For 600 years, people have bent over a castle wall to kiss a mythical stone in Ireland. The coronavirus outbreak is putting a stop to the popular tradition.

Reed Kaestner/Getty ImagesA tourist bends over backward to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle near Cork, Ireland.

To contain the spread of the coronavirus, Ireland has cancelled parades and limited public gatherings through the end of March. Following suit, Blarney Castle, a popular tourist destination near Cork, has barred visitors from partaking in a cherished, 600-year-old tradition: kissing a mythical limestone block while upside down.

Reed Kaestner/Getty ImagesA tourist bends over backwards while holding onto railings to kiss the Blarney Stone.

AP News

“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,” Charles Colthurst, owner of Blarney Castle, told the Associated Press.

AP News

As of March 16, Ireland has 223 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Across Europe, an estimated 100 million people are in lockdown as countries impose travel bans, close down schools, and restrict large meetups.

Shutterstock/M.V. PhotographyView of Cork, Ireland. Blarney Castle is located approximately 20 minutes northwest of the city.

Source:Government of Ireland, Business Insider

In 2018, Blarney Castle was the 10th most visited destination in Ireland, drawing more than 460,000 visitors.

SteveAllenPhoto/Getty ImagesBlarney Castle is a medieval stronghold open to the public and run as a tourist attraction.

Failte Ireland

The Blarney Stone is the castle’s best-known attraction.

Reed Kaestner/Getty ImagesVisitors line up to kiss the Blarney Stone on the top of Blarney Castle.

Blarney Castle

The stone, whose origins are debated, is believed to endow those that kiss it with the gift of eloquence, or “blarney.” It was installed in the castle in 1446.

Culture Club/Getty ImagesA postcard from 1900 illustrates the promise of the Blarney Stone.

Source:Blarney Castle, Cambridge Dictionary

The wait to kiss the stone can reach up to two hours.

chrisdorney/Getty ImagesA sign informing visitors that the wait time to kiss the Blarney Stone at the historic Blarney Castle is 90 minutes. August 2018.

Tales of a Backpacker

Originally, visitors wishing to kiss the Blarney Stone had to be suspended over the castle’s battlements by the ankles.

Culture Club/Getty ImagesA postcard from January 1900 depicts visitors to Blarney Castle attempting to kiss the Blarney Stone.

Source:Blarney Castle, AP News, The Guardian

In time, adjustments were made so that visitors could simply lean backward while holding onto iron rails.

Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Getty ImagesA man holds a girl’s legs as she prepares to kiss the Blarney Stone. January 1920.

Source:AP News, The Guardian

Famous personalities who have kissed the stone reportedly include Winston Churchill and comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.

Michael Serraillier/Getty ImagesA tourist prepares to kiss the Blarney Stone in 1977.

Irish Times

Read more:

Coronavirus live updates: Here’s everything we know.

Here are the latest major events that have been cancelled or postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak

The Louvre, the Met, and multiple Disney theme parks are closed because of the coronavirus. Here are all of the major museum and theme park closures so far.

A running list of countries that are on lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.