Ireland’s Ancient East is full of sites that are just filled with ancient legend and folklore, and here are just ten of the top things to see that are unmissable stops on your journey through Ireland’s mythical past.
Ireland’s Ancient East is not a simple route that you can follow or a specific geographic area like the Wild Atlantic Way. It is much, much more than that. Ireland’s Ancient East is a meandering, labyrinthine descent into Ireland’s history, an exploration through the rich tapestry of myth, legend and folklore that add to the mystique and the experience of the places you visit. So don’t just turn up to these sites, take a photo of the pretty castle and move on. Listen to the storytellers. Take heed of the tales. Learn the fables and the stories behind the places you are visiting and you will get far more out of your experience than just a simple Instagram selfie.
The Rock Of Cashel.
The rock of Cashel is a collection of three impressive ancient buildings, the 10th century round tower and Cormac’s Chapel, and the 11th Century Cathedral, making this a site of significant historical and archaeological interest, but it is the myth behind the site that really gives it it’s power. Said to have been discarded by the Devil after being slung out of a nearby cave by St Patrick, the Rock of Cashel was the site where St Patrick was said to have converted the King of Munster to Christianity and is said to imbue people with power, power enough to rule Ireland herself. This ancient fable alone has seen warriors, chieftains, princes, kings and even saints fight over it.
No, I’m not joking. Take a tour with Ireland’s last Leprechaun whisperer in Carlingford and listen to the tales and stories that keep this Irish myth alive. You can even explore a kitsch collection of Leprechaun abodes and artifacts.
Waterford, a city in South East Ireland that is one of Ireland’s oldest medieval cities, started out life as a Viking settlement and has over a thousand years of history, myth and legend within its stone battlements, many of which remain from Norman times.
The Hill of Tara.
The Hill of Tara has been a major ritual site since the Stone Age, is currently an expansive archaeological complex and is one of the most significant sites of ancient Irish history and mythology. It was considered the political centre of Ireland from the times of the mythological Fir Bolg and Tuatha Dé Danann, later being used by the High Kings of Ireland to hold court. It is associated with the Pagan Goddess Maeve and is even the source of the shamrock becoming the Irish national symbol, after St. Patrick used one here to explain the Holy Trinity to convert the pagans to Christianity .
Brú na Bóinne is a Neolithic site of worship at Newgrange, a UNESCO heritage site and one of the worlds most significant prehistoric landscapes. Said to predate Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza, it is so old and layered with so many myths that not even the historians and the archaeologists can tell fact from legend. Come here and listen to the legends and stories that attempt to make sense of why the site was built and exactly how it is aligned with the rising sun at the Winter Solstice, a unique phenomenon that fills the inner chamber of the passage tomb with light.
Blarney castle really needs no introduction, this 600 year old castle is perhaps one of Irelands most famous monuments, being home to the Blarney Stone, otherwise known as the Stone of Eloquence. This rock is said to endow anyone who kisses it with the gift of the gab, but the castle itself and it’s grounds is more than worth a day of exploration.
This grand house is the first example of Palladian style architecture and is of significant architectural history and heritage, but as with all grand houses it is the stories of scandal and impropriety that really makes the grand halls and galleries really come alive.
Trim Castle is a large, imposing Anglo – Norman castle at the very edge of the Pale, the small piece of land seized by the Normans and acted as the border to hold back the Gaelic Irish hordes, the barrier between the civilised world and the mystical, frightening world of the pagans,at least in the Anglo Norman perspective. It was even used as a film location for the movie Braveheart!
Irish heritage is far more than it’s ancient past, and a visit to Wicklow Gaol gives a horrifying and disturbing glimpse into evil of a purely human making for over two hundred years before the Gaol was closed in 1924. Best visited at Halloween, the ghosts of those who suffered under horrific and brutal conditions are palpable with a definite sense of despair hanging off the grim corridors. There are plenty of stories of flogging, starvation, brutality, murder and suicide to unnerve even the stoniest of hearts.
The Hill of Uisneach.
This hill is far more than the supposed geographical centre of all the provinces, it is the spiritual heart of Ireland too. The Pagan goddess Eriu, the diety Ireland is named after, is said to be buried under the Aill Na Mireann boulder. As a result there is perhaps a higher concentration of cairns, fairy rings, magical ring forts and other mystical and spiritual sites here than anywhere else in Ireland.
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This article was written in partnership with Ireland’s Ancient East and TBEX. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.