Known for bestowing all who kiss it with eloquence and persuasiveness, Ireland’s Blarney Stone has earned a reputation that is world renown, making it one of Ireland’s greatest treasures. For the past handful of centuries, the stone has been a beacon to tourists and has become a “must see” site for anyone visiting Ireland.
The Blarney Stone gets its name from Blarney Castle and a few cleverly crafted stories that may or may not be true…
The current Blarney Castle is the third to be built on the location. The first castle was a tenth century wooden structure. The second was a stone structure built circa 1210 A.D. The version of Blarney Castle that is still standing was erected on the same site by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster, in 1446.
The castle was later occupied by descendant Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster. Local lore claims Cormac McCarthy supplied four thousand men to bolster the forces of Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, which was decisive in the battle for the Scots to win their independence from England. The Blarney Stone is said to be a gift of thanks from Robert the Bruce– half the Stone of Scone, which is also rumored to have super-powers of its own. (Though, this story is contradicted by information that the Stone of Scone was not in Scotland’s possession for at least eighteen years prior to when Robert the Bruce allegedly gave the castle half the Stone of Scone.)
How the Blarney Stone and its gift of gab are tied together is connected to another local legend…
In one story linked to Blarney Castle, Queen Elizabeth I had solicited the Earl of Leicester to initiate negotiations with McCarthy to acquire possession of Blarney Castle. McCarthy managed to cleverly evade relinquishing the castle through distraction and delay. When the Queen called for a progress report, she was given a long missive detailing why the castle had yet to be surrendered. The story claims Queen Elizabeth I was so irritated she decried the earl’s reports as “Blarney”– thus linking the term “Blarney” to mean persuasive and eloquent speech.
One story which connects the stone directly to the castle and also imbues it with the gift of gab has more of a folk-lore feel to it. In this story, Cormac McCarthy is involved in a distressing legal matter. He pleads to the goddess Clíodhna asking for assistance. The goddess replies, telling McCarthy to kiss the first stone he finds on his way to court. McCarthy follows Clíodhna’s directions and heads off to court where he pleaded his case with great eloquence and won. McCarthy then recovered the stone and placed it in the castle’s parapet, so future kings could kiss the stone and receive the stone’s gift.
Present day visitors to Blarney Castle can kiss the stone themselves. Castle visitors need to be prepared for the long hike to the upper battlements of the castle. It’s a 10 story hike consisting of 127 stone steps. Don’t even think about elevators– they weren’t invented in 1446 and have not been incorporated into the castle.
The Blarney Stone isn’t the only reason to visit Blarney Castle– visitors can be captivated by the lush castle grounds, picturesque views as well as other irish legends like the wishing steps at Rock Close. For more information and photos of the castle and castle grounds, I encourage you to visit Blarney Castle’s homepage.