Ireland’s myths had many purposes.
A few of them ensured children didn’t go out at night. Others promoted the best ways to manage your crops. And some were just fantastically funny.
But when you’re in Ireland, you feel them everywhere. You imagine they had a grander purpose than societal cohesion and entertainment.
You feel they’re real and a living part of the landscapes.
So, our friends at Rabbie’s tours have put together a list of where you can get as close as possible to the folklore.
Yes, we all know what you’re thinking. Dublin on St Patrick’s Day would be the best place to indulge in the stories of this saint. But no matter how much you love the spirit of this party, we think there’s a better place to go.
And that’s the Rock of Cashel. This is a unique collection of buildings and fortifications perched on a hill in the flatlands of Tipperary. It’s stunning and is one of the most visited places in Ireland.
But what about St. Patrick?
Well, the story says he managed to defeat the devil in a duel somewhere around here. The devil was a bad loser, so out of anger he bit a chunk out of the top of a mountain. But he broke a tooth on the hard stone and spat it out. The Rock of Cashel is where this saliva-soaked mountain piece landed.
This is unlikely to be true; this lump of land predates St. Patrick by a few thousand years. But it’s still a fun story and a great place to explore.
Finn MacCool is one of Ireland’s greatest characters. His trials and tribulations are documented in the ballads that make up the Fenian Cycle. He defeated fire-breathing men, fished for magical salmon, and was basically the Celtic version of Hercules.
And since he was a magical giant, it’s no surprise that he shaped some of the landscapes.
The most famous one he created was the Giant’s Causeway.
The legend says he was building a bridge to Scotland. But while making the bridge, Finn hears someone from Scotland shouting a lot of rude and offensive words across the ocean. It’s Benandonner, the Celtic God of Combat.
Ireland's mythical landscape
A land of adventure awaits you in Ireland! These stunning shots of the myth-inspiring Irish landscape from Rabbie's have us packing our bags.Posted by IrishCentral.com on Monday, 8 October 2018
They hurl abuse at each other for a long time until they agree to a duel.
Yet, as the Benandonner came closer, Finn saw he was huge. So he was petrified and ran home to his wife, desperately seeking help.
His wife had dealt with Finn’s silly situations many times before and told Finn to dress up as a baby.
Benandonner entered their home and demanded to know where Finn was. Finn’s wife replied, “He’s out”.
Benandonner looked around the house and saw the size of the baby and realized that daddy Finn must have been gigantic.
He panicked, ran back across the ocean, and destroyed the bridge so Finn couldn’t follow him back to Scotland.
What’s left of it is the Giant’s Causeway.
Interestingly, there’s an identical basalt structure across the sea in Scotland at Fingal’s Cave. Is this perhaps the other side of the bridge?
Everyone knows where to find Leprechauns, right? They’re at the end of the rainbow.
This could maybe be true. But in Ireland, like everywhere else in the world, trying to get to the end of a rainbow is as possible as licking your own ears.
So, where do you find Leprechauns in Ireland? There are two answers to this.
Firstly, you see the image of them everywhere. Lucky Charms and other brands adopted them as their mascots, and the tourism trade has followed suit and used them to sell t-shirts, beers, and just about anything in Ireland. These representations can be crude and a little too stereotypical.
The other answer is that you can find the real leprechaun in yourself. No, we don’t mean there’s a green-suited ginger little man living in your belly.
The story of the leprechaun is one about greed. He’s a trickster that would use his pot of gold to fool humans into doing devilish deeds. Their tales are warnings of the traps of avarice, and how no one is safe from greed.
So, whenever you choose money over your friends or loved ones, that’s you being tricked by the leprechaun.
If you don’t have much time or a pot of gold, you can explore Ireland on one of Rabbie’s day tours.
The Blarney Stone
If you’ve been to Ireland, there’s a very good chance you’ve kissed the Blarney Stone in Blarney Castle.
But you don’t need to kiss anything to enjoy this attraction: this rock is housed in one of the finest castles in western Europe. So why does everyone do it?
Here’s the legend.
In the 16th century, the English rulers were taking land from the Irish lords.
But Cormac Teige McCarthy, the Lord of the Blarney Castle, hated this ruling.
So, he asked a wise lady what he should do. And she sarcastically told him to “kiss a rock”. Cormac was a bit cheeky, so he did as he was told with a smirk across his face.
Yet after he kissed the stone, he was suddenly inspired, and he immediately set off to see the Queen of England.
When he arrived in the court, he spoke with remarkable grace and tricked the queen into not to taking his land. He set off back to Ireland and gave the rock another passionate kiss.
But when the queen realized she’d been fooled, she sent the Earl of Leicester to steal Cormac’s land.
Yet, Cormac invited the earl to delicious dinners, loud booze-ups, and incredible parties. So, the earl started to love Cormac as a friend, and in each progress report, he sent to the queen, the earl wryly told her that the castle hadn’t been taken. Every time there was another excuse.
Eventually, the queen read a letter and threw it to the ground in frustration. She said, “It says nothing at all, it’s all blarney!”.
And even though Cormac thought the old woman who told him to kiss a block of rock was talking blarney, he still treasured the rock that may have helped him keep his land. So, he hoisted the stone into a prime position in his castle and kissed it every night for evermore.
Rabbie’s offers friendly mini-coach tours of Scotland, England, and Ireland. Their ethical trips take you to the best destinations with story-telling guides.