Phil says… Millions of visitors to Ireland from all over the world go to see the Blarney Stone and take part in the famous ritual of kissing it. Legend has it that whoever kisses the stone, which was built into the battlements of the castle in 1446, shall be rewarded with the everlasting skill of being able to flatter people, or as the Irish say, inherit ‘the gift of the gab’.
The kiss itself is not easily achieved however, with people having to climb to the top of the castle and lean backwards over the walls edge to press their lips against the stone. This practice is supervised of course, with the help of an assistant and safety gear and there have also been iron guide rails and protective crossbars fitted.
This was not always the case though, as before these safety measures were introduced, people would risk their lives trying to kiss the stone, dangling from the castle walls as others desperately clung to their ankles!
The origins and traditions surrounding the stone take on a number of guises and it is up to those who visit the castle to decide which folklore they wish to accept.
It is thought that the word Blarney derives from a meeting between Queen Elizabeth I and the Lord of Blarney, Cormac Teige McCarthy. Whilst requesting an oath of loyalty to retain occupancy of land, Queen Elizabeth I received responses from the Lord of Blarney which amounted to subtle diplomacy, promising the Queen loyalty without surrendering land. Queen Elizabeth I declared that McCarthy was giving her ‘a lot of Blarney’ which gave rise to the legend and Blarney was thought of as being able to offer ‘empty flattery’.
If you are visiting Ireland and want to take part in this famous ritual, venture out of Dublin using one of the excellent car hire services and head for Cork and on to Blarney Castle. You too could go home having gained ‘the gift of the gab!’