IRELAND: Every country has its own unique legends and folklore; Norway has its trolls, Scotland the unicorn, Germany the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and the Lorelei. So, too, do the Irish with their Irish leprechauns and their pot full of gold at the end of a rainbow.
In Ireland, it sometimes feels as if there’s a myth on every mountain, a story in every field and a legend wrapped around every lake, river, and stream.
There’s a cornucopia of Celtic myths that can be brought to life by talented locals and storytellers who use the time-honored oral tradition of telling their tales. At the drop of a hat, they paint glorious word pictures of epic tales, magical feats and characters full of courage and passion.
Touring Irish Myths
Among the standout places where it all comes together is the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim. Its very name deriving from ancient stories of a conflict between the Irish hero Finn McCool and his Scottish rival Benandonner.
Some say the astonishing 40,000 hexagon rocks at the Causeway were carved as stepping stones to Scotland by the mighty McCool so the rivals could set up a fight.
Certainly, clues as to Finn’s existence are left behind in rock formations such as the Giant’s Boot, the Wishing Chair and the Giant’s Granny, not to mention the iconic stones themselves.
In Irish mythology, the Tuatha De Danann (People of the Goddess Danu) were a race of deities and heroes skilled in art, science, poetry, and magic. One of the places they are associated with is the ancient Grianán of Aileach, a stone fort that still stands on a hilltop in Inishowen, County Donegal.
The fortress was built on the site of a former Tuatha de Danann palace, which legend says was called the Palace of the Northern Princes. The views from Aileach are stunning at this particular site.
Much of the appeal of this attraction, however, lies in the belief that St Patrick once visited the site in the fifth century to baptize the local chieftain, Eoghan, from whom Inishowen gets its name.
Many Irish legends also find their origins in the country’s Ancient East where long ago mythical beings lived and where the landscape remains imbued with their legacy.
At the Rock of Cashel, visitors will discover a spectacular collection of medieval ecclesiastical buildings in County Tipperary. According to legend, the devil took a bite from a mountain known as the Devil’s Bit and spat it back out. It landed in the middle of Tipperary’s countryside and remains there today as the Rock of Cashel.
Another popular myth centers around the River Boyne, which holds the secret to the legend of the Salmon of Knowledge and the mystical Hill of Tara. The Hill of Tara is the inauguration place and seat of the High Kings of Ireland in County Meath.
This special place serves as a port to the fairy world in the best-selling Artemis Fowl books for young adults, and in the upcoming Artemis Fowl movie that mixes Irish mythology with James Bond adventure.
Moving south, you will discover the origins of the legend of the Tir na nÓg (Land of Youth), as well as the final resting place of The Children of Lir. The stepmother turning the four offspring of King Lir into swans and banished by their evil stepmother to live on the lakes of Ireland for 900 years.
When restored to human form by a local monk, they died instantly, and it is said they are buried at a beauty spot in the picture-perfect village of Allihies in County Cork’s Beara Peninsula. All that remains today are some large white boulders.
Finally, there’s the tale of the Irish baker who invented the time-saving machine that allowed him to slice four loaves of bread at one time instead of the traditional single loaf.
In so doing, the baker, without realizing it, had invented the world’s first “four-loaf” cleaver!
Naaahh…That’s not even a real legend, but if you believe it, join us after the next rainstorm and help us find that pot of gold.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
Read more of Travels with Peabod and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News
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Lead Image: Giant’s Causeway on PXHere – https://pxhere.com/en/photo/699144