The most interesting sacred sites in Ireland

Stone of Destiny at Tara, photo by Germán Póo-Caamaño

As well as an all round mighty beautiful place to visit, Ireland is also a place that is surrounded by a certain healthy dose of mystery, partly because ancient pagan, mystical, religious and sacred sites haven’t been neglected or forgotten by the people. While driving around the Irish countryside, it is not unusual to see ring forts that are attributed to the fair folk, sacred stones that haven’t been removed even if a road was supposed to be built over them, or places that don’t look all that different but the locals still hold them in reverence. What to some people may seem like silly superstition is actually a collection of folk stories that people don’t necessarily believe, but which lends a great appeal to certain places in Ireland. So here are some of the most interesting sacred sites in Ireland.

Pipers Stones, Athgreany, Co Wicklow

According to legends, the stone circle at Athgreany is what remains of a piper and his dancers who were turned into stone for dancing on a Sunday. This prehistoric site is very old, but no one knows quite how old. It consists of 16 granite slabs arranged in a circle, with a stone outside it (presumably the piper).

Brownshill Dolmen, Co Carlow

photo by Sarah777

Brownshill Dolmen is a megalithic portal tomb that’s very visible from the road, so it’s impossible to drive on the R726 road without seeing the huge structure whose cap is thought to be the heaviest on the continent. It’s not known how the prehistoric people managed to erect this monuments, but according to legend these structures were built by the ancient hero Dermot, for him and his lover to sleep on.

Hill of Tara, Co Meath

The Hill of Tara is one of the most famous archaeological sites in Ireland, and there are countless legends about it. Some historians say that the hill used to be the island’s political and spiritual capital centuries ago. A large standing stone still visible in Tara, the Stone of Destiny, was supposedly brought there by the first settlers of Ireland, the mythical Tuatha Dé Danann, and was said to roar when touched by the rightful king of Tara.

Hill of Slane, Co Meath

photo by Ramon

The king of the Fir Bolg, the most ancient mythical race in Ireland who were defeated by the Tuatha Dé Danann, was buried on a hill near the village of Slane. The king, Sláine mac Dela, was buried in a mound on top of the hill, but the site is also famous for being the place where St Patrick first lit a Psachal fire in defiance of the last pagan king of Ireland.

Ben Bulben, Co Sligo

This huge rock formation in Sligo was said to be the home of the legendary warriors of Ireland, the Fianna, who lived in the 3rd century. Some of the core legends of Irish mythology are tied to Ben Bulben, as well as the names of St Columba and St Finnian.

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