What You Need To Know Before Visiting The Legendary Blarney Stone In Ireland

Ireland is rife with myths and legends, some of which have gained popularity the world over. Everyone has heard about leprechauns and fairies, but the island has many more mythical and legendary stories to quench a story-lover's appetite, including banshees, changelings, and even St. Patrick's shamrocks (per IrishCentral). And these fantastic tales have driven people to travel to Ireland's stunning landscapes to hear and see more.

Lonely Planet lists the actual places in Ireland you can journey to with connections to these myths and legends. It includes the woodlands around the Benbulben rock formation, the many fairy forts scattered throughout the Irish countryside, and Glenasmole in the Dublin Mountains, which is supposed to be the resting place of Oisín, who is known for traveling to Tír na NÓg to marry a fairy woman. There's also Newgrange in County Meath, a monument older than the pyramids.

Another site that isn't on the list is Blarney Castle in south Ireland. Located roughly 6 miles northwest of Cork City, the castle hosts the Blarney Stone which, according to legend, grants the gift of gab to anyone who kisses it.

Kissing the Blarney Stone

As the Irish humorist Francis Sylvester Mahoney wrote: "'Tis there's the stone that whoever kisses/He never misses to grow eloquent ... " (per Discovery Channel UK). Yes, the Blarney Stone is said to grant the powerful gift of persuasive speech to anyone who gives it a smooch. But, unlike kissing your lover, this legendary stone requires some acrobatics from pilgrims who wish to receive the gift of gab. According to Tourism Ireland, the proper way to kiss the Blarney Stone is by leaning backward and holding on to the handrails.

The practice of kissing the stone can be traced back to the 18th century, according to Discovery Channel UK. And for more than 200 years, numerous people have climbed the top of Blarney Castle to give the stone a peck, including several famous personalities such as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Mick Jagger, and many more (per Blarney Castle and Gardens). And the pilgrims have never stopped coming, with a throng of up to 400,000 would-be stone-kissers who make the journey to this part of Ireland every year, according to Discovery Channel UK.

Origins of the Blarney Stone

The Blarney Stone is a 330-million-year-old carboniferous limestone, as confirmed by geologists at the University of Glasgow's Hunterian Museum. But that's a boring tale to tell, so the stone's fantastic origin stories still make the rounds among tourists. There's the tale of it being the stone Jacob used as a pillow, then taken to Scotland by the Crusaders before arriving in County Cork (per Discovery Channel UK). Some say it's made from the same stone used at Stonehenge, while others say it's part of the Stone of Scone (aka the Stone of Destiny), which was used during the coronation of Scottish and English kings.

On the other hand, the term "blarney," which Merriam-Webster defines as "skillful flattery" or "nonsense," is said to have been coined by none other than Queen Elizabeth I. The story goes (per The History Channel) that the queen wanted to seize the castle from the McCarthy family. She sent the earl of Leicester to do so, but the McCarthys managed to keep him from seizing the castle. The earl's lack of progress on the matter annoyed the queen and she was said to have muttered "blarney" at the whole affair.

Visiting the Blarney Stone

The Blarney Stone is located in the historic 15th century Blarney Castle, which is around 15 miles from Cork Airport in Cork City. You can take a bus from Shannon Airport in County Clare to Cork City or a train from Dublin to County Cork. If you're driving a car, there's an on-site car park for 2 euros (about $2.15), per Blarney Castle and Gardens. And once you're there, you can grab a map or buy an audio guide for 6 euros (about $6.50). Admission starts at 9 euros (about $10) for children and 20 euros (about $22) for adults. Tickets can be bought online or at Blarney Castle's ticket office. 

The estate also has more than 60 acres of land that features gardens, arboretums, walking trails, and waterways. There's a courtyard filled with carnivorous plants, a poison garden, a Vietnamese woodland, a fern garden with more than 80 types of ferns, a Himalayan-inspired area, and walking trails that go through the woods and by the lake or river. Blarney Castle also houses the Seven Sisters, a circle of nine stones, seven of which are standing and two that have fallen down. According to legend (per Blarney Castle and Gardens), the stones represent the children of a medieval chieftain — seven standing stones for his daughters and two fallen stones for his sons who died in battle. Because of the many things you can see and do here, Blarney Castle and Gardens recommends allotting three hours for your visit.