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Unravelling the myths of Ireland

No one can spin yarns quite like the Irish. From legends of leprechauns to fables of fairies, here are just some of the myths that cast their magic over tourists in Ireland.

travel Updated: Aug 20, 2011 13:51 IST
Kiran Mehta
Kiran Mehta

The Emerald Isle is a land full of folklore. And tradition continues to whisper these tall tales in the ears of all Irishmen, across the ages. Here are some of the most delightful stories that gabby locals will be only too happy to tell you over a glass of Guinness.

The Kilkenny Witch -- Bachelors, beware!
Kilkenny is an enchanting medieval city, three hours by road from Dublin. And en route you will be greeted by 40 shades of green. The most notorious character of Kilkenny was the strikingly attractive Dame Alice Kyteler, believed to be a witch. In fact she was among the first to be accused of heresy, which possibly sparked the witchcraft movement in Europe.

Legend has it that this aristocratic woman acquired three husbands and outlived them all. Her many men died under mysterious circumstances. When her fourth husband fell ill, her stepchildren suspected the wicked witch had cast her spell and appealed to the bishop. Subsequently, Alice and five others were accused of sorcery. They were to be burned at the stake but Alice magically escaped and lived out her days in the moors of Scotland. But her maid and co-accused, wasn't so lucky and was burned in her place.

The Waterford Pookas This serene city, a three-hour drive, south of Dublin, is built by the river Suir. It was probably the first place the Vikings set foot on in Ireland. But even Vikings couldn't scare the Pookas vicious fairies that hit the streets after dark, looking for trouble. Being shape-shifters they morph into wild beasts or birds. In Waterford, they come as eagles with larger-than-life wingspans. They simply swoop down on their victims. Beware as you make your way home from a pub in the wee hours as you could be spooked by them too goes the legend. Hook lighthouse: who built it?

An hour by road from Waterford is one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world. The Hook lighthouse dates to the 13th century, built by William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. But some beliefs state that a Welsh monk St. Dubhan built a beacon here in the 5th century.

St. Dubhan came to Hook peninsula seeking solace, but was disturbed by the sight of bodies of sailors washed ashore. So he established a beacon on the spot where the lighthouse stands. Some Irishmen claim that spirits of the sailors urged Dubhan along. Yet one fact remains undisputed the view from the top is jaw dropping.

Your Dublin date
This bustling city has its share of the weird and wonderful. But one the most famous supernatural figures here is the Green Lady of St. Audoen's Church. Believed to be the ghost of Kelly, she was executed for murdering her unborn child. The Sheriff, supposedly the father of her child, sentenced her. The ghost-lady walks past the church and has been cited even in recent years.

First Published: Aug 20, 2011 13:51 IST