Myths, legends and folklore are part of Ireland’s beautiful heritage. We are lucky to have an abundance of fantastic historical places to visit and here are some of our favourite mythical and folklore places in Ireland for a journey into the past where you can steep yourself in the history of days gone by.
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Mythical and Folklore Places in Ireland
Blarney Stone, Cork
For over 200 years men, women and children join the thousands climbing the steps to kiss the Blarney Stone. To kiss the stone you must lean backwards holding an iron bar whereas years ago, before we became cautious over safety, visitors were held by their ankles and lowered head first. The prize? The gift of eloquence.
There are so many different tales of the Blarney Stone. One says it was the deathbed of St Columbus. Another said it was a Harry Potter style ‘sorting hat’ for kings. Or maybe it was gifted to Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster when he sent five thousand men to support Robert the Bruce in the fight against the English in 1314.
A family ticket of two adults and four kids to the Blarney Castle and to kiss the Blarney Stone is priced at €40.
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A prehistoric monument north of the River Boyne in County Meath. Newgrange or the ‘Bru Na Boinne’ was built during the Neolithic period around 3200 BC. It comprises of a large circular mound with an inner stone passageway and chambers.
Newgrange features prominently in Irish folklore and during the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year (December 21st) as the day breaks, the first shaft of sunlight enters a small chamber through an opening in the roof box of the passage entrance and lights it up.
A family ticket to visit the Exhibition Centre and Newgrange is €16.
Ring Forts, Cork
A ring fort is a set of ancient dwellings set in circular settlements and enclosed by earth banks. Over the years our ring forts have been destroyed and all that remained was circular mounds of dirt and stone. Folklore say they are magical places once protected by the spells of Druids. Still to this day people believe you will be cursed for disturbing a fairy fort!
Cork is home to several of these ring forts including the national monument, Garranes Ring Fort is believed to be the birth place of St. Finbarr. While it has been suggested that Cahervagliar Fort is connected to Brian Boru one of Irelands best known historical figures.
Dunluce Castle, Antrim
The ruins of Dunluce Castle lie on the cliffs of north County Antrim and are only accessible by bridge. Legends say the castle was once haunted by banshees and in 1639 the castle kitchens, along with the kitchen staff fell into the sea during a storm. Dunluce Castle was the family home of the McDonnell clan and it still belongs to them today.
A family of up to 5 can visit for £15 and it opens daily.
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Giant’s Causeway, Antrim
Legend tells us that the Giants Causeway was formed after a duel between the Irish giant Finn MacCool and the Scottish giant Benanadonner.
It’s an area of roughly 40,000 interlocking basalt columns which we know today was caused by a volcanic eruption, not nearly so fascinating a tale!
Owned and managed by the National Trust it’s one of the most popular attractions in Northern Ireland. A family ticket is priced at £28.75 and you can save £3.75 if you book online.
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A stunning national park hidden amongst the Wicklow mountains. Glendalough is one of Ireland’s most visited destinations, world famous for its Monastic Site with Round Tower.
Legends are told that here at the Glen of two lakes, as St Kevin prayed a blackbird laid an egg in his open hands and he remained completely motionless until the egg hatched.
There’s an education centre near the Upper Lake, an information office with a small exhibit on local wildlife and a playground for the smallies on site.
It is free to visit the round tower, churches and the lakes. There is a fee for parking in the car park at the upper lake and for the visitor centre.
Hill of Tara, Meath
Located near the River Boyne in the Boyne Valley The Hill of Tara has a number of ancient Celtic monuments covering it. According to tradition, it was the seat of the High King of Ireland with some 140 Kings said to have reigned in the name of Tara. Other folklore says it was the place where kings were inaugurated and it was an historical meeting point as there was no defensive structure surrounding it.
One of the main attractions at The Hill of Tara is the Lia Fail or the Stone of Destiny.
It is free to visit The Hill of Tara. There are public parking spaces, a coffee shop and guided tours upon request (small charge for tours).
The Jumping Church, Louth
According to legend, the west gable of the Jumping Church, which dates back to the 14th Century, jumped two feet inside the wall of the original foundations when an individual of inappropriate reputation was buried within the grounds causing the structure to move in disgust.
The Jumping Church can be found in Milockstown, Ardee and parking is limited, but it is a great afternoon or day out for the family to see who can solve the puzzle.
Tory Island, Donegal
Located just 9km off the coast of Donegal, Tory Island sits at three kilometres wide and one metre long. It’s ancient name ‘Torai’ leads us to believe it was a place of pirates!
On Tory Island you will find a large wishing stone ‘Leac na Leannan’ in Irish. A flat topped rock standing 100 metres tall above the Atlantic ocean. The wishing stone invites Tory visitors to make a wish but a wish will only be granted to those who brave the steps on the rock and to those who can succeed in throwing three stones in succession onto the wishing stone itself.
There is a daily Ferry service from Donegal during the summer months.
Magic Road, Waterford
Ireland’s famous ‘magic road’ is located along the beautiful countryside close to Mahon Falls in the Comeragh Mountains. If you stop your car in the right spot and put it into neutral, take your foot off the break, the car will roll uphill!
The magic road is also known as fairy hill, the land where fairy magic trumps gravity. Near the foot of the hill stands a Wishing Tree, this will be your starting point. Theres also a boulder nearby with the words Magic Road carved into it.
The GPS coordinates to the Magic Road in Waterford are 52.2163-7.5311, and if you visit, please let us know if you rolled uphill in the comments box below.
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The Crypt at Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin
You can explore the medieval crypt at Christchurch Cathedral which is one of the largest in Britain & Ireland, and the earliest surviving structure in the city. Be sure to visit the ‘Cat & the Rat’, a mummified cat & rat amongst the most unusual inhabitants of the crypt, but also the most popular. Mentioned by James Joyce in Finnegans wake, they are known locally as ‘Tom & Jerry.’
The crypt also houses fascinating memorials, The Treasury, an audio visual presentation, the cathedral shop and the Cathedral Café.
It is free to visit Christchurch Cathedral if you are attending a service. At other times there is an entry fee of €7 for adults, €2.50 for children U16 and you can purchase a family ticket for €17. Entry is free if you have a Dublin Pass and you can also purchase combined tickets to visit Dublinia, where you can learn about the citizens of Dublin throughout the ages.
Queen Maeve’s Grave, Sligo
A three hundred metre limestone hill sits in Knocknarea, Sligo and it’s believed that Queen Maeve, a figure from Irish mythology is buried inside.
Although it features all the classic makings of a tomb, for now we don’t know if she lies inside or not as it remains of one the largest unexplored monuments here in Ireland.
You can climb the hill of Knocknarea and get breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside including Ben Bulben, Slieve League and other famous Irish landmarks.
Tír na nÓg, Kerry
In Irish mythology Tír na nÓg is said to be the land of the young, a place of everlasting youth.
The legend goes that Oisin, the son of legendary Fionn MacCool saw a white horse in the distance with a beautiful young woman sitting on its back. She was surrounded by a golden light. Her name was Niamh, the daughter of the King of a mystical land called Tír na nOg. Oisin fell in love and went with her to the mystical land. A land that knows no sadness. But soon he missed his homeland and begged Niamh to allow him return for a visit. Using her horse he was ordered not to set foot on land or he would have to remain there.
Time slows in Tír na nÓg so it had been 300 years since Oisin had been home and the castle of his family was a crumbling ruin. Oisin was shocked by what he saw. He fell from the horse whilst trying to help an old man and immediately aged the 300 years. Oisin died soon after and his legend lives on.
Tír na nÓg beach can be found in Glenbeigh, County Kerry and they have a fabulous playground located at the Rossbeigh side of the town.
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Dunseverick Castle, Antrim
Born at Dunseverick Castle, Deirdre, who became known as Deirdre of Sorrows, was hailed beautiful by druid Cathbad of Ulster. He made a prophecy that her beauty would grow with her as she got older, she would be the most beautiful women in Ireland. However, her beauty would bring sorrow, and soon after war upon her country.
King Conchobhar ordered her to placed into the care of poetess Leabharcham and vowed to marry her once she reached the age of consent in order to spare his country of war.
Years later Deirdre fell in love with a young man, who turned out to be related to the man who once cursed her. With the help of her family she fled only returning once tricked by the King. The King ordered her love to be killed and kept her hostage. After a year of silence he offered her to the man who killed her love and she threw herself from her chariot and died.
The last remains of Dunseverick Castle can still be seen along the Antrim coast near the Giants Causeway.
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Allihies Beach, Cork
Allihies is a small seaside town best known for the mythical story, the Children of Lir.
The children of King Lir & his wife Eve were Fiachra, Conn, Hugo & Finola. Members of the Tuatha de Danann clan and Eve was the 1st daughter of King Bov the Red.
Legend goes, that Eve died and Lir went on to marry King Bov the Red’s second daughter Aoife, who soon became jealous of the children and the devotion Lir had for them.
So she brought them to Lough Derravragh to drown them. Finola used her powers to turn her brothers and her into swans and Aoife cursed them to spend 300 years on the lake, 300 years in the Sea of Moyle and a final 300 years in Strut Fad Conn in Mayo. The spell could only be broken if the swans heard the sound of a Christian bell.
The swans could speak and sing with their own voices. As the swans flew to the Beara peninsula in Cork, they were attracted to a bell ringing in Allihies. They were transformed into their human shape again. Much time had passed and they were old and withered. It is said that a hermit saint, Kernoc, found them and baptised them before they died. They were buried in Allihies under large white boulders.
The boulders can still be seen nearby Allihies beach today. Do look out out for the sign as it can be easy to miss!
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The Book of Kells, Dublin
The Book of Kells, is housed in the library at Trinity College, Dublin. It was created by Columban monks in around 800AD and is an ornately decorated Gospel manuscript in Latin. It is said to be one of Ireland’s finest national treasures and is a masterpiece of calligraphy and insular illumination.
The manuscript takes its name from the Abbey of Kells where it remained for many centuries before being put on public display at Trinity College.
The Book of Kells Exhibition will bring visitors back to the 18th century. Learn about the monks and how they made the Book of Kells and how it has survived for over 1200 years.
A family ticket to visit the library at Trinity College and The Book of Kells costs €28. Individual tickets cost between €11 & €14.
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