The Blarney stone is maybe the most famous tourist attraction in Ireland. Five miles north-west of Cork is the village of Blarney, the home of Blarney Castle. At the top of the castle the world famous Blarney stone sits three storeys high, at the top of a stone spiral staircase just below the battlements on the parapet.

This 180 centimetre tall piece of limestone is reputed to give the person who kisses it the gift of the gab.

Due to the stone's unusual position, to kiss it, you must lie down, bend over backwards and lower yourself down around two feet over the edge of the castle parapet. This is a difficult task and in the past it has proved fatal, before the introduction of safety measures. Nowadays there are iron bars over the hole where people could fall to make the kiss a little less dangerous. However in the past people used to be held by their friends by their feet over the edge of the parapet. If anyone let go, their friend would hurtle towards the ground and certain death.

The stone itself is steeped in history and legend. It is believed to be a section of the Stone of Scone which originally belonged to Scotland, and over which Scottish Kings were crowned due to its alleged special powers. Robert the Bruce gave it to Cormac McCarthy, the owner of the castle, in 1314 in return for his support in the Battle of Bannockburn.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Irish chiefs were required to surrender their properties to the Queen, but remain there as proof of loyalty to the Crown. Cormac McCarthy, Lord Blarney, was diplomatic in every reponse to the crown, promising loyalty whilst never actually agreeing to anything. He excused himself from the situation so frequently, and plausibly, that in Court, the official who was sent to talk to McCarthy became a joke.

The way in which Lord Blarney talked his way out of difficult situations led to the Queen calling his ability to influence with soft speech "Blarney".