Ireland has an incredibly rich history and a large body of folklore to match. When we travel, acquainting ourselves with the folklore enriches our sense of wonder of the places we see. While many of us are familiar with Irish history’s more famous figures and tales, join us as we dig a little deeper to reveal some of the folklore and history relating to sites Holiday Vacations guests visit on our Enchanting Ireland tour.
This long stretch of seawall is one of Ireland’s most iconic natural landscapes. It is also the setting of a dramatic story in classic Irish folklore featuring the legendary Irish warrior Cú Chulainn. In this story a sinister sea witch named Mal falls in love with Cú, but when Cú declines her advances, she follows him throughout the isle until cornering him at the Cliffs of Moher. With nowhere else to go, Cú bravely leapt to the nearby columns of rock that rise out of the Irish Sea as if they were stepping stones. When Mal gave chase, she fell to her death on a cliff now known today as Hag’s Head. If you visit the southernmost end of the cliffs today, you can see Hag’s Head, a major rock formation that looks like a woman’s face.
This famous fortress in County Cork is best known for its “Kissing Stone.” Legend has it that anyone who kisses a special block of limestone built into Blarney Castle’s fortifications is endowed with the gift of “gab.” According to legend, the magic stone was gifted to the ruling MacCarthy family from Robert the Bruce in the 1300s. Since then there have been a number of stories on how the Blarney Stone has helped define the castle. In one example, Queen Elizabeth I ordered the Earl of Leicester to take the castle for her own. However, every time the Earl negotiated, Cormac MacCarthy, allegedly empowered by the Blarney Stone’s gift of wits, charm, and flattery, offered a banquet or some other eloquent distraction, delaying the seizure of his castle for years.
At the top of a rocky plateau rising up from South Central Ireland’s grassy plains is the Rock of Cashel, an ancient site with several stone structures including a tower, cathedral, chapel, and graveyard. The earliest buildings seen here were founded in the 12th century, but oral tradition tells its origins differently. According to Irish folklore, the devil broke a tooth while taking a bite out of a nearby mountain, now named Devil’s Bit, and spat out the stony fort 20 miles away to the location where it rests today. The Rock of Cashel goes by a few other names too: It’s known as Cashel of Kings because it was an important destination to the Kings of Munster in the Middle Ages. It also goes by St. Patrick’s Rock because, according to legend, it was the site where St. Patrick converted King Aenghus from Paganism to Christianity.
Known as Ireland’s most romantic castle, Kylemore Abbey is famous for its Victorian walled garden and enchanting setting along Pollacappul Lake’s verdant shores. The estate, originally known as Kylemore Castle, was built as a private residence for a wealthy doctor from London named Mitchell Henry and his family in 1863. Unfortunately, tragedy struck just a few years after the castle was completed when Mr. Henry’s wife Margaret died unexpectedly while the family traveled in Egypt. She was beautifully embalmed in Cairo, and when her body returned to Kylemore, she was laid in a delicate glass coffin in the staircase hall for family and tenants to see. Much later, the castle was sold to Irish Benedictine Nuns fleeing Belgium during World War I. Since then the nuns have operated a Catholic girls school out of the castle’s enchanting halls, which lasted until 2010.