Blarney Castle, Cork
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One of the most visited attractions in Ireland is Blarney Castle, Blarney, County Cork, 10 kilometres west from Cork City centre. The castle is home to the legendary Blarney Stone, a block of bluestone built into the battlements of the castle.
According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery). The word blarney has come to mean clever, flattering, or coaxing talk. It is used particularly in the context of the ability of a man to chat up a woman.
The stone was set into a tower of the castle in 1446. The castle is a popular tourist site in Ireland, attracting visitors from all over the world to kiss the Stone and tour the castle and its gardens.
The history of Blarney Castle indicates that it was built nearly six hundred years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy.
The ritual of kissing the Blarney Stone, according to the castle’s proprietors, has been performed by "millions of people", including "world statesmen, literary giants and legends of the silver screen." The kiss, however, is not a casually achieved feat. To touch the stone with one’s lips, the participant must ascend to the castle’s peak, then lean over, backwards, on the parapet’s edge. This is traditionally achieved with the help of an assistant. Although the parapet is now fitted with wrought iron guide rails and protective crossbars, the ritual can still trigger attacks of acrophobia.
Prior to the installation of the safeguards, the kiss was performed with real risk to life and limb, as participants were grasped by the ankles and dangled bodily from the height. William Henry Hurlbert wrote in 1888 that the legend of the stone seemed to be less than a hundred years old at that time, suggesting the tradition began late in the 18th century, or early in the 19th.
There are various theories as to how the stone came to be positioned in the Castle. Some say it was Jacob’s Pillow, brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. Here it became the Lia Fail or ‘Fatal Stone’, used as an oracular throne of Irish kings. It was also said to be the deathbed pillow of St Columba on the island of Iona. Legend says it was then removed to mainland Scotland, where it served as the prophetic power of royal succession, the Stone of Destiny.
When Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, sent five thousand men to support Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English at Bannockburn in 1314, a portion of the historic Stone was given by the Scots in gratitude and returned to Ireland.
Others say it may be a stone brought back to Ireland from the Crusades – the ‘Stone of Ezel’ behind which David hid on Jonathan’s advice when he fled from his enemy, Saul. A few claim it was the stone that gushed water when struck by Moses.
Whatever the truth of its origin,the common belief is that a witch saved from drowning revealed its power to the MacCarthys. One thing is sure; if you are on a visit to the south west of Ireland do not miss the opportunity to experience one of the great Irish folklores.
You’ll never stop talking about it!