaration or anxiety about falling. Trained staff will assist you, and there are safety rails to prevent accidents.
However, individuals with acrophobia or physical limitations should exercise caution when kissing the Blarney Stone.
Q: Why do you kiss the Blarney Stone upside down?
A: Well, it’s the only way for your lips to reach the stone for the kiss. Being upside down may be a symbolic gesture, emphasizing humility and a willingness to receive the gift of eloquence from the stone.
By leaning backward in a vulnerable position, the kisser shows respect and deference to the stone’s legendary powers.
Q: How long does it take to visit Blarney Castle?
A: Some people spend two or three hours, while others may take half a day. The duration depends on individual preferences and interests. I recommend four to six hours to enjoy the entire experience, including the beautiful gardens and the scenic views.
Q: Can I take photographs while kissing the Blarney Stone?
A: Photography is generally allowed at Blarney Castle, but it’s advisable to check the specific guidelines. Some areas or specific activities may have restrictions.
You cannot take a selfie or picture while kissing the stone, but you can ask others in your group or someone in the line behind you to take your photo during your turn at kissing the Blarney Stone.
So, fellow crocheters, isn’t it time you embraced the charm of Ireland yourself? Between the lush landscapes, rich history, and irresistible allure of the Blarney Stone, Ireland is a treasure trove awaiting your exploration. Who knows, you may even find yourself inspired by the ‘Irish green’ or the winding River Sneem to create your next crochet masterpiece. Pack your hooks and yarn and start on a crocheting adventure like no other in Ireland!