Ah the Emerald Isle! The rolling green hills, rugged cliffs and silvery mists. Tourists long to visit — the people who call Ireland home are probably sick of hearing about it. But you can’t deny that when it comes to lush green scenery, Ireland is up there with the best.
Mythology and Magic
Another of Ireland’s famous calling-cards is its strong tradition of mythology and magic. From areas of ancient supernatural power — where the boundaries between worlds are said to be at their thinnest — to folk tales of cheeky leprechauns and imps, this history is just as rich as those verdant hills everyone keeps going on about!
The great thing is, these aspects go hand in hand. The more beautiful and majestic a landscape is, the more likely that legends sprang from it. As we’ve explored in previous articles, such as our Druid deep-dive and our St Patrick’s Day shakedown, much of Ireland’s mythologies, with a little digging, can be linked to ancient psychedelic use. Yes we’re talking magic mushrooms! It can’t be a coincidence that these fairy-folk, so common in the iconography of Ireland are always sat on mushrooms — that the slang for fairies and pixies (pookies) matches the slang for magic mushrooms — that heroes in stories go into ‘trances’ and return days later filled with new knowledge?!
Top 5 Magical Places To Visit In Ireland
In celebration of this not-so-secretly trippy history, we’ve decided to list our top 5 magical places to visit in Ireland. You can visit them and feel the whisperings of magic in the air as is. Or you could check them out with a ‘sweetener’ to make them even more *magical*. Yes! Why not make like the ancient druids of Ireland and take in its finest sights while under the influence of something a bit stronger than that fresh countryside air? A low-ish dose (depending on your tolerance — beginners be sensible!) might just connect you with that mythic fairy world they call Tír na nÓg. Perhaps you’ll see a leprechaun? Perhaps you’ll envision a myth of your own making…
*Disclaimer! We do not recommend taking a high dose of shrooms and wandering around in an unfamiliar area, or doing anything to damage sites of heritage or natural beauty. We are simply suggesting a modest dose of shrooms could make your adventure to these places that bit more magical… (check out our dosage chart here!)
The Glenasmole Valley
The Glenasmole Valley lies in South Dublin, close to the Dublin/ Wicklow mountains. It was formed during the ice-age by a glacier. Legend has it that Oisín — the greatest poet of Ireland and a powerful warrior — had been in the magical kingdom, Tír na nÓg, for 300 years. He had followed his love Niamh, a fairy woman, there. Despite living with his love in eternal youth, he bitterly missed his home of Ireland and longed to return. Niamh granted him the chance to see his family — on the condition that he must not touch Irish soil. She gifted him the magic white horse on which she had spirited him away for his journey.
On returning to his homeland Oisín happened upon 300 men struggling to lift a boulder by the side of the Glenasmole Valley. He leant down from his horse to help them, for he was both noble and really darn strong. But, as he did so he fell from the horse, crashing down to the earth. When he lifted the boulder above his head for the men, he aged the 300 years that he had been gone from his home. It’s not all tragic though! Before he died Oisín recounted his many poems and stories to St Patrick, preserving them for ever more.
So if you make it to the Glenasmole Valley, admire the sparkling lakes and rivers! But also remember the generosity and strength of Oisín — you may even see his white horse!
The Knocknarea Cairn is one of the most famous cairns in Ireland. What is a cairn you ask? A cairn is a human-made mound of stones. They have been used as a marker of important sites, from prehistoric times, to this very day! The Knocknarea Cairn is located in Sligo atop the Knocknarea mountain, with limestone cliffs that overlook the Atlantic Coast. The cairn itself is neolithic, said to have been built at least 3,200 years BCE. It is 60m in diameter across and is thought to contain 27,000 tons of stone — it is also thought (by some) to represent a nipple.
The legend goes that the fearsome Queen Maeve is buried here, wearing her armour, and facing down her enemies in Ulster. The name Maeve translates as ‘intoxicating one’, so why not get a little bit ‘intoxicated’ yourself, and imagine this famous warrior in all her glory? (P.S. climbing the cairn is NOT allowed — trip with your eyes not with your hands, people!)
In Northern Ireland is located the famous basalt rock columns of the Giant’s Causeway. These ancient hexagonal stepping stones, number at around 40,000, and are almost 60,000 years old! As well as the flabbergasting natural beauty of the site, it is the legend that goes alongside it that makes the Giant’s Causeway so famous. The story goes that the Scottish giant Benandonner threatened Ireland from across the sea. Enraged, the Irish giant Finn McCool tore the rocks from the coastline, flinging them before him to create stepping-stones to Scotland.
However, on arrival he discovered Benandonner was far, far bigger and more fearsome than he. He fled, Benandonner gave chase — terrified, he rushed back to his wife Oonagh. Quick-thinking, she disguised Finn as a baby. When Benandonner arrived and saw this huge infant, his heart grew cold at the thought of how big it’s father must be! The Scottish giant took no chances, he rushed home, wrenching up the pathway Finn had created, so he could not follow him. And that’s how the world famous tourist attraction was made!….😉 Check it out! The right dose of shrooms could almost have you seeing the Scottish giant racing his way back to safety!
Ben Bulben is a huge glacial rock formation located in the Darty Mountains. The setting of many a Celtic legends, this imposing landscape is said to be where the Fianna, a band of famous 3rd century warriors, were said to dwell. The poet William Butler Yeats adopted Sligo county as his spiritual home, enamoured by Ben Bulben, and claiming that the door of ‘Faeryland’ was located there. Why not try and find the magical folk said to hang out there? After all, as Yeat’s said of this secret door; “…In the middle of the night it swings open, and the unearthly troop rushes out” — seems as good a place as any to start your fairy hunt!
Newgrange really is the jewel in Ireland’s ancient-magic crown. The dome-shaped tomb that stands in the Boyne Valley is older even than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza! Newgrange is considered a temple of great spiritual and astronomical significance due to its magical Neolithic light show. On entering the tomb you follow a 62 foot passage until you reach a cross-shaped chamber. This in itself is beautiful, but if you time your visit with the winter solstice (21st or 22nd of December) you will be treated to the sight of a beam of golden light illuminating the entire subterranean space.
An opening, just above the entrance, lets in this beam of winter light once a year. This light represents the cycle of life and re-birth. Remaining pitch-black inside for the rest of the year — the pure astrological and architectural feat of Newgrange makes it a classic candidate for that age-old question: did aliens build it?!
If you don’t manage to attend this ancient ceremonial spectacle, there is still plenty to admire at Newgrange. The famous Celtic triple-spiral is hewn into huge rocks at its entrance. Yes, thats right, those spirals that look oh-so-similar to the fractal patterns you get when you close your eyes on an especially good magic truffle trip. The great age of the site, as well as its palpable spirituality, makes it truly a place for lovers of magic.
We hope this list has inspired you to get adventurous in Ireland (when possible!) For now, if you can’t travel, why not find your nearest green space, enjoy some truffles or shrooms, and experience some local magic?
Have you visited any of these mythological hotspots? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below!