A Little Blarney… Kissing Ireland’s Most Famous Stone

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Ireland is the most charming country on the planet. Okay, that’s a bold statement, I know. I’ve visited truly incredible countries during my year on the road. And while Laos and Nepal hold particularly special places in my heart, Ireland feels like home.

My parents nursed me on stories of the Emerald Isle. Pictures of the O’Donnell family crest graced our walls. I grew up captivated by tales of silkies and fairies, and captivated by photos once my dad returned home from his trip to Ireland spent tracing our family history. It’s impossible to not completely love a place you’ve dreamed of visiting. I first visited Ireland in 2005 with my dad, and we focused mostly on County Donegal—we rented a car, got lost on tiny winding roads, and hiked rugged coastline through endless sheep pastures. This time, I would seek out Ireland’s other most famous vistas, hikes, and yes, castles. Specifically, I would seek out Blarney Castle in Cork so I would be blessed with the gift of gab.

top of Blarney Castle
The lush green grounds of Blarney Castle viewed from up high on the top of the castle.

Getting to the Blarney Stone in Cork

Without my dad leading the way, my trip would focus on the southern coast of Ireland. And because the country’s small, I decided to rent a car in Dublin as soon as I landed and head south immediately. While not an entirely sane idea since I hail from a country that drives on the right side of the road, it was the most efficient and effective way to get around.

That said, landing in Dublin and immediately driving on the massive highway system is baptism by fire. My blood pressure skyrocketed when I approached the first round-about: I held my breath, tapped on my turn signal, looked left . . . no WAIT—I looked right before venturing on my way for the very straightforward three hour drive to Cork.

Cork is a pretty big city, but it’s consumable. I’m not a “big-city” person, and Cork actually runs a fine line between being too large. Thankfully, once you park there’s plenty of charm to find in the city. Since it was raining when I arrived in Cork, I opted to wait until the next morning—hoping the fickle Irish weather would clear.

Where: Blarney Castle—which is home to the Blarney Stone—is located just 20 minutes outside of Cork. Far enough that you can’t walk from the city-center, but buses do leave throughout the day if you’re carless!

Blarney Castle near Cork, Ireland.
The castle towers overhead making a looming figure that feels that ominous once you are inside winding through the narrow staircases.

What is the Blarney Stone?

The Blarney Stone is located in Blarney Castle, the stone foundation of which dates to 1210 A.D. Legend has it that the man who rebuilt the castle in the 15th century appealed to the goddess Clíodhna for help with a lawsuit. At her direction, he kissed the first stone he saw, and a great eloquence overtook him in the courtroom. He then incorporated that stone into the castle.

Others legends claim the prophet Jeremiah brought the stone to the area, or that Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, learned of the stone’s powers by a witch saved from drowning.

No matter which way you look at it, the stone has a long history in Ireland and centuries of men and women have kissed the stone in hopes of all it promises.

Why do people kiss the Blarney Stone?

No matter which origin story you believe, all agree on one thing: kissing the Blarney Stone bestows on the kisser the gift of gab. This means you’ll leave the Castle with great eloquence and skill at flattery once you’ve puckered your lips and kissed the stone.

And it’s no easy feat to kiss the stone. The stone is a mysterious block of bluestone set into the actual walls of Blarney Castle. Kissing it is not for the faint of heart—you have to dangle yourself over the gaping hole in the castle floor. The bars are recent additions in the past century as you used to have to dangle by your ankles over the side of the wall. Even with the safety features, for some people the experience extreme fear of heights due to how precarious it all feels.

Once it’s your turn, you take a death-grip the handrails and the man assisting unceremoniously grabs two fist-fulls of your clothes and shoves you close enough to kiss the stone.

A heartbeat later, you’re hauled upright and sent on your way.

So, the burning question: Did I kiss the stone?

Did I really put my lips on that wet slab of germ-infested rock where thousands have done-so before me? Did I dangle my body from the side of the castle and risk my life?!

shannon o'donnell kissing the stone
Yep! That’s me kissing the stone at Blarney Castle!

Yes, although perhaps not that melodramatically! I mean, how can you not? You’re there and it’s there. It may be cheesy and touristy, but I’m cheesy and occasionally touristy, so I saw no issue.

For all of the hullabaloo about kissing the stone, the castle and the surrounding grounds are beautiful and worth an hour or two, once you’ve made your pilgrimage to the stone. Although the dank, thin, and winding staircases are not for the claustrophobic, once you climb higher the sweeping views of lush green country and manicured gardens make the the trip to the top worth it.

I spent a few hours at Blarney Castle, and although I’m not sure my voice is more mellifluous and my speech more eloquent, I’m certainly still glad I kissed the stone.

Tell me, would you have kissed the stone? Or do you now think my lips are now tainted for a lifetime?  ;-)

32 thoughts on “A Little Blarney… Kissing Ireland’s Most Famous Stone”

  1. The dank and tiny winding staircases are not for the claustrophobic, but the sweeping views of lush green country and manicured gardens are worth the trip to the top. The castle itself is actually really neat too and the surrounding castle grounds are gorgeous.

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  2. You'd have to do it to!?! It's not just a gift for the Irish…unless your
    like me, I kissed it anyone, but I certainly didn't need any more of the
    “gift of gab” ;-)

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  3. You'd have to do it to!?! It's not just a gift for the Irish…unless your
    like me, I kissed it anyone, but I certainly didn't need any more of the
    “gift of gab” ;-)

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  4. I did survive and had an amazing time! Ireland was the end of my RTW trip and it was really a life-changing through and through :-)

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  5. Shannon – So glad you were brave enough to do what many joke about or yearn to do! And see; you survived to tell the tale. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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    • I did survive and had an amazing time! Ireland was the end of my RTW trip and it was really a life-changing through and through :-)

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  6. I came across your website by accident, via a link from twitter…I love every piece of it! I have had the chance to visit Ireland once, and only Dublin with a short trip to the Wicklow Mts. and quaint little Dolkey. I can’t wait to go back and travel the backroads…just haven’t gathered the gumption to drive!

    Thanks for your fun and wonderful site!

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  7. We were so close to Ireland, but didn't have time to cross over. The worst part of RTW traveling is missing places even if it is impossible to see every last inch of earth. Ireland looks beautiful!

    I think we would have kissed the Blarney Stone, we licked the walls in the Salt Mines of Wieliczka, Poland, which didn't seem very hygienic either.

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  8. I'm still scratching my head wondering why I didn't meet you in Ireland. And yes, I plan to french kiss that stone when I meet it.

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  9. Hi. Good morning from a very wet and windy NW Ireland. I'm glad you enjoyed your trip – so much to see. I'm 54 and have been down to kiss the stone over 20 years ago. Thats the only time I've been there – I enjoy countryside so much more. Come back some time!

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    • Thanks Robin! I spent some time in Clifden and in the smaller towns around there and thought that it was just amazingly friendly and peaceful; you can bet that I'll be back :-)

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    • Here, here, you need a little germy-ness in your life – keeps it all more interesting ;-) and likely strengthens your immune system.

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  10. Well…. although it is totally gross when you think about it, so are about a million other things in this world. Like have you ever thought of how many germs are on a gas pump. gross. So I would totally kiss the stone… just maybe with a thick layer of chap stick that I could use as a barrier between me and herpes simplex 1. ;) Loved this post!

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    • Glad you're with me Lisandra! I like the chap-stick idea…it was cold that day so I likely had some on, score! You crack me up w/the herpes comment, lol. :-)

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  11. I don't know. If I have traveled that far, I would probably do it. But answering now from the comfort of my home after a whole week inside a house with 2 sick kids, my first instinct was no.. :)

    Your scarf makes it look like you are harnessed. I thought wow.. it must be really dangerous to kiss the rock. ;)

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    • Lol! No, def not harness-worthy :-) All of the mom's I know have been battling flu viruses these last few weeks, sorry to hear that it stuck near you guys too! Hope the little ones are better :-) And glad to have some support about kissing the rock! I mean, exactly, you're all the way over there!

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  12. I would totally do it! It looks like a blast. And I never worry much about germs. We are becoming so germaphobic. I always think that all of that hand sanitizer and disinfectant does more harm than good. I will take Good old fashioned germs over chemicals any day.
    Amy is right, your scarf just looks like a harness:)

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    • I'd hoped you back me up Deb!! And I soo agree about the germs – they say that kids who grow up in households with dogs and cats have stronger immune systems because they're exposed to more germs.. they're not all bad :-)

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  13. I lived in Ireland for 3 years and never saw the Blarney stone – awful, I know! I went lots of other places though. If I did go, I think I'd blow it a kiss ;)

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    • You never saw it!! I succumb to the touristy too much to have missed it. So far though it seems as though no one else would have kissed it! Sheesh :-) Perhaps though you'd still get some of the benefits from a blown kiss – I like it, nice compromise ;-)

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  14. To be honest, I probably wouldn't bother… I'd just take some photos of other people doing it ;) I do love castles, though.

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    • You'd have loved Blarney Castle then – it was really quite pretty :-) I lived watching the others too – showed me how ridiculous I had just looked!

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