Did you know that Halloween evolved from ancient Celts? This pagan religious festival, called Samhain (pronounced: Sow-an), meaning ‘Summer’s end’ in old Irish, originated from a Celtic spiritual tradition celebrated from October 31st to November 1st. Samhain marked the end of the Celtic Year and the start of a new one. It was believed that this was a time of transition, where the barriers between the physical world and spiritual world would break down, allowing more interaction with the ‘otherworld’.
But the Celtic Routes doesn’t just have spooky myths and legends associated with Halloween, it has a creepy tale for just about every month of the year… read on to learn more.
This megalithic dolmen, defined as a specifically constructed stone tomb, is a site of great intrigue.
Constructed from the same Preseli Bluestones used on its ‘big brother’ at Stonehenge, Pentre Ifan, near Newport (Pembrokeshire) also shares the same sense of mystery about its true purpose.
It’s generally considered to be a communal burial chamber, but no traces of bones have ever been found here.
Even more mysteriously, stories originating from Celtic folklore have been told of fairies at Pentre Ifan. It is said that they’ve been seen dancing upon the stones of Pentre Ifan during the twilight and moonlight hours of summer. The “fair-folk” as they are also called by witnesses, are said to exist all around us.
Dinefwr, a stunning 800-acre estate, occupies an important place in Welsh history, and Newton house, set within the estate, is supposedly occupied by an individual who passed centuries ago…
The fortress, perched on a hilltop overlooking the magnificent Tywi Valley, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman. Lady Elinor Cavendish is thought to have been the sister or cousin of the lady of the house in the 1720s. Lady Elinor was forced to marry a man she didn’t love, eventually running away from him and seeking refuge with her family at Newton House. But her enraged husband followed her to the house and strangled her to death…
She is said to be wandering the halls to this day.
Three separate bridges span the 90m waterfalls of the River Mynach – one built on top of the other between the 11th and 19th centuries. According to the legend, the original bridge was built by the Devil himself as it was considered too difficult a task for mortals.
The story begins with an old woman, she needed to cross the deep Mynach gorge to get her cow back from the other side of the river. The Devil offered to build her a bridge, on condition that he would take possession of the soul of first living thing that crossed it. The old lady agreed, and the Devil built the bridge.
Before crossing the bridge, the old lady took out an old crust from her apron and threw it towards the cow on the other side of the bridge. Her hungry dog eagerly chased it and the Devil, expecting to get the soul of the old woman, got that of the poor dog.
Many claims have been made of ghostly sightings at the ancient Quay of Waterford city. Waterford itself has a long maritime history, since it was established by the Vikings in the 10th century.
And over the centuries many people have reported sightings of ghostly figures of sailors and ships from long ago.
A local man, who remains anonymous and states that he has an unwanted psychic window into the afterlife, decided to conduct a night-time vigil after persistent rumours of ghostly happenings. The man confirmed that he witnessed images from long ago of tall ships and shadowy figures but has urged people to not attempt to make contact with the figures floating along the Quay.
There are many stories of vampirism in Ireland and one of the most frightening creatures is known as the Dearg Due, meaning ‘Red Thirst’.
Many centuries ago in the area that is now known as Waterford, there lived a beautiful young woman who was deeply in love with a farm labourer and they had made plans to marry. Unfortunately for them, her father cared only for money so instead, he forced her into an arranged marriage with a much older, wealthy man.
The young woman’s husband was a cruel man and kept her locked in a tower until she died – the villagers took her body and buried her under what is now known as Strongbow’s Tree.
At the time there was an old Irish practice of placing a tall pile of stones on the graves of the recently deceased so they could not rise again, but for some reason, on the night of her burial this did not happen…
It is said that her spirit rose and sought revenge on those who had ruined her life. The spirit of the young woman preyed on young men, luring them with her beauty before feasting on their blood.
When it comes to lighthouses, none come with a longer history of protecting seafarers than Hook. It’s the world’s oldest operational lighthouse, having stood for over 800 years on the Hook Peninsula. There has supposedly been a fire beacon there since the sixth century, tended by monks, but powerful knight William Marshall is believed to have built the existing lighthouse in the mid-13th century to guide ships to his port of Ross.
And with a history so rich, stories of a supernatural nature are inevitable…
An eerie feeling is said to pervade the lighthouse, having been reported and written about by many visitors. It is said that William Marshal himself haunts the lighthouse, keeping an eternal vigil of the seas from his tower.
County Wicklow is known for its walking trails, and the coastal path from Bray to Greystones is one of the best. However, a Romeo and Juliet type fable haunts the spot known as Lover's Leap Rock in Dargle Valley, situated along the trail.
It is rumoured that every year on June 21st, the ghost of a devastated woman appears. Having been unfaithful to her beloved which led to his untimely death due to his immense heartbreak, she is said to have sat at his graveside for several days before taking her life on the rock by leaping into the raging waters below…