A tour of mystical, mythological Ireland
Take a tour through Irish ancient myth
Stop 2: Loughcrew Oldcastle, Co. Meath
Loughcrew, also called “The Storied Hills” or “Mountain of the Witch,” is one of Ireland’s major passage tomb sites (the others are Bru na Boinne, Carrowkeel and Carrowmore), all believed to date back to around 3200 B.C. The site is made up of clusters of cairns (manmade, pyramid-like stone piles) around hills.
The winter solstice at Newgrange is well known, but the lesser-known Equinox illumination at sunrise occurs at Loughcrew. The backstone of the chamber is illuminated by a beam of light at sunrise on the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes.
Myth says that the monuments of Loughcrew were created by a witch flying overhead who dropped large stones from her apron.
Admission to the site is free, but be aware that the climb to Loughcrew is quite steep.
Stop 3: Navan Fort & The King’s Stables Armagh, Co. Armagh
Navan Fort is a historical royal fortress on Killylea Road in Co. Armagh. The ancient monument was a stronghold of the kings of Ulster around 700 B.C. The Fort was the center of King Conchobor mac Nessa and his Red Branch Knights.
Navan Fort is surrounded by a bank with a ditch inside, suggesting that it was a ceremonial, rather than defensive, site.
It is said that the great Irish mythical hero Cuchulainn spent much of his youth in Navan Fort before single-handedly facing the army of the mythical Queen Maeve.
The Fort was eventually abandoned, which probably was a result of the creation of St. Patrick’s church two miles away. But in 1005, the Irish king Brian Boru camped there, and in 1387, Niall O’Neill chose Navan Fort as the location for a house.
One mile west of Navan Fort lies another myth site, the mysterious King’s Stables which is thought to have played a role in water rituals in the area.
King's Stables, which was built around 1000 B.C, is a 10-foot-deep man-made pool surrounded by a bank. It is believed that its significance had to do with water, because the prehistoric Celts are known to have practiced water cult ceremonies.
A brief excavation of the site in 1975 uncovered the front of a human skull that was severed from the back part, perhaps related to another famous Celtic cult ritual – the severed head, a large-scale beheading as human sacrifice to the Celtic gods.
You can take a tour of the sites through the Navan Center.
Stop 4: Beaghmore Stones Cookstown, Co. Tyrone
Stone circles in Ireland span across the Sperrins Mountains in Counties Tyrone, Derry and Fermanagh. In each area there is a concentration of sites made up of multiple stone circles. The circles have relatively small diameters and are comprised of 40 or so stones each.
The circles are typically misshapen and occur in pairs or multiples in one place.