July travel log – The Mythological/Historical Trail

This is part 2 of my summer travel log. I had such a great time this summer – and as always I like to bring the kids to see some places of interest!

I’ve taken plenty of photos and so I hope you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoyed creating it – and perhaps this might inspire you to visit Northern Ireland one day.

The Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway is located on the north coast of Ireland and is famous for its Basalt columns. Each pillar has 5-7 sides and the unusual formation has made it a place of interest for thousands of years.

Formed around 60 million years ago, the columns were made by volcanic eruptions of lava that cooled when in contact with the sea.

In Irish folklore it is thought to have been made by the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Fionn McCool) who was fighting with another giant on the Scottish island of Staffa. The rock formations are huge and jut out of the sea, and so it’s easy to imagine how a tale of two giants fighting or trying to reach each other took hold.

Another myth is that during the fight, Fionn mac Cumhaill lifted a huge piece of earth and flung it out to sea. The earth became the Isle of Man, and the hole left in Ireland filled with water and became Lough Neagh.

There are lots of tales about Fionn McCool in Irish folklore and in most of them he is not a giant. However different tales about the same legendary figures is common in Ireland.

The most common tales of Fionn are about his leadership of the Fianna (a famous group of warriors), the Salmon of knowledge, and the love triangle between himself, a princess called Grainne, and his friend, Dairmuid. Fionn mac Cumhaill’s son, Oisin, is said to have travelled to Tír na nÓg, a mythological place of eternal youth and beauty.

We visited The Giant’s Causeway on a misty day and it gave the view out to sea an eerie quality that matched the legends really well! I think this was my favourite day of the whole holiday.

Roe Valley Park

Roe valley park is a beautiful place to visit. It has the grounds of a demolished castle (O’Cahan’s castle) and a derelict mill – as well as some lovely walks along the river.

The old mill

The land here was once owned by the O’Cahan family until 1618, when their chief Dónall was captured by the English and sent to the Tower of London where he died.

A famous member of the O’Cahan family was Rory Dall O’Cahan – an Irish harpist – who is thought to have composed ‘Give Me Your Hand’ and even possibly the melody to ‘Danny Boy’.

On arrival, the first artefact to see is the standing stone. There are hundreds of these in Ireland. Also known as Ogham stones, the notches on the sides of the stone are thought to be a form of communication. The stones themselves were most likely used as markers of important burial sites or to mark borders.

There is also a shrine to a famous wolfhound, whose story is also why the neighbouring town of Limavady (which in Irish means ‘Leap of the Dog’) has its name.

The legend has it that the O’Cahan clan were under attack by the O’Connell clan of Donegal. The O’Cahans sent their wolfhound out with a message that called for reinforcements, and he lept over the river to find friends of the O’Cahans. The message was delivered into the right hands and the O’Connells were defeated.

Thanks for reading.

I’m back to reading books again – and writing – so I’m hoping some book reviews will be up soon!

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