Millions of tourists may have kissed the wrong Blarney Stone in an effort to get the gift of the gab, according to a new study.
The authenticity of the Blarney Stone, kissed by about 400,000 tourists each year, has been questioned by Mark Samuel, an archaeologist and architectural historian, and Kate Hamlyn in a new book.
According to legend, kissing the stone at Blarney Castle, Co Cork, endows the person with the gift of gab, but the authors say the present stone only came into use in 1888 for health and safety reasons.
Up until then, visitors wishing to kiss the stone had to be dangled from the castle by two people holding their ankles.
Today visitors lie on their back, holding on to an iron railing and lean backwards to kiss the stone.
Blarney Castle has dismissed the theory that the current stone is not the one with the claimed magical powers.
Marketing manager John Fogarty said the Blarney Stone is a piece of the Stone of Scone or 'Stone of Destiny', on which the kings of Scotland were crowned.
One legend says the Scone Stone is supposed to be the pillow stone said to have been used by the biblical Jacob.
Mr Fogarty said that the part of the stone that came to Blarney was given to an Irish king, Cormac MacCarthy, by Scotland's Robert the Bruce.
It was a gift in gratitude for 4,000 Irish soldiers said to have been sent to aid Scotland when Robert defeated the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
The Scone Stone was subsequently captured by the English and taken to Westminster Abbey in London where it was fitted into a chair on which English sovereigns were crowned. It was returned to Edinburgh Castle in 1996.