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Where to find Faeries in Ireland

Before we start, the faerie folk have the rule of the land in Ireland – and there are no restrictions to where they might pop up. That unexplained noise from the cellar, the glimmery haze at the bottom of your garden, or even the feeling that you’re not alone on an empty train carriage to Dublin can all be chalked up to our faerie friends.

However, there are places on the emerald isle that are especially known to be shrouded in mythical mystery, and where the fair folk are thought to roam more freely. I can’t promise that you’ll catch a glimpse of a plucky pixie, but if you bring an open mind and just a sprinkling of imagination, you’re sure to feel the presence of magic…

 

Hawthorn Trees

It has long since been known that the hawthorn is sacred to the Aos Sí, as its roots are thought to conceal the opening to the Faerie underworld. Commonly seen as a lone tree or hedge, this mystical plant comes alive with beautiful white blossoms in the spring but beware, because underneath the enchanting façade is a layer of sharp thorns – a rather apt analogy for the faerie folk themselves…

These trees enjoy a very protected status amongst the Irish people, being treated with a mixture of fear and reverence for their magical properties. It’s not uncommon in Ireland to see the branches of a hawthorn laden with colourful garments – tied there by passers-by as they bestow a wish upon the magical creatures living below. It is said that the faeries’ powers work through the tree, and if one were to tie a piece of clothing of a sick person upon its branch – the illness will leave them as the cloth disintegrates.

However, this wish-granting is only reserved for those who respect the faeries privacy – and if you are thought to disturb their hallowed ground then you should be prepared to face the full force of their fury. This threat is so keenly felt by the people of Ireland that in the ‘90s plans for a motorway in County Clare were actually rerouted, due to a hawthorn tree being situated on part of the land that the original road was supposed to pass through.

It would seem that this was a smart move - especially when you consider the fate of the Delorean Motor Company. Ignoring the warning of the Irish, the DMC bulldozed through a hawthorn tree in Belfast in order to build a factory upon the site. Years of delays and financial struggles ensued, with the company declaring bankruptcy after less than a year of production. We’re sure this was a moment that John Delorean wishes he could take back… but sadly the concept of time-travelling Deloreans didn’t exist until ‘Back to The Future’ hit our screens in 1985 – three years after the company had folded.

 

Faerie Forts

If you’ve spent much time wandering through rural Ireland, then it’s likely that you’ve come across a Faerie Fort – with an estimating 60’000 of them situated across the country.

These distinctive markings are remains of prehistoric dwellings in Ireland, most of which amount to circular mounds of earth – but in some cases (such as the Grianán Ailigh in County Donegal) there are still stone walls intact.

Legend has it that these forts were inhabited by the Tuatha Dé Danann, ancestors of the Aos Sí in the times when they freely walked the lands above before they were driven to their current residence underground. While the forts themselves no longer house the faerie folk, their foundations are said to still be imbued with magic – making them the perfect gateways between the ‘otherworld’ and our own.

 

Hill of Tara

For your best chance of spotting a faerie flitting out into the open from a fort, head to the Hill of Tara  - an archaeological site in Co. Meath that is simply brimming with Irish magic.

As well as one of the most recognisable faerie forts on the Irish landscape, the hallowed hill holds over 100 monuments of ancient Ireland – including a sacred object from the Tuathe Dé Danann themselves – the Lia Fail or ‘Stone of Destiny’.

The hill was known as the inauguration site of Ireland’s High Kings, with the name ‘Tara’ coming from Teamhair na Rí meaning ‘sanctuary of the Kings.' The Faerie Folk gifted their magical coronation stone in order to determine the true King of Tara, and it is said that the stone would roar once touched by the rightful ruler.  

 

While not much physically remains of this royal residence today – you can certainly feel a ripple of mysticism in the atmosphere when you visit, as though the weight of Ireland’s rich heritage hangs in the air above – while the magic of the concealed faeries radiates from the grounds below.

Faerie Rings

Not to be confused with faerie forts, faerie rings (or circles) have an entirely different significance when it comes to spotting our enchanted friends. While faerie forts are the remains of previous structures and act as protected gateways to the faerie underworld – the circles are naturally occurring signs that faeries have been in the vicinity very recently…

A faerie ring is most often depicted as a circle of mushrooms, but can appear as flowers, trees, rocks or anything other circular formation in nature. They are said to be caused by dancing sprites who have come overground to bask in the moonlight as they enjoy a festive evening of merry making.

There have been several reports of these supernatural soirees taking place, but if you are lucky enough to spot one, remember to keep your distance – this is not a party to which you have an invite! Tales of humans stepping into a faerie circles rarely have happy endings, with some forced to dance with the “Good Folk” until they are rescued or discarded – sometimes years later, while others are said to be captured and transported to the realms below… never to be seen again.

 

Tír na nÓg

While all of what I’ve shared with you so far are places where faeries pass through into our own world, the next is a place where quite the opposite can be achieved…

Tír na nÓg is thought the be a realm of eternal youth, beauty and health which is inhabited by the Tuatha Dé Danannas as they pass their immortality in luxurious comfort and style. Irelands folklore is full of legends of those humans who have set foot there – either through quest, or by invitation of its mythical residents.

It is said that this paradise can be found beneath the sparkling waters of Lough Gur in Limerick, but before you go renting your scuba gear – there is a simpler way…

On the lough’s shore there is a walkway that leads up to Bourchier’s Castle, but just off the beaten path, nestled on the side of the hill of Knockadoon is a sheltered cave, which is said to be the entrance to Tír na nÓg. It’s a slippery climb and not one to be undertaken lightly, but when you happen upon the foliage covered nook – you’ll understand the legends that surround it. Not that getting there will mean you can simply pass through of course; the faeries are much too clever for that – as we should all know by now…

 

Have you ever visited anywhere in Ireland that you felt must be influenced by the presence of faeries? Let us know in the comments below.

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