Kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland

Was Kissing the Blarney Stone Worth the Price of Germs?

I lay on my back and reached behind me for the iron rails attached to the parapet at Blarney Castle. Slowly, I squirmed backward over a gaping hole in the floor. “Now lean down into the hole,” said the guide who gripped me around the waist. With my head and shoulders hanging precariously over four stories of open space, I planted a kiss on the Blarney Stone. All that remained was to come back up. My arms began to shake and I scrabbled at the rubber mat with the heels of my sneakers, but I couldn’t gain purchase. For one long moment I was certain that my body was about to plummet to the ground. And then the guide yanked me back up by my waist.

Kissing the Blarney Stone required lying on my back, grabbing the iron rails behind my head, and leaning through a hole in the floor

Kissing the Blarney Stone required lying on my back, grabbing the iron rails behind my head, and leaning through a hole in the floor

With my back arched and my neck stretched below the parapet, I did the deed!

With my back arched and my neck stretched below the parapet, I did the deed!

Actually, I had it easy. For more than 200 years, visitors to Ireland‘s most famous castle have been kissing the Blarney Stone, hoping to receive the gift of eloquence. Before grab bars were installed, pilgrims were held by their ankles and dangled over the parapet to accomplish the task. Sherlock Holmes fans will recall that one of his murder mysteries involved a man who plunged to his death while being lowered in this fashion. Holmes later discovered that the victim’s boots had been greased.

Blarney Castle, framed by its lavish gardens

Blarney Castle, framed by its lavish gardens

The powers of the Blarney Stone are rarely challenged. After all, both Winston Churchill and Oliver Hardy did the deed. No one can deny the persuasiveness of Churchill and Hardy was one of the few silent film stars to successfully transition into “talkies.” But to say that the provenance of the Blarney Stone is disputed would be more than an understatement. One legend claims it is a piece of the Coronation Stone, on which the Kings of Scotland were traditionally crowned, presented to Cormac McCarthy by Robert the Bruce, in gratitude for his support in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. That assertion has since been debunked by scientific analysis of the two rocks.

Blarney Castle, built upon a rock outcropping, looks formidable up close

Blarney Castle, built upon a rock outcropping, looks formidable up close

Others claim it is the stone that Jacob used as a pillow, later brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. Still others say it is the rock that Moses struck with his staff to produce water for the Israelites during their flight from Egypt. Perhaps more believable is the story of Cormac Laidir McCarthy, builder of the present castle. When faced a lawsuit that threatened to seize the castle, he sought assistance from the goddess Clíodhna. She told him to kiss the first stone he found in the morning on his way to court. He did so, and subsequently won his case. Convinced that the stone was responsible, he incorporated it into the exterior wall of the castle.

Waiting in line to kiss the Blarney Stone

Waiting in line to kiss the Blarney Stone

These conflicting legends do not seem to dispel enthusiasm for kissing the Blarney Stone. Each year, thousands climb the 200 uneven stone steps to the parapet. Atop the battlements, they wait patiently for their turn to be suspended above a hunk of common grey rock. Even the veritable stew of germs left behind by the multitudes does not seem to cause concern. (TripAdvisor named it the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world in 2009).

Look closely at the crenelated parapet for the hole through which visitors must hang to kiss the Blarney Stone

Look closely at the crenelated parapet for the hole through which visitors must hang to kiss the Blarney Stone

Close up of the hole through which visitors must hang wen kissing the Blarney Stone

Close up of the hole through which visitors must hang wen kissing the Blarney Stone

Indeed, I gave it little thought until I overheard a local man comment, “Our Irish lads like to pee on the rock every morning.” That gave me pause, but I took solace in the the castle’s website, which states, “Kiss it and you’ll never again be lost for words.” As a writer, the potential for enduring eloquence definitely made kissing the Blarney Stone worth the risk.

15 Comments on “Was Kissing the Blarney Stone Worth the Price of Germs?

  1. If you let TripAdvisor hold any public trust at all, you will never reach Ireland. You will fail to make it through the airport and lose your money. That us what the angry bullies dominating TripAdvisor’s air travel section, with its knowing approval and not allowing folks to stand up to them, as exposed here: autisticgroupsfairnesswatch.wordpress.com/2017/01/05/tripadvisor/

  2. I “kissed” the stone in September 2014. I use quotations, because it all happened so fast that I really only was able to air-kiss it before I was hauled up again! Sigh – that’s probably why I’m not eloquent. I was amazed by how beautiful the castle and gardens are, but also at those crazy stairs! They got narrower and narrower, and higher and higher. It was quite a journey to the top!

    • Hi Stephanie – I know just how you felt. That climb is not for anyone who has a fear of heights!

    • I didn’t intend to kiss the stone; I’m eloquent enough… I did however kiss the Blarney guy. I think I made his day!

    • Fortunately, I didn’t hear the worst stories about the germs until afterward, or I might never have kissed it, Kathryn.

  3. Hi Barbara, I live in Ireland and I haven’t yet visited the Blarney stone. Although my husband tells me we have! But we haven’t lol

    Seeing your post has inspired me to visit but on one of those rare days when it’s not raining as I imagine that rubber mat could get quite slippy!!!

    • LOL – I suspect they don’t allow people to do the deed on rainy days, although that’s jut speculation on my part. Hope you make it there one day.

  4. Haha, thanks for the chuckle. As a writer myself I think the kiss is worth the words, too (Irish bloke pee and all).

  5. Loved your blog…..love your spirit! You are a gutsy lady!!!!!!!

  6. Barbara,
    You are one brave young lady! I am not sure I would be able to get back up after kissing the stone, even with the assistance of the guard. I thought your writing was already eloquent! #safetravels
    Mike

    • LOL – thanks Mike. I definitely would not have don it if it still required being held by my heels. And thank you for your lovely compliment about my eloquence xo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *