Ireland is known for its incredible landscapes, rolling green pastoral views, and vibrant culture. Throughout the journeys on the Belmond Grand Hibernian Luxury Train, enjoy the best snapshots of the Emerald Isle. Along your adventure, destinations such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Giant’s Causeway aren’t just interesting to look at—they also have intriguing myths and legends behind them.
The Blarney Stone
You lay down on the cold stone at Blarney Castle, and lean back through the railing—thankfully your lower half is being held steady as you dip backwards and your lips touch the cold limestone. You don’t feel any different though. There isn’t a rush of magical power or insight, but you decide you will test out the “gift of gab,” on your server tonight at dinner. Maybe you will get an extra large serving for dessert.
The origin of this story has roots with the goddess Cliodhana and the builder of Blarney Castle, Cormac Laidir McCarthy. He was involved with a lawsuit and prayed to the goddess for help. She told him to kiss the first stone he saw on his way to the court. He followed her instructions and later pleaded his case with impressive eloquence. Thus, the Blarney Stone became known for its ability to provide individuals with “the ability to deceive without offending,” popularly known as “the gift of gab.” McCarthy then chose to bring this stone up to the parapet of the castle. Now, everyone lines up behind you for the opportunity to acquire this great skill of eloquence of speech.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher stretch out in front of you, the jagged rock face and crashing waves holding old stories of mermaids, lost cities, and witches. The
legends almost seem possible; these cliffs look like they belong in fantasy.
Staring out across the water, you imagine a fisherman on a tiny boat, rocking with the waves, and see him come across a mermaid perched upon a rock. Beautiful, intriguing, and mysterious, she catches the fisherman’s attention and he immediately becomes enamored with her. He wants her for his own, and while they are speaking,he steals her cloak that she needs to be able to return to the sea. He runs back to his house and hides it before she reaches him. The mermaid agrees to marry the fisherman, in hopes that one day she will find her cloak. Years pass uneventfully and the pair has two children. One day, however, when the fisherman is out at sea, she discovers her old cloak hidden in the house. Taking it and not turning back, she rejoins the sea and her family never sees her again. The sea, after all, is her only love.
The whirlwind of romance and intrigue continues in the next story you hear about, the perfect tone for these lonely cliffs. In this next story, a hag—or a witch in some accounts—named Mal fell in love with the famed warrior Cu Chulainn and chased him all around Ireland. Disgusted with her advances, he did everything he could to escape her. Finally, she cornered him at the south end of the Cliffs of Moher. However, he used his mighty power and strength to jump from the cliffs to a rocky island. In the hag’s haste and desperation, she tried to follow him, but the wind is not with her and she fell to her demise in the crashing water and jagged rocks below. The area, Malbay, is said to be named after her. There is a cliff face in the area where she fell that resembles the profile of a woman looking wistfully out to sea.
The last story you are told tells the tale of a lost city sitting at the bottom of the sea. The city in this legend has been called many names. Kilstiffen and Cill Stuifin are just two of them. The city sank into the ocean when the chieftain lost the golden key for the city’s castle during a battle. Without the key, the city cannot be saved from the murky depths of the sea. No one knows the key’s true location, but various stories put it in different places. It might be tucked within an ancient gravestone in Slieve Callan, or thrown to the bottom of a lake at the top of a mountain. Regardless of where the key is, the city is said to rise up from the water once every seven years. Anyone who lays eyes on the dripping city will die before the next time it rises.
Here, looking down into the water, you can just make out the tops of trees, clouded in the water. You wonder if there is any truth to the legend, but you hear someone say there was an earthquake and subsequent tidal wave here long ago that might be the cause for the skeletons of land submerged in the sea.
The cylindrical basalt columns push upwards in front of you, creating a scene so unique and so magical, it seems unreal. Moments and locations beyond reality are becoming a norm on this fantastic trip. Today’s destination is a fitting end to this trip. The Giant’s Causeway is not only a natural phenomenon, but is also steeped in legend and myth. Long ago, the giant Finn MacCool from Ireland was challenged to a fight by Benandonner from Scotland. Finn MacCool originally built the causeway to reach Scotland, but turned back in fear of the large size of Benandonner. The Scottish giant, however, chased him back to Ireland. Finn’s wife may be the real hero of this story: she quickly disguised Finn as a baby, so that when Benandonner arrived he saw the immense size of this supposed child. If the baby was this huge, then its father, Finn, must have been enormous. It was Benandonner’s turn to run in fear, and he destroyed the path of the causeway so Finn could not pursue him. What is left of the causeway are the hexagonal columns at the edge of the water in both Ireland and Scotland. Scientifically, they are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, but as you stand among the columns and notice rock formations that look like a giant’s boots and chimney stacks, imagining giants standing here is much more satisfying.
To become apart of these Irish legends, book your trip on the Grand Hibernian Luxury Train at palacetours.com or contact us for more information. Check out our tours in Ireland, and if you like these, you may also be interested in tours in Scotland on the Royal Scotsman. Follow Palace Tours around social media to stay updated: Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest YouTube Linkedin