Medb’s Cairn: the grave of a mythological Irish queen?

Perched atop the monolithic Irish hill Knocknarea west of Sligo town, lies Medb’s Cairn, in Irish Miosgán Médhbh, a 5,000 year old burial mound, even though no one is quite sure whose it is. It is about 55 metres wide and 10 metres high, making it the largest cairn in Ireland outside the Brú na Bóinne complex in Meath. It is believed to date to around 3000 BCE, and it is a protected National Monument. In recent years, archaeologists have warned that the ancient cairn is being eroded by hikers…

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The forgotten Benbulben Barite Mines – Ireland

In a beautiful and remote area of Ireland are the remains of Benbulben Barite Mine. The once industrious mine was used to unearth barite ore, a naturally occurring mineral used in cement as an aggregate, or ground down and used as a filler or extender. It’s an agent in the sugar refining process, a white pigment in paint and paper, and used as a weighting agent in oil and gas exploration mining, among many other industrial-type things. Due its chemical stability it can be used to give added value to…

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Grave of W. B. Yeats at St. Columba’s Church, Drumcliffe, Ireland

In the churchyard of St. Columba’s Church, a few miles north of Sligo town, Ireland, William Butler Yeats lies under a remarkably plain gravestone bearing his name, birth and death dates, as well as the last three lines of one of his poems: “cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman, pass by.” He was one of Ireland’s most celebrated poets, and explained the plans for his final resting place the best way he knew how, through poetry. The final verse of “Under Ben Bulben” details the way he…

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An Irish (true) story: the Enniscorthy poltergeist

You want to exange this life of the modern journalist for the dashing life of an Edwardian hunter news? Well, a century ago, back in 1910, one of the local reporters for County Wexford, Ireland, was one Nicholas Murphy, a man of the Roman Catholic faith who lived at George’s Street in the town of Enniscorthy. He was aged in or around forty at the time, when the call came to cover a most unusual event just a short stroll from his house. The scoop was that an upper room…

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Rathlin West Lighthouse: a beloved upside-down beacon off the coast of Northern Ireland

A trip to picturesque Rathlin, the only developed island off the coast of Northern Ireland, offers several things including wildlife, a medieval history and more. Three lighthouses guide boats along Rathlin, and the seafaring excitement begins as soon as you leave the shores of Ballycastle. The island is home also of one of the largest seabird colonies in the UK. Every year over 250,000 seabirds such as guillemots (which only come on land to nest and can dive to a depth of 180 metres underwater), razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars (a grey…

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How Blacksod lighthouse changed the course of the World War II

Blacksod Lighthouse, Fód Dubh in Gaelic, is a lighthouse at the southern end of the Mullet Peninsula, Erris, County Mayo, at the entrance to Blacksod Bay, Ireland, where the catch of the day will always include wild Atlantic lobster. The area also boasts jaw dropping scenery and offers sanctuary for Irish whales & dolphins under supervision of the Irish Whale & Dolphin Group. The 150-year-old structure is made of local granite blocks, which are believed to have come from Termon Hill, a nearby isolated outcrop of high quality granite in…

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The Irish legend of O’Donoghue on May morning

One of Ireland’s most enduring legends tells us of how O’Donoghue, who was once Lord of the Lakes of Killarney, Ross Castle, and the surrounding lands, can be seen each May-morning upon a white horse gliding over the three lakes. He is accompanied by unearthly music, and attended by an army of otherworldly beings who stew May flowers in their wake, including youths and maidens who moved lightly and unconstrained over the watery plain. The following account of the origins of his May-morning visitations on the Lakes of Killarney was…

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Maria Higgins, the woman who was buried twice

Glasnevin Cemetery, in Irish Reilig Ghlas Naíon, is a large cemetery in Glasnevin, Dublin, Ireland which opened in 1832. It has its famous occupants, including Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins, author Christy Brown and Dubliners star Luke Kelly. But it is also the final resting place for many ordinary citizens who led interesting lives and deaths. This is the case of Maria Higgins, a completely ordinary person with a completely normal life. Except for the fact that she managed to die twice. According to her husband, Charles Higgins, Maria…

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The Legend of the Irish Leprechaun ~

The legend of the Irish Leprechaun is a well-known one: little wee well-dressed men, often angry or drunk (or both) with a certain fondness for gold. Classed by some as a type of solitary fairy, they are usually depicted as little bearded men, wearing a coat and hat, who partake in mischief. Traditionally these fair folk are rumoured to keep their treasures at the end of a rainbow, but what is the real story behind these little moody little men and their hordes of treasure? Apparently, the legend can be…

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Blackhead Lighthouse | Northern Ireland

Blackhead Lighthouse, located only half an hour from Belfast and on the Causeway Coastal Route, was built in 1902. It marks the very northern end of Belfast Lough where it opens out into the North Channel that separates Northern Ireland and Scotland. Over the years, It would have guided many famous vessels during Belfast’s golden age of shipping, including the ill-fated Titanic. It was converted to electric operation in 1965, and lightkeepers lived at the station until 1975. It is one of 65 lighthouses operated by the Commissioners of Irish…

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The infamous murder of Colleen Bawn, one of Ireland’s most haunting crimes

It was autumn 1819 when the body of a 15-year old girl was found floating along the estuary of the River Shannon, Ireland. Through a police investigation, it was discovered that her death was orchestrated by her recently eloped husband John Scanlan, who was a few years her senior. She was Ellen Hanley, orphaned at an early age and raised by her uncle John Connery. She was known by the nickname “Colleen Bawn,” an anglicized spelling of “Cailín Bán” meaning the “pure/innocent girl”. This attracted the eye of John, who…

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Galley Head Lighthouse | Ireland

Galley Head Lighthouse rises an imposing 53m above the roaring Atlantic ocean outside of Rosscarbery, County Cork, on the south coast of Ireland. It is a charming white lighthouse that sits at the southernmost point of a picturesque headland known as Dundeady Island and is close to the charming market town of Clonakilty, home of the famous black pudding. The headland is cut off from the mainland by the ancient walls of the old Norman stronghold of Dun Deidi, an important fortress of the local O’Cowhig Clan. Despite Galley Head…

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January 12th: the feast day of Saint Benedict Biscop

January 12th marks the feast day of Saint Benedict Biscop (born about 628, Northumbria, died on Jan 12th 689/690). He was the founder and first abbot of the monasteries of SS. Peter at Wearmouth, and Paul at nearby Jarrow, and he is famous for his adventures on the continent, for enriching Northumbria with holy treasures gathered abroad and as the father of Benedictine monasticism in England. For istance, he made at least five journeys to Rome in his lifetime, which was quite a feat in the seventh century. Visits that…

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Gleann Cholm Cille and St. Columba’s trail

We are in Ireland. The remote valley of Gleann Cholm Cille, in western Donegal, was already a holy site when Stonehenge was but a vision taking shape. Named after Columba, an Irish abbot and missionary evangelist credited with spreading Christianity in what is today Scotland, it is the setting for a pilgrimage on the anniversary of the saint’s death in 597AD. The three-mile journey (or ‘Turas’) is typically performed between the eve of 9 June (the saint’s feast day), and 15 August (the feast of the Assumption). Local tradition says…

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Carrageen Moss Pudding – a sweet, silky Irish pudding with a seaweed as secret ingredient ~

Ever seen “carrageenan” at the end of an incomprehensible list of ingredients on the back of your ice cream tub (or your toothpaste tube, too)? Probably you didn’t know that this mystery ingredient comes from one of several species of seaweed, carrageen (Chondrus crispus). Know as carrageen “moss”, but actually a seaweed, is one of Ireland’s more unusual natural resources, and there are any number of ways to spell its common name: carrageen, carrageenan, carragheen and carragheenan, take your pick. But, in any case, they’re all derived from the Irish…

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Clare Island Lighthouse, an Ireland hidden gem

A visit to Clare Island Lighthouse, Ireland, is absolutely something different.First, you can leave your car behind at Roonagh Pier on the Mayo mainland and, journey across the water for a quaint visit on the Island. Clare Island lighthouse and its buildings have been restored and transformed into a luxury guesthouse, and the island itself offer a wealth of activity including walking, cycling, fishing, music and crafts. The original lighthouse was built in 1806 by the Marquis of Sligo, on the isolated northern tip of Clare Island. However, seven years…

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Fanad Head: sandy beaches, epic views, whales and sunken treasure…

Standing between idyllic Lough Swilly, one of Ireland’s very few glacial fjords, and sandy Mulroy Bay, lies Fanad Head Lighthouse. With its location in the Donegal Gaeltacht, an Irish speaking area, on the eastern shore of windswept Fanad Peninsula, it’s little wonder that it is considered one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world. In addition, this area is regularly visited by creatures including whales, porpoises and dolphins. Fanad Lighthouse was proposed in response to a maritime tragedy, the wrecking of HMS Saldanha just in Lough Swilly. On the…

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Hook Lighthouse: one of the oldest operating lighthouse in the world

We are on Hook Head at the tip of the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford, in Ireland. Hook Lighthouse is an astonishing still-intact medieval lighthouse. Built 800 years ago, it continues to serve its original function and now boasts the award of the second oldest operating lighthouse in the world, after the Tower of Hercules in Spain. The lighthouse marks to entrance to Waterford harbour where the Barrow, Nore and Suir rivers meet. It operates with Tuskar Rock and Mine Head lights to provide coverage on the Ireland’s South East…

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Púca: Ireland’s shapeshifting trickster spirit of Celtic folklore

Try to imagine: you’re a normal worker, and you live in your pretty cottage just outside Dublin. It’s autumn and, despite the wind is brisk, the weather is pleasant and so you decide to take a normal nighttime stroll. You latch your gate behind you, and turn, just to find a stranger dressed in a fashionable suit. He begins to tell you your own family secrets, including sins, adultery, sorrows, destitution. Then he tells you what’s going to happen to you: your wife will leave, your money will run dry…

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12 Ways Halloween is celebrated around the globe

In America, people associate Halloween with pumpkins, costumes, candy, and spooky stories or ghosts but, around the world, it could be a little different. The holiday might look slightly different this year since we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, but we can reminisce on years past. If most places in the U.S. celebrate Halloween in much the same way, one city that stands apart is New Orleans. This town loves both to party and voodoo, so one can find things here they couldn’t anywhere else, from…

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Ballycotton Lighthouse, one of only two black lighthouses in Ireland

Built in the late 1840s, Ballycotton Lighthouse sits atop the unspoilt eponymous Island, in Ireland. On January 16, 1847 the paddle steamship Sirius, the first vessel to cross the Atlantic ocean completely under steam, was sailing from Glasgow to Cork via Dublin, but shipwrecked here in dense fog. The disaster claimed the lives of 20 passengers and crew but, luckily, around 70 people lived to tell the story. The lighthouse was built as a result, and it was first lit in 1851. Families of the lightkeepers lived on the island…

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Port: the Irish ghost village off the map.

The top of Glengesh Pass in County Donegal, Ireland, is breathtaking. Here you’re in one of the most remote corners of the country, sparsely populated, windswept and wild. You’re as likely to hear Gaelic spoken as English, for life hasn’t changed a whole lot over the past hundred years, and the land, the sea and the weather still govern people’s lives, as it once did in the quaint village of Port. Coming down off the pass leads you to Ardara, famous for its weaving. Take a left and you end…

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St John’s eve: ancient rituals to mark midsummer

Saint John’s Eve, starting at sunset on 23 June, is the eve of celebration before the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist. The Gospel of Luke states that John was born six months before Jesus, therefore, the feast of John the Baptist was fixed on 24 June, six months before Christmas according to the old Roman calculation. This feast day is one of the very few saints’ days which commemorates the anniversary of the birth, rather than the death, of the saint being honored. The Feast of Saint John…

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Milltown Cemetery – Belfast, Northern Ireland

We are in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast, Ireland. Milltown cemetery is a sprawling graveyard full of history, conflict and tragedy. It has seen some of the largest funeral processions in all of Ireland and is the final resting place of more than 200,000 souls. It was opened in 1869 as part of the broader provision of services for the city of Belfast’s expanding Catholic population, when the historic Friar’s Bush Cemetery was becoming overcrowded, and only families with burial rights were allowed to be interred there. Although the Milltown…

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Some surprising things you (probably) didn’t know about Good Friday

Have you heard of the theory that it storms on Good Friday in the afternoon between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.? The Christian belief is Christ’s crucifixion occurred on this day and, while this was happening, skies became stormy while the earth began to shake. Historians have documented this in Roman literature from that time period, and there is a belief that it has continued to storm on every Good Friday afternoon. A legend that has been carried on for generations. Some say that if it rains on Good Friday,…

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Friar’s Bush Graveyard: the big (and grisly) history of the oldest Christian burial ground in Belfast ~

The sense of ancient mystery enshrouding the old walled cemetery in south Belfast has long fascinated historians and local people alike. Though it’s only two acres in size, the oldest Christian burial ground in Belfast, Ireland, has seen more than its fair share of murder, body-snatching, and disease. Even the cemetery’s name, Friar’s Bush, came out of its bloodshed. With the foundation of Belfast in 1610, the site became a graveyard for people of all denominations, but especially for the increasing Catholic population drawn to the rising industrial city from…

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10 hilariously bad reviews of Dublin’s Pubs

All we know that Dublin is the capital city of Ireland. Located on the East coast of the country, it is the most densely populated metropolis on the Island and home to history and heritage, culture and entertainment. St. Patrick’s Day was also recently celebrated, with its traditions now spread all over the globe. While Dublin is synonymous with the arts and literature, Irish history and Guinness, it is also often associated with pub culture. In fact, Dublin is home to over 700 pubs (exactly 772, in February 2018). For…

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March, 17: It’s St Patrick’s Day!

All we known that March 17 is St Patrick’s Day, a cultural and religious holiday celebrated every year in Ireland and by Irish communities around the world. The celebration marks the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s death in the fifth century and represents the arrival of Christianity in the country. Historically the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day, which has encouraged and propagated the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption. On St Patrick’s Day, it is customary to wear shamrocks, green clothing or green accessories. St…

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”The big fish” of Northern Ireland

We are in Northern Ireland, along the banks of the River Lagan in Donegall Quay, Belfast. “The Big Fish,” also known as “The Salmon of Knowledge” (Irish: bradán feasa), is a sculpture made from a mosaic of ceramic tiles representing a creature of the Irish mythology. The giant sculpture is based on a character from the tale “The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn”, which recounts the early adventures of Fionn mac Cumhaill, a mythical hunter-warrior of Irish mythology. The story tells of an ordinary salmon that eats nine hazelnuts that fell…

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Menlo Castle: an Irish abandoned castle claimed by nature

We are in Ireland, just outside of Galway City on the banks of the River Corrib that flows through the city into Galway Bay. This mysterious abandoned castle is visible right from across the river from the National University of Ireland, Galway and it is so thoroughly overgrown with vegetation it is almost disappearing into the scenery. The 16th-century castle, not by chance known also “Blake Castle”, was the ancestral home of the Blake family, English nobles that inhabited the Menlo estate from 1569 up until a fire destroyed the…

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