Happy Friday everyone! As we all know, Ireland is a country steeped in mythical tales, legends and folklore. Over the past few months we’ve been enjoying a virtual tour of Ireland together and it struck me how many of our favorite Irish landmarks have a mythical tale attached. So this week I thought it would be fun to take a whistle stop tour of mythical Ireland. First stop -Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim!
1. Giant’s Causeway & Fionn mac Cumhaill
The jewel in the crown of Antrim’s Causeway Coastal route consists of 40,000 basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The legend behind this geographical phenomenon is much more colorful and the clue is in the name. The tale features Ireland’s best known mythical warrior and, Fionn mac Cumhaill or Finn Mc Cool. The mythical story goes that the causeway is the remains of a path built by Finn Mac Cool when he was challenged to go into combat with his Scottish rival giant, Benandonner.
2. Rock of Cashel & St. Patrick
Next on the mythical Ireland trail is the truly mystical Rock of Cashel. Also known as St. Patrick’s Rock (Carraig Phádraig), legend has it that the rock landed here when St.Patrick banished Satan from a cave at Devil’s Bit mountain. The story goes that the devil took a bite out of the mountain and spat the rock to it’s current location! The Rock of Cashel is also the place where it is claimed St Patrick converted the King of Munster. Indeed it was the seat of the of high kings of Munster for centuries until the Norman invasion.
3 Allihies & The Children of Lir
The story of the Children of Lir is one of the best known from the Irish Mythological Cycle. Lir was part of of the Tuatha de Danaan clan and married Eve, the sister of his rival Bodb Dearg, the king of the Tuatha De Danann. They had four children. One girl, Fionnuala, and three sons: Aed and twins Fiachra and Conn.
When their mother died, Lir married her sister Aoife. Aoife, who had magical powers, was fiercely jealous of the love Lir had for his children. She changed them into swans where they were forced to wander for 900 years. 300 years in Lough Derravaragh in Westmeath, 300 years in the Sea of Moyle & their final 300 years in Bill, Cow and Calf rocks on the Beara Peninsula near Allihies in West Cork.
When they heard the bells from the nearby church the spell was broken , changing the swans back to their human forms. By now they were very old and died after being baptized by a local monk. They were buried under boulders just outside the village.
4. Glenbeigh Beach & Oisin & Niamh
The story goes that Oisin & Niamh set out for Tír na nÓg from Glembeigh beach in County Kerry. Oisin was a mere mortal who fell in love with Niamh from the Otherworld. Niamh brings Oisin to the land of eternal youth -Tír na nÓg on a magical white horse. After 3 years, Oisin becomes homesick and wants to return home. Niamh agrees to give him the horse to return warning him not to touch the ground when he arrives. When Oisin reaches Ireland, 300 years have passed. He falls from the horse, transforms to a wizened old man and dies of old age!
Cliffs of Moher & Cu Chulainn
Our tour of mythical Ireland ends at one of Ireland’s most iconic and most visited attractions. There are many myths and legends associated with the Cliffs of Moher. One tale centers around Cu Chulainn, another superhero of Irish mythology. Cu Chulainn attracted the attention of a witch called Mal who fell madly in love with him. Cu Chulainn did not feel the same way but Mal was persistent and chased him all around Ireland. At the Cliffs of Moher, Cu Chulainn leaped across to an island with Mal in hot pursuit. Cu Chulainn leapt back to the mainland and Mal leapt back too, meeting her death as she crashed against the rocks, known to this day as Hag’s Head.
Well I think that’s enough tall tales for one day! Do join me on Monday as the Virtual Tour arrives in the beautiful county of Antrim,
Have a lovely weekend,
Take care of yourselves and each other,
Slán go fóill!