Winston Churchill, Mick Jagger, the Simpsons, and millions of others have kissed the Blarney Stone.
But why does everyone do it? It’s incredibly unhygienic, the rock is positioned at the top of a ruined castle, and hard surfaces are terrible kissers.
Well, in all honesty, nobody knows. This stony smooch is supposed to give you the ‘gift of the gab’, and the ability to communicate with eloquence and wit. But no one is certain how or where this unique tradition originated. Yet that doesn’t stop people making up fantastical myths surrounding the stone.
So, we’re going to take you on a journey through all the ancient stories people have proposed to explain this rock’s magic powers. Some are reasonable, others are inventive, and a few are just plain mad.
Read on and decide which one you believe.
Cormac Laidir McCarthy built Blarney Castle. But this achievement didn’t make him happy. And that’s because he had a difficult lawsuit hanging over his head.
So, he did what everyone does in times of trouble: he prayed. And he was answered by the ancient goddess of love and beauty, Clíodhna.
She told him he’d win his legal battle if he kissed the first stone he saw on his way to court. It sounded mad, but Cormac was ready to believe anything.
So, on the morning of his trial, he spotted a stone and gave it a big, wet, sloppy kiss.
And when he arrived in front of the judge and jury, he suddenly spoke with great eloquence. His words wove together like a fine tapestry, and against all odds he won the lawsuit.
Cormac decided to lay the stone he kissed in his castle to commemorate the god. It was the final piece placed in Blarney Castle, and finally he could look at his home with feelings of pride and joy.
The existence of Irish gods is questionable.
In the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I and the English were forcing Irish lords to sign away the rights to their land.
But Cormac Teige McCarthy, the Lord of the Blarney Castle, despised this ruling.
So, he asked a wise old lady what he should do about this. And she sarcastically told him to ‘kiss a rock’. Cormac was a bit cheeky, so he surprised both the rock and the old lady and snogged a slab of stone.
But after he kissed the stone, he had a flash of inspiration. So, he immediately set off to see the queen.
When he arrived in the queen’s court, his words flowed like decadent wine, and he convinced her not to take his land. He proudly set off back to Ireland and gave the rock another passionate kiss.
But when the queen realised she’d been duped, she sent the Earl of Leicester to take Cormac’s land.
Yet, Cormac invited the earl to lavish dinners, boisterous booze-ups, and incredible parties. So, the earl started to love Cormac, and in each progress report he sent to the queen, the earl wryly told her that the castle still hadn’t been taken. Every time there was another excuse.
Eventually, the queen read a letter and threw it to the ground in frustration. She said, “It says nothing at all, it’s all blarney!”.
And even though Cormac thought the old woman who told him to kiss a block of rock was talking blarney, he still treasured the rock that may have helped him keep his land. So, he hoisted the stone into a prime position in his castle and kissed it every night for evermore.
There's evidence the queen said these words.
One of the most important battles in Scottish history is the Battle of Bannockburn, 1314.
It’s when Robert the Bruce and 10,000 Scots defeated a well-prepared English army of 17,000 soldiers. The aftermath of this battle resulted in a treaty that established an independent Scotland for many years.
And according to legend, Scotland wouldn’t have won it without the lord of Blarney Castle.
They say Cormac McCarthy admired the Scottish revolution and gave Robert the Bruce 5,000 of his soldiers to fight in this important battle.
And after the Scots won, Robert the Bruce thanked Cormac by giving him a stone.
But this wasn’t any stone. It was a piece of the fabled stone of destiny. It was the block that had been used to coronate the Kings of Scotland for centuries.
Maybe if you had such a precious piece of history in your possession, you’d believe that kissing it could give you some form of charm.
Recent scientific tests have shown the rock comes from Ireland.
So, these are a few of the stranger Blarney Stone stories. Most of these theories are completely unsubstantiated, and there’s almost no research on why, how, or when such ideas came about. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy these fanciful flights of the imagination.
- The stone is the one Moses struck to part the red sea
- In Iona, Scotland, it was the deathbed pillow for St. Columbo
- It's the famous Stone of Jacob, the pillow Jacob slept on as he had a vision of god
- A witch that was saved by Cormac cast a magical charm over the stone
Biblical figures, ancient saints, and witches are unlikely to have had anything to do with this rock.
Pressing your soft lips against rough rock isn’t even the best thing about Blarney Castle. The grounds boast a poisonous garden, woodland walks, and a jungle. The castle architecture looks both magical and warlike. And there’s an ancient cave dwelling, a beautiful lake, and a dungeon to explore.
But if you do want to kiss the Blarney Stone, you should head straight to the main castle when you arrive. The waiting time can be around 30 minutes in the high season (May – September), and there are almost no queues at all in the quieter months (October – April). The wait is pleasant because the queue snakes along the beautiful castle stairs and ramparts.
When you arrive at the stone, be prepared for a very strange experience. A person holds you over a sheer drop as you lean your head back upside down and smooch a cold slab of stone.
It takes three hours to get to Blarney Castle from Dublin, so it’s best to do it as part of a multi-day trip.
If you don’t fancy driving, or would like a local expert to show you around Ireland, you can check out our small group tours of Ireland and Blarney Castle here.
We hope you enjoyed our stories, myths, and facts about the Blarney Stone. You may not believe in the fanciful legends, but remember, Winston Churchill did become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after kissing the stone…