Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales and Legendary Places in Ireland
One of the oldest human constructions in the world, Newgrange
Older than Stonehenge and the great pyramids of Giza stands Newgrange, the heart of legends and mysteries stretching back five thousand years. Situated along the river Boyne near to numerous other such places like Knowth and Dowth, that very same river where Fionn Mac Cumhaill was said to have first found and tasted the salmon of knowledge, and the Daga Mor, king of the Tuatha de Dannan, made his home here for a while. The Irish hero Cu Chulainn was even rumoured to have been conceived in a dream there!
It is deeply interwoven through Irish myths and tales, being "three times fifty sons of kings abode for three days with their three nights", and said to have been the stronghold to which Aengus brought the body of Diarmaid after his death so that he could "put a wind-borne life into him so that he will talk to me every day." Lugh son of Dagda is also reputed to have been buried here.
Weighing almost a quarter of a million tons and covering more than an acre, at the heart of twelve standing stones, the water-rolled stones of Newgrange were taken from the nearby river, but they sit behind white quartz from Wicklow and round granite from the Mourne mountains. And its passages are still waterproof today! They don't build them like that anymore. Scholars once thought the place a tomb but have since changed their opinions, believing it to be much more - a temple to ancient gods, from which the stars were studied and where ceremonies were held.
The most remarkable sight to be seen at Newgrange comes during the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, when the light and warmth of the sun is at its lowest ebb. Archaeologists were baffled as to the purpose of the passage above the main entryway to Newgrange, although local people had spoken of the solstice wonder since time out of mind, until by chance they happened to see what occurred as the sun rose on that day.
A slender beam of light shines through, scarce even a ray, which rises and widens to fill the whole of the chamber within, lighting it brightly for those fortunate enough to see it! And after that the days lengthened and the sun returned to Ireland, bringing with it the promise of renewed life for man and beast, and perhaps even for the dead. It can still be seen to this day, although the demand is so great that there's a lottery held to see who views it on any given year. Once a pyramidal stone stood at its heart, according to earlier excavators, but that has since vanished.
From its mythical history to its present day glory, a visit to Newgrange is a must for anyone coming to Ireland!
Newgrange can be found on the map below.
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Legendary Places in Ireland
Ireland is a land of many treasures – some are well known while others are known only to a few, like the mysterious stone circles of Beaghmore! In the north of County Tyrone they can be found, at the edge of the Sperrin mountains looking out over the wide countryside below, dating back to the bronze age and earlier, to the time when the Tuath ... [more]
The royal ringfort of Grianán Ailigh was known as the father of every building in Ireland by the Annals of the Four Masters, who also claimed it was first built in the year 1500 BC, in the time of the Tuatha Dé Danann! A mighty place of strength it is and was and may always be, one of the few locations in Ireland correctly marked on a ... [more]
Knockma of the mists is a place wreathed in secrets and myth where they say sleeps the greatest king of the Sidhe, he whose name was Finnbheara! Should you go for a walk around Knockma Hill, pay close attention to that which you cannot see – a warm breeze meant a good fairy was passing by, and a sudden shiver meant an evil one was close! J ... [more]
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 ... [more]
Once upon a time there were many kingdoms in Ireland, and many kings, or perhaps they would have been better known as chieftains, but kings they were for all that. As time went by each of these kingdoms fell and were joined one into the other, but yet a single kingdom still remains in the farthest north and farthest west of the country, and this is ... [more]
Ireland's bones are made of stories, you can hardly step over a rock or walk past an old mound but if it could speak, it would tell you tales you could hardly imagine. But of all the legended glens and fields misty with memory in this ancient nation, there are few with as many secrets hidden in their depths as Lough Gur in county Limerick. S ... [more]
There are tens of thousands of round stone forts in Ireland, some say as many as fifty thousand, if you can believe it, and one of the finest examples we have is at Kilcashel in County Mayo, which comes from the Irish Coill an Chaisil, the woods of the stone fort. Almost perfectly circular in construction, with thick walls two broad men could walk ... [more]
Scattered throughout the Irish countryside are hundreds if not thousands of holy wells, almost all of great antiquity, even predating Christianity. They can take almost any form and show up in any place, shimmering in the shadow of engraved stone monuments, in lapping sea caves where the fresh and salt waters mingle twice a day, as natural springs ... [more]
In county Roscommon there's a place of great antiquity called Oweynagat, which some have mistakenly thought to mean the Cave of Cats, although it has nothing to do with cats - “cath” being the Irish word for “battle” and so it should rightfully be called the battle cave. Indeed it has a long association with the Morrigan ... [more]
The Burren is one of the wonders of Ireland. A rolling rocky landscape of limestone hills and plains, it is marked with history stretching back thousands of years. Nestled in between the limestone slabs are herbs and plants you'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere, hailing from places as far afield as the Arctic and the Mediterranean, kept warm ... [more]
Older than Stonehenge and the great pyramids of Giza stands Newgrange, the heart of legends and mysteries stretching back five thousand years. Situated along the river Boyne near to numerous other such places like Knowth and Dowth, that very same river where Fionn Mac Cumhaill was said to have first found and tasted the salmon of knowledge, and the ... [more]
The seat of the High Kings of Ireland of old, Tara or Temair as it was known then, is said to have been the seat of a hundred and forty two kings, kingships won by battle, contest and merit, not passed down father to son as in more primitive cultures. One of the most important monuments in the sacred Boyne valley, its history stretches back four th ... [more]
Dun Aengus means "the Fort of Aenghus", and remains one of the most impressive ancient monuments in Ireland, Europe or the world. Perched on the edge of a high and jagged cliff with the grey-green waters of the Atlantic battering below, it gained its name from its original builders, who were called the Fir Bolg, some of the first to arriv ... [more]
Crannogs, the name meaning "young trees" for reasons which aren't too clear, were dwelling places for people in Ireland from the time of the Tuatha de Dannan right up to the seventeenth century. They were built on shallow lakes or pools on top of tree trunks stuck into the lake bottom, piles of rocks, mud and other debris or on natura ... [more]
Croagh Patrick or Patrick's Stack is an important place of pilgrimage for Christians throughout Ireland and the world today, some even walking the ascent in their bare feet as penance for their sins. However it was considered a holy place long before St Patrick came to visit, even though it is said he banished the snakes from Ireland while stan ... [more]
Rising from the ocean a short distance off the coast of county Kerry in southern Ireland, Skellig Michael and its smaller brother rear up out of the Atlantic ocean like jagged grey teeth. Famous poet George Bernard Shaw who visited the place in 1910, called it an "incredible, impossible, mad place" and "part of our dream world". ... [more]