Climbing up a castle to lean over a cavity backwards in order to kiss a dirty old stone, hoping for a gift of eloquence – sounds like a normal thing to do, doesn’t it?
At Blarney Castle, near Cork in Ireland, it is.
For over 200 years, people from all over the world have joined the millions of pilgrims climbing the steps to kiss the Blarney Stone.
More than 200,000 people visit Blarney Castle each year, according to Ireland’s tourist website.
Why? Well, the story behind the story is varied, but its powers are unquestioned (mainly).
This particular piece of limestone was set into a tower of the castle in 1446, and you can read all the different stories of its origin here.
From the Castle’s website:
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 – a kind of Harry Potter-like ‘sorting hat’ for 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, we believe a witch saved from drowning revealed its power to the MacCarthys.
It must be noted that the Castle and the Stone are not the only draw cards of this site – make sure you schedule in a few hours to visit – you’ll want to explore the gardens, fairy gardens, waterfalls and (if it is open, as it was not when I visited) Blarney House.
This place is full of true Irish beauty, so take a nice long walk and take it all in slowly.
While travelling near Cork, I also took the opportunity to visit my hometown’s ‘Twin City’ of Lismore.
The Irish Lismore is the namesake of where I live, Lismore in NSW Australia.
I just had to see what this Lismore was like. I left feeling a bit forlorn, because unlike this foreign Lismore, my own Lismore does not have an impressive castle and lush green forest surrounding it, as this gorgeous little place did.
One thing they both have, however, is a church (in the case of Lismore, Ireland) or cathedral (in the case of Lismore, NSW Australia) dedicated to St Carthage.
While theirs is adorable, I must say – Ours is bigger 😉
Also, I heard they serve the best coffee in the county (I’m sure this piece of information, coming from a passerby on the street who may or may not have been related to the cafe owner, was 100% true…).
While purchasing a coffee (From a market stall down the road, apologies to that world-class cafe!) I also met a lovely lady who had visited my Lismore while on a trip through Australia – like me, being so close she “just had” to see the twin city.
Ah, small towns – they may have their variations, but at their core they’re all the same – humble, welcoming and warming, filled with humorous locals who make you feel right at home.
I love that.
And of course, Lismore Castle (Can we organise one of these for my town?)