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Irish folklore and mythology: tales from the Emerald Isle

Irish folklore and mythology: tales from the Emerald Isle

The Irish branch of Celtic mythology is rich in both heroes and gods as well as magical creatures. The old Irish legends follow a model similar to that of other ancient cultures such as the Greeks and Romans, mixing historical events and legendary facts and placing them on the same plane of reality, intertwining and justifying one with the other. Thus a structure of “cycles” is proposed, similar to chapters or historical stages, to which is added a succession of invasions and conquests of different peoples who populated the island before the Celts. The most important are the Tuatha dé Danann, the gods; the Fomorians, a kind of demons or dark gods; and the Celts themselves, who would end up imposing themselves over the others to keep the island. To this must be added, of course, a wide variety of mythological creatures and magical beings and the occasional heroic character.

The Emerald Isle


Legend has it that the five peninsulas that form the southwestern tip of Ireland are actually the fingers of the goddess Hag of Beara reaching out into the Atlantic to push away the dense fog. For centuries this portion of the Emerald Isle was considered the end of the known earth, and even today it retains that aura of mystery, with its megalithic enclaves, Celtic myths, folk music and ruined abbeys. All this can be admired along a fascinating 400-kilometer drive from Cork City to Dingle, passing through Killarney and the Ring of Kerry.


Ring of Kerry


Derrynane is one of the best scenic spots on this circular road. The Beara peninsula can be seen in the background.



Tigh Molaga in Irish, which means House of Molaga, is a small village located on an ancient settlement dedicated to St. Molaga who, according to legend, introduced the art of beekeeping in Ireland in the sixth century. Facing the estuary are the ruins of a Franciscan abbey dating back to 1240. The convent was sacked in 1642 but retains remnants of the church, cloister and cellar.



Ross Castle (15th century) stands on one of the peninsulas of Lake Leane, the largest lake in Killarney National Park. From this point there are boat trips to the lake island of Innisfalle.



The cathedral of St Colman's stands out among the lined houses of this town, maritime access to Cork and port from which the great migrations of the 19th century departed.

The Skelling Islands


This rocky archipelago has two main islands: Little Skellig, which is a nature reserve of gannets and puffins, and Skellig Michael, which houses the remains of a 6th century monastery. Its inaccessibility allowed the monks to safeguard unique manuscripts. Today it can only be reached by boat from Portmagee and for 100 days a year, depending on the state of the sea.

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