We may have mentioned to you once or twice that we like a good story here in Ireland. The fact is that we’ve been storytelling for years (thousands to be precise) and the first stories ever told are as popular today as they were around the camp fire all those years ago.
Now, you’d think that all of the places in Ireland’s myths and legends would be, well, mythical. Yes, there are plenty that leave the entire lot to the unbridled realms of your imagination, but there are also plenty of others that you can actually experience first hand. So here’s our pick of a few that conjure up legendary tales from the moment you literally step foot on them…
The Giant’s Causeway
Finn McCumhaill (Mac-cool) has been involved in his fair share of adventures; he was tricked by a witch at Slieve Gullion in Armagh, his wife was turned into a deer, and he gained all the intellect in the world when he tasted the Salmon of Knowledge at the Boyne River in County Meath. Legend also has it that we have Finn to thank for The Giant’s Causeway on the coast of County Antrim. The story (well, one of them, anyway, as there are lots of variations) goes that Finn tore up the cliff face and lobbed chunks of it into the sea so he could walk to Scotland to challenge a giant who had questioned his warrior status. When he reached bonnie Scotland and spotted the ginormous size of his competitor, he raced home to his wife in a panic! His quick-thinking lady Sadhb decided to dress up Finn as a baby, and wrapped him up tight in a makeshift cradle. Old Bernadonner stormed across the water for the big showdown, but was chastised by Sadhb for waking the baby. On taking a peek at the little one, Bernadonner high-tailed it back to Scotland, ripping up the rest of the stones and leaving only the Causeway for us to enjoy. Why? Sure, if that’s the size of the baby, how big is the daddy?
The Killarney Lakes
You would assume that any son of Finn McCumhaill would be an impressive chap – and you’d be right. Finn found his son Oisin (Usheen) on top of Ben Bulben mountain in County Sligo where Finn’s wife had been taken by the fairies. Finn took his son home and Oisin grew up to make his dad proud by becoming one of the greatest warriors in Ireland. The last time the two saw each other was during a hunt here, at the Killarney Lakes on the Ring of Kerry before Oisin left Ireland for the most-definitely mythical, Tír na nÓg (The Land of the Young).
The Cooley Mountains in County Louth
What do you get for the woman who has everything? In Queen Maebh’s case – the best bull in the country. Ailil, Maebh’s husband, is in possession of one of Ireland’s most incredible bulls and Maebh wants one for herself – naturally! So after some pillowside squabbling, Maebh decides to journey to Cooley in County Louth and, ahem, request that she be given the Brown Bull of Cooley (An Táin Bó Cúailnge). Her demand is kindly rejected resulting in an intense battle between the provinces of Ulster and Connaught, along with the sideshow of warriors and best friends Cúchulainn and Ferdia fighting each other across the River Dee in Ardee. Maebh, as was her nature, eventually steals the bull and takes it back to Connaught. And, those brilliant people in Carlingford have mapped out all the places mentioned in this tale – so if you fancy following suit through the battle points, join The Táin Walking Festival for some mythical reminiscing.
Storytelling is a fine art in Ireland, but there’s nothing like a tall tale told by a friendly local.