The tradition of kissing the Blarney Stone has weathered many an epidemic, but its nearly 600-year run has come to an end – albeit temporarily – as Ireland attempts to contain the spread of coronavirus. 

Medieval Blarney Castle in Co. Cork, Ireland.
Visitors to the Blarney Castle will no longer be able to kiss the world-famous stone © Patryk Kosmider/Shutterstock

On 13 March, the castle that’s home to the world-famous stone tweeted that while its grounds would remain open, its main attraction would be off-limits to suitors for the first time ever. “This is a necessary step in the current climate, and for the first time in its history, no one will be kissing the Blarney Stone,” Blarney Castle owner Charles Colthurst said in a statement, per the AP

The 15th-century castle is one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions, attracting busloads of visitors who join the queue to – quite literally – bend over backwards and pucker up at the Blarney Stone, a limestone block that’s said to impart the gift of gab to anyone who kisses it, as the local legend goes. 

Tourist kissing the Blarney Stone
The stone typically sees almost half a million visitors a year © Reed Kaestner/Getty Images

The stone reportedly draws 460,000 visitors to County Cork annually, a number that looks set to greatly decrease this year as the country enters a period of partial shutdown. The AP reported that, according to Paul O’Sullivan, the castle’s marketing manager, “business at the castle has been considerably quieter in the past couple of weeks, perhaps down by 25%” in light of Ireland’s 223 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

The country has banned indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people. Pubs and bars have been asked to close, and the government has advised all citizens and residents to avoid non-essential travel. The annual St Patrick's Day festival has even been cancelled, though at least one Irish band has come up with a workaround, building a “pub” set in their living room and live-streaming their holiday gig

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