Ireland is a land of legends — a country with myths and stories that travel around the world from person to person. While Ireland has no shortage of natural beauty, it is often its legends that first appeal to people considering the next place they should visit. Skipping over leprechauns completely… it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the Blarney Stone is the most well-known Irish legend. There’s something about the idea of the Blarney Stone that pulls people in — after all, you’ve clicked through to this blog to find out more… Several of our Small Group Tours of Ireland visit Blarney Castle — the site of the mythical stone — and we’d like to take a little time to answer some common questions about it.
Does Kissing the Blarney Stone Give you the Gift of the Gab?
Let’s get the big question out of the way first. Legends say that if you kiss the Blarney Stone you will receive greater powers of eloquence — especially with respect to flattery. This new-found ability is referred to as the ‘Gift of the Gab’ and it is perhaps the main reason thousands of tourists (and locals) flock to Blarney Castle each year. Who wouldn’t want to be more charming and articulate?
The question is: does kissing the stone really bestow magical powers of articulation upon you? The short answer is: it’s impossible to say, but probably not… But that’s also the boring answer. The longer, more interesting, answer is that the Blarney Stone probably does bestow some kind of gift on those who kiss it, but we can’t know whether this gift is magical or some kind of psychological confidence boost that comes from believing you’ve been given a magical gift — very much like a placebo. One thing we know for sure is that many people do claim to possess the Gift of the Gab after kissing the stone, so sceptics shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the story. After all, Winston Churchill famously kissed the Blarney Stone, and whatever you might think of the man, you have to acknowledge that he was an extremely skilled orator.
Do they wash the Blarney Stone?
This is a common question, and it’s fairly clear why; if 40,000 people from all around the world kiss the same stone in Ireland in a year, then there are legitimate concerns about how hygienic it is… Before the COVID-19 pandemic, staff cleaned the stone frequently, disinfecting it. While this level of cleaning was enough before the pandemic, it is easy to assume that it will be cleaned between each use in the future. This is good news for tourists, but it may slow down the line of people waiting for their turn.
What is the history of the Blarney Stone?
There are various stories about the Blarney Stone and it’s impossible to disentangle the history from the myth. One story claims that the stone is the Stone of Jacob from the Old Testament, and that it was brought to Ireland by the Prophet Jerimiah. Another story tells that the Blarney Stone served as a deathbed pillow for the legendary St Columba — the saint credited with spreading Christianity throughout Scotland. Somehow, it is believed that the stone was taken from Scotland and brought to Ireland. A different, less biblical, story suggests that the stone was part of the Stone of Scone (also known as the ‘Stone of Destiny’) — a legendary block of stone used in the coronation ceremony of Scottish Kings. It is believed that Scottish hero Robert the Bruce awarded Cormac Mac Cárthaigh, the king of Munster, with a part of the Stone of Scone after he sent men to aid Scotland’s fight against the English at the Battle of Bannockburn.
What is the origin of Blarney Castle?
Whatever the mythical origins of the stone, Blarney Castle’s story is a lot easier to trace. The castle was originally built in 1446, but scholars are fairly certain that a previous structure existed in the same spot that dates back to before 1200 AD. Built as a military stronghold by Cormac Láidir MacCarthy, the castle changed hands several times over the centuries as people used its superior defences to their advantage. While the castle has belonged to various kings, earls, and lords over the centuries, the estate it rests on is currently owned by Sir Charles St John Colthurst.
So, Why Should you Kiss the Blarney Stone?
We’ve answered a bunch of questions of about the Blarney Stone, but we haven’t yet answered the title of this article… why should you kiss the Blarney Stone? Firstly, it’s fun to take part in tradition and to suspend your disbelief long enough to believe in magic. Ireland has a mercurial, mythical identity, and it’s always a richer, more rewarding travel experience to jump right into the customs and stories of the countries you visit. So, we think you absolutely should kiss the Blarney Stone, but it really is up to you. You may just be hanging upside down kissing an old stone in Ireland that is covered in antibacterial spray; or you may be tapping into newfound powers of eloquence. Even if the chances of receiving the Gift of the Gab are slight, what do you have to lose?
If anything in this blog has inspired you to finally book that trip to Ireland you’ve wanted for so long, then keep in mind that Overland Ireland’s small group Ireland tours are a great way to take in the natural sights and culturally significant landmarks. And if you’re looking for something particularly unique, you may like to opt for our custom Irish tours as we can tailor-make the experience to suit your needs and desires. If you have any questions about our tours or about the Blarney Stone, then please feel free to get in touch!
Planning on visiting Ireland soon? Get our free guides! We answer your Ireland Travel FAQs + offer local tips for visiting Dublin.