The Gaelic Paranormal: A Review of Ireland's Most Mysterious Sites

Ireland is a land long steeped in history, with a strong tradition of story and superstition. From fairy forts to ghost riders, the paranormal has always had a place in Irish culture, and its most famous sites still hold an air of the otherworldly today.

Megalithic Structures

Ireland is well-known for its ancient stone buildings, the most famous of which is certainly Newgrange. These were raised as monuments to the dead, or as markers of astronomical events. The passage tombs are still regarded with reverence, and it takes a strong heart to venture into one without feeling the weight of the thousand-years-dead.

The dolmens of the Burren in County Clare are another example; built as grave markers, they are nothing more than giant stones set upright into the ground with another enormous capstone laid across them. Against the stark, limestone landscape, they are eerily beautiful, and many people feel an ancient presence around them.

Fairy Forts

The vague, circular shapes left in many Irish fields are said to be the remains of the fairy forts. To disturb one is to invite the wrath of the Sídhe (the fairy people) and bring great misfortune down on the trespasser and their family. To this day, people are loath to even walk across one, believing that it can bring bad luck.

As recently as 2007, the Irish government were warned not to interfere with any fairy forts during the construction of the new M3 motorway - a warning they subsequently ignored. Since then, the project has suffered several mishaps and the Irish economy has fallen into a serious recession.

Sacred Springs

Water is life, and in rainy Ireland, there is an excess of water - but special reverence is still attached to the holy wells and springs, of which Ireland has more than any other country in the world. These springs were thought to have curative properties, and pilgrims often traveled to them to perform rituals and pray for healing.

In modern times, the wells and springs are frequently dedicated to various saints and revered as holy sites. People will still travel to them to ask for healing, and it is considered very disrespectful to camp nearby or disturb them. Tubbernaltha, a sacred well near Sligo, is known for being both beautiful and blessed by Saint Patrick.


Possibly one of the most famous Catholic shrines is at Knock, in County Mayo. It was here that the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in 1879, and over a million pilgrims travel there every year to receive the blessing of the shrine and a possible cure for their illness.

Knock and other shrines like it have a very powerful effect on people. The site of the apparition is a revered and protected place, and reportedly exudes a profound aura of calm and peace.

Haunted Houses

Ireland has no shortage of haunted places, from castles to jails to old pubs and hostels. Ghosts can appear anywhere, and every village has its tales of lost lovers, medieval knights, or ancient soldiers. Irish children are frightened with warnings to avoid certain country roads in the evening, for fear of meeting a ghostly horseman, or told never to step into a black coach pulled by black horses in case the Devil steals their soul!

For ghost-hunters, some locations are prime targets for spooky activity. Kilmainham Gaol is thought to be inhabited by the spirits of former inmates and wardens. Malahide Castle is home to a long-dead jester whose presence can be felt all through its rooms. Dun an Oir, near Ballyferriter, still echoes with the screams of slaughtered Spanish pirates.

author: CJ Garrett

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