Emerald Isle

The Nine Stones

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Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales and Legendary Places in Ireland

An ancient mystery

Nine is a mystical number in Irish folklore, being thrice three, itself known from ancient times as a mysterious symbol, and so should you happen across nine stones, you would do well to be extra careful! For who knows what might lie sleeping just below the surface.

And such a place can be found on the saddle between Sliabh Bán, the White Mountain, and what we call Mount Leinster today, which was known to the old people as Suidhe Laighen, or the seat of the meeting place of the men of Leinster.

For uncounted centuries they have stood lonely watch over the gorse and bracken, the heather and bilberry, their only companions an occasional passerby and the red grouse flying overhead. Glittering quartz, much favoured by the ancient Gaels for their construction, is scattered about.

A cairn built five thousand years ago looks down upon them from the nearby mountain top and standing among them you can see Croaghaun where Saint Finian, tutor to the Saints of Ireland, built a house. On the mountainside can be seen two tracks made by the feet of a giant's daughter as she slid down into the valley below.

Local legend has is that Saint Moling was walking along the road between these two peaks and he happened across an old man who had loaves of bread in his bag. Being starved, he asked the old man for one, but was told there was nothing but rocks in his bag.

“Well,” says he “if there are only rocks in your bag, let them be turned to bread! And if bread, may they change to rocks,” and with that, the bag burst asunder and nine rocks fell out.

Other stories tell that nine shepherds lay buried under the nine stones, while yet others say that nine Carlow soldiers who were coming home from the war in Wexford during the 1798 rebellion died on that spot. Older tellings speak of nine bandits and yet older, of nine chieftains of the Gaels whole lie there, the unknown warriors.

The truth is, nobody really knows who put them there or why, and sure wouldn't it be a slow life without mystery!

It used to be the custom of those who walked near them to leave a small pebble on each of the stones, which can be found on the map below.


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