Whoever kisses the Blarney Stone wins the gift of eloquence
All my life I had heard about the Blarney Stone which, if you kiss it, will give you the “gift of gab.” In other words, you will be very eloquent. I had always imagined that the stone would be some sort of rock on the top of a hill, similar to King Arthur´s story of the sword and the stone. It turns out, however, that the Blarney Stone is part of Blarney Castle in a small town just outside of Cork. When I went, I took the bus from Cork departing from the Parnell Place Bus Station in the city of Cork to the Village of Blarney. This bus departs every half hour, more or less, and when I went the bus was filled with other tourists, eager to see the famous castle.
We all piled onto the bus, and although we weren´t sure exactly where the castle was, we assumed that when we arrived in the village there would be signs for the main attraction. There was no need to worry because literally half the bus got off at the same stop in Blarney Village and began walking to join the wave of tourists already flocking to the Castle Entrance. I might add that there were tons of tourists, despite the rain because I think after the first few days in Ireland, we all learned that you just have to go about your business despite the wet conditions, or you would not see anything at all!
The entrance to Blarney Castle appeared to be almost like an amusement park or a zoo with archways and a man selling tickets. Just past the entrance/exit were two small shops selling tee shirts with clever slogans such as “Do you remember your first kiss? Blarney Stone, Ireland.” As you continued down a winding path, however, the grounds of the castle took over. Everything was so green! The lawns were huge and sprawling, and there were tall trees to surround the castle, keeping it enclosed and isolated.
As the castle itself came into view, I was surprised to see that it was smaller than what I had expected. It was not decorative in any way, but then again, the castle was originally built in the year 1210, so it stands to reason that decoration was not top on their list. The castle passed through various conflicts and wars such as the Irish Confederate Wars, a siege by Parlimentarian forces in 1646 and the Williamite Wars of Ireland in the 1690s. In the 18th century, the castle was purchased by Sir James St. John Jefferyes, the Governor of Cork City at the time. The Jefferyes family built themselves a mansion nearby, but it was destroyed in a fire in 1874 and was then rebuilt as a Baron´s mansion and is known as Blarney House. You can visit the house, as well, however due to time constraints I chose to visit only the Castle.
As you can see from the photos, the Castle is now a partial ruin, but this didn´t stop hundreds of tourists from flocking to the Stone of Eloquence (the Blarney Stone). We followed the signs and the pathway around the periphery of the castle to the long line in order to kiss the famous stone. As we stood in line, everyone was talking about whether or not you should actually kiss the stone. I guess in theory, with so many people kissing the same rock, in more or less the same place, you could contract some kind of disease like herpes. Can you imagine getting herpes from the stone? Not the souvineer any of us were looking for. Although, in the end we all decided it was worth the risk.
As we wound our way through the castle there were two musicians playing a lute and singing with a tambourine what seemed to be traditional Irish music. This added to the feeling that we were in a sort of theme park attraction, between the long lines, the music and the non stop photos everyone was snapping, but we finally reached the top of the castle, where the Blarney Stone was located. The stone was set into the tower of the castle in the year 1446 and has lots of legends surrounding the origins of how the stone acquired the power to give eloquence to those who kissed it. One such legend says that Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, the man who built the Blarney Castle was involved in a lawsuit and he asked the goddess Clíodhna for help. She told MacCarthy that he should kiss the first stone he found in the morning as he went off to court. This is just what he did and in court he pled his case with great eloquence and won, so from that time on the Blarney Stone has been said to impart “the ability to deceive without offending.” After this happened, MacCarthy added the lucky stone to the tower of the castle.
There is also a certain way that the visitors must kiss the stone. I had no idea about this until I got up to the top of the castle tower. It turns out that you have to lie on your back and lean over the edge of the castle tower (with the help of some iron bars and an assistant) in order to kiss the stone. I was rather nervous about this (and you can see the look in my eyes, as if I were going to fall straight into the gap between the castle tower and the stone…but in the end, there was no problem. If you are reading this, you can judge for yourself whether or not the stone has given me the gift of eloquence or not.
After kissing the stone, we made our way back down from the castle, bought our requisite souvineers, and headed to the bus stop. I will mention that if you are lucky enough to visit the Blarney Castle on a sunny day, there are extensive gardens with some beautiful natural rock formations. We, however, chose to pop into a small restaurant just next to the bus stop for a cappuchino to warm up and avoid the torrential downpour of rain that hit just when we arrived to wait for the bus. It turned out to be a good plan, and it was fun chatting with the people we had just met on our visit. I will say that the long wait in line gave us a chance to get to know some fellow tourists and pick up some tips about what to see and what to avoid while visiting the surrounding area. Rusko loves to make friends when he is on trips. We ruskommend a visit to the Blarney Castle with 4 boquerones due to the fact that it really is quite touristy, although the beauty of the grounds and the legends surrounding the Blarney Stone were enough to make for a very enjoyable visit.