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Blarney Castle sits rather incongruously in the gardens of the Victorian Blarney House which makes it seem like an overgrown folly; until you get up close that is. Then you can see that it was once a great stronghold, home of the MacCarthys, the Kings of Munster, for hundreds of years.

The castle, originally built sometime before 1200CE, was destroyed in 1446 and subsequently rebuilt by the then King of Munster, Dermot MacCarthy.

One of its most famous occupants, however, was one of his predecessors Cormac MacCarthy who sent five thousand men to support Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English at Bannockburn in 1314.

As a reward for their help, so it is said, Bruce gave him a piece of the Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny, the stone on which the Kings of Scotland were crowned. This was to become the famous Blarney Stone or Stone of Eloquence.

This is one of the less fanciful stories surrounding the Blarney Stone, and might even be true. One has to ask oneself, however, why the part that Bruce kept was treated with reverence, living for many years in the coronation chair of the British monarchs in Westminster Abbey (until its return to Edinburgh Castle in 1996), whilst the Irish part was built into a castle machicolation through which stones could be dropped on attackers.*

Perhaps it's all blarney. Either way, if the stone is a powerful as it is claimed then I should be completely tongue tied were it not for the fact that I've kissed it twice, once in 1973 and again in 1998.

* When I wrote this back in 2007 it was, to me at least, an original thought. It got taken up by Wikipedia, and then in March 2014 research was published showing that the Blarney Stone is made from local limestone and not the sandstone of the Stone of Scone. You toss a pebble into a pond and the ripples spread outwards, as they say.