When you visit foreign lands, you start to see why their ancient peoples believed in the myths they did. Driving the carved canyons of Norway, through incomprehensibly large mountains and over fields of snow that stretch farther than a mind can contain, I myself nearly began to believe in ogres, giants, and dragons. Five hundred miles to the south, their rippling surfaces of Scottish lakes, peppered by sudden rainstorms, give any wanderer cause to look twice for the Loch Ness monster.

And in Ireland, the mythical creatures just on the edge of belief are fairies.

To the Irish, fairies are known as the Good People. They inhabit a sort of middle ground between humans and angels. They make their homes in our mortal realm, but their mischief and magic is anything but. Sacred sites across Ireland, called fairy forts, are believed to be carefully defended by fairy magic. The Irish landscape is dotted with these ancient stone circles and earthen mounds. Not only are these places where you might catch a glimpse of pixies, but they are also believed to be hiding places for leprechauns’ gold, sites of calamitous misfortune for those who dismantle the sacred spaces, and most especially entrances into the fairy world. The Irish hold these sites in great respect. 

My own jaunt through the Emerald Isle passed through many of these enchanted areas, but even more memorable to me were the spontaneous moments of magic and bewitchment I found along the way—my own set of fairy hideaways—places where fairies seemed real.

The first place bedecked with fairy promise was the bridge in Cork. At 9pm, the evening light was still shimmering across the curves of the river, turning wet bridgestones into bricks of gold. Storefront windows threw bits of light onto faces, cars, and bike spokes passing by. And under the spandrel of each bridge stretched across the town’s waterways, shimmering flecks of gold skipped on the water. I tried to follow them with my eyes, but they evaded anything more than a shimmer across eyesight. Don’t you think the alcoves under centuries-old bridges, banked with moss and guarded from the wind, would be a perfect locale for nightly fairy festivities?

From Cork, I traveled to Blarney Castle. The castle itself holds rich history, but where I found the most enchantment was in its surrounding gardens. A small pond beneath the shadow of the castle bore the placard, “Bog Garden.” In the speckled light through the trees, a miniature waterfall careened over garden rocks to the idyllic waters beneath, shooting flecks of light in all direction. I could nearly see pond nymphs darting behind and around the waterfall’s tumble, rising from the water in a burst of ebullient yellow, before evaporating to mist in the warm afternoon sun.

Not far from the bog, my wandering took me into nearby woodlands—trees grown old with climbing, trees grown old with holding the stories of hundreds of years. A sea of gnarled branches formed ladders to climb. They twisted around me as I ascended, until I eventually nestled myself into a pair of perfectly reposed arboreal arms. Reclining amid a sea of shifting sunshine halos, I listened to the wind whispering afternoon lullabies, and could have as easily imagined them a forest sprite’s enchantments. Two hours in an Irish forest and you can't help but imagine fairies and forest spells in every shimmer of light and rustle of leaves.

This year, many of us aren’t able to voyage to faraway lands to experience new vistas and new kinds of magic. Many of us might just be holding on for our own stroke of luck to grace the horizon again. Whether home or afar, you can bring the feeling of the fairy lands into your own home this year through reading fairy tales, making your own fairy forts and houses, and watching for fairy shimmers as day turns to night. For our favorite Irish and fairy gifts, shop our St. Patrick's Day and Midsummer collections. We'd love to hear your stories of fairy encounters in the comments below!

March 01, 2021 — Carolyn Carter


Carol Paschal said:

We were enchanted to build fairy houses in the Cathedral Woods on Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine, USA. The fairies were “dancing” in the trees of the dark woods and it was an amazing experience.

Renni O'Brien said:

It used to be a fairy tale country, and, if you’re lucky you can still find some of it. But, sad to say the Irish Government, in its greed to attract tourist has destroyed more of the Country’s charm than one can imagine. Tourist by the bus loads “doing” Ireland. And, now, almost too late – everyone is in to how much of the Tourist $$$ can they get. If you knew it as it was, you’d know why the changes are heart-breaking.

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