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    The Folklore of Ireland

    Irish Myths, Legends & Folklore

    Ireland is an old country… a very old country. It is a place simply brimming with myths and legends. Famous for its oral stories, Ireland has so many stories that have been passed down through each generation, with various versions of each.

    These stories are often linked to landscapes – either a specific spot like the Giant’s Causeway, or else many places like Diarmuid and Grainne and their various caves.

    From giants to selkies, from tragic lovers to witches, from magical bulls to humans turned to swans, join us on this series to learn the unique myths and legends of Ireland.

    Finn McCool: The Giant of the Giant's Causeway - Part 1

    Once upon a time, there was a magical emerald land called island. In the northern stretches of this land, there lived a Irish giant called Fionn McCool (or in Irish, Fionn Mac Cumhaill). Fionn is one Ireland’s most prominent mythological characters, and yes it is he that is credited with building the Giant’s Causeway. Built all because of a proposed fist fight with a Scottish giant that never actually happened because Fionn got scared, and relied on the ingenuity of his wife to cleverly disguise him as a baby. 

    Supposedly, his Scottish rival ran away in terror at what surely must be a massive giant if his baby was that big, tearing up the causeway behind him.

    But… it’s better to read the whole story.

    Meet Fionn McCool

    The Hag of Beara: The Winter Witch - Part 2

    No, we’re not talking about the winter witch of Narnia – though C.S. Lewis has admitted that he was inspired by Ireland when writing The Chronicles of Narnia. So, maybe there’s a connection.

    But the Hag of Beara is an under-appreciated character of Irish folklore. She is supposedly the goddess of winter or the witch of the winter, and it is her who is in charge of turning the clock from Summer to Winter.

    Legend says that you have to head outside on February 1st (St Brigid’s Day, the first day of spring on the Gaelic calendar). If the weather is poor, it means that the Hag of Beara is asleep and winter will soon end. However, if the day is bright, she’s awake and collecting firewood to make winter last longer. February 1st is the one day a year that people hope the weather will stay poor…

    Learn more about the Hag of Beara, Ireland’s winter witch. 

    Meet the Hag of Beara

    Diarmuid & Grainne: Ireland's Tragic Lovers - Part 3

    Keash Caves Sligo

    Tales of tragic lovers exist in many cultures – most famously, the doomed lover’s of Romeo and Juliet. Diarmuid and Grainne are Ireland’s tragic or doomed lovers.

    As the story goes, Diarmuid stole his chieftain Fionn McCool’s intended bride after the couple met and fell in love. Their love was so strong that Diarmuid and Grainne decided to escape together and went on the run indefinitely. Legend has it that Diarmuid and Grainne never slept in the same place and accross Ireland, there are dozens – perhaps hundreds! – of “Diarmuid and Grainne beds” – caves, nooks, rocks and other standout geological formations where the couple supposedly spent a night while on the run.

    Until, well, their luck ran out, and they were caught.

    Find out more about the doomed Diarmuid and Grainne. 

    Meet Diarmuid & Grainne

    The Children of Lir - Part 5

    Lir was once a great king of Ireland, and with his wife he had four children. But upon her death, and his subsequent re-marriage, his new wife grew increasingly jealous.

    Essentially the story of the jealous stepmother, she took her revenge upon the four children for taking up so much of King Lir’s time and love… by turning them into four white swans.

    And so they were doomed to wander Ireland as swans… for 900 years. 

    Meet the Children of Lir

    Granuaile, Ireland's Pirate Queen - Part 6

    In the 1600s, a fierce Pirate Queen ruled the west coast of Ireland, demanding tribute from passing ships, building castles, and collecting enemies throughout the rugged shores. Read more about this great Irish icon. 

    Meet the Pirate Queen

    Stay tuned for the next in our blog series on Irish myths and legends!

    In the meantime, take a look at other articles from our blog. 

    Wilderness Blog

    Our holidays reviewed
    in your own words

    Group size good, much easier getting around, able to use the smaller van. I now appreciate a part of Ireland unknown to me previously. The accommodation was centrally located which was excellent for the evenings. A well thought out itinerary with enough activity to fill the day. Highly recommended. We hope to participate in another WI trip in the near future. Having mild weather added to the enjoyment!

    Elizabeth (Liz) Ward
    Hiking and Island Hopping Cork and Kerry
    Reviewed on 02/08/2019

    Rated 4.93 out of 5 based on 205 reviews

    Read More Reviews

    As Recommended By...

    You'll be in good company on a Wilderness Ireland Trip. Some of the biggest and best known names in the business have recommended us.

    Los Angeles Times
    National Geographic Adventure
    Men's Health
    USA Today

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