Even if you don’t know much about Ireland, you have probably heard of the Blarney Stone; a stone of legend, with rumoured powers and a mysterious history. Some claim the rock to be a section of the Stone of Destiny, which was gifted to the King of Munster after he sent his men to support Robert the Bruce. Others say it was the deathbed pillow of St. Columba, while more believe that it is the Lia Fail; a stone that foretold the next of the Irish Kings (think of the sorting hat in Harry Potter).
Whatever its origins, one thing that can be agreed upon is its power: the gift of eloquence. According to a popular legend, its power was first discovered by Cormac McCarthy, the builder of Blarney Castle. He was involved in a court case, and in his despair he pleaded with a goddess for assistance. She came to his aid and told him to kiss the first rock he discovered in the morning. Following her instructions, he did just that and then proceeded to win his case thanks to a new-found eloquence. Upon his return, Cormac McCarthy had the stone incorporated into Blarney Castle, where it remains for all to visit today.
Despite living in Ireland for three months, I didn’t spend a lot of time in southern Ireland and never made it to the Blarney Stone. So when I returned to the Emerald Isle (for the third time) in March of 2014, there was no doubt that this time I would go and get the gift of eloquence for myself. Not that, as my friends and family so kindly told me, I really needed any help in the talking area.
We took the bus from Cork to Blarney- a tiny Irish town less than 10km from Cork. Upon our arrival in Blarney we followed the signs to the castle, and after purchasing our tickets (13 euro each) we entered the beautiful grounds of Blarney Castle. The grounds offer a lot to see: Blarney House, gardens (including a poison garden), and a lake walk. There are even some caves under the castle, which we ducked into to explore for a bit. It was fun until I spotted a massive hairy spider on the roof above my brother’s head, and then we all ran out in a hurry.
The main attraction, of course, is Blarney Castle itself and the infamous stone at the top. Being in an old castle, there’s a lot of tight winding stairs and ducking under low doorways before you get to the top, but once there you are rewarded with a beautiful view, and of course the chance to kiss the Blarney Stone itself.
We waited in line for a few minutes, but it wasn’t long before it was our turn. I watched, eager and a little terrified as my brother slid backward and over the edge. At over 6 feet tall I was amazed and how much of him was hanging over the wall in open air. My heart raced a little wondering how much of my 5”8 tall body would have to hang over the edge to reach the stone.
Turns out, it was a lot. “Futher” the aid told me as I leaned back, hands gripped to the metal bars behind me. “Still!?” I squeaked, sliding back even more. “Don’t worry he said.” Holding my (hopefully not too slippery) rain coat, “I’ve got you.”
Trusting him I slid down and bent all the way back- looking down at the tiny people on the grounds below me. Not wasting any time I kissed the old, grey, stone that thousands of other’s had pressed their lips to before me, and was quickly yanked back up and moved out of the way for the next person. Mission complete- I had kissed the iconic Blarney Stone and a sneaky photo to prove it.
Have you kissed the Blarney Stone?