Blarney, Blarney, what he says he does not mean. It is the usual Blarney.

So spoke Queen Elizabeth I, and a legend and its accompanying tourist phenomenon were born. Though supposedly loyal to the queen, the Lord of Blarney, Cormac MacCarthy, had been stalling her emissary, Sir George Carew, who had been sent to restore English control of Munster, sidetracking him with wine, women and words. MacCarthy, it was said, could talk “the noose off his head”, and over the centuries blarney came to mean “flattering, untrustworthy or loquacious talk associated with…Irish people” (The Encyclopedia of Ireland). This story of the word’s origin, however, may itself be blarney…

At some stage in the nineteenth century, with the beginnings of mass tourism to the southwest of Ireland, it became popular to kiss the Blarney Stone, part of the machicolations of Blarney Castle, a fine fifteenth-century tower house, set in attractive grounds, in the village of the same name, 8km northwest of Cork. The stone stands over a 26-metre drop, and planting a smacker on it is meant to grant “the gift of the gab”. Legions of the verbally challenged queue up in summer, when it’s best to turn up early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

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