When is a stone not just a stone?

When it's a wedding gift, the grave of a giant or a transformed dancer...

The Rock of Dunamase, County Laois

In Ireland's Ancient East you’ll find a story under every step, so it’s no wonder that even the stones here tell tales. Watch your feet! You could be tripping over a legend...

1 Get butterflies at the proposal stones

These rocky seats once sat in the shadow of fairy trees and forts, where loving couples would come to court each other. In later years they were moved to religious spots where they rested in the shadow of churches and cathedrals, but the sentiment remained the same: if you proposed to your loved one here your marriage was said to be blessed! One of the finest examples overlooks Carlingford Lough at Ghan Road in County Louth. The glitter of the sunshine on the water, the sound of lapping waves and the company of the one you love – total romance!

2 Feeling chatty?

Everyone knows that the Irish have the “gift of the gab”, a natural predisposition towards talking. To get it for yourself head to Blarney Castle in County Cork. Here, the legendary Blarney Stone rests atop the battlements, and is said to bestow eloquence upon anyone who touches their lips against it. Grip the railings, lean back and plant a kiss on this famous rock and you’ll be chatting away like the Irish in no time!

3 Dancing with danger

An eerie tale surrounds the Piper’s Stones of Athgreany, County Wicklow. History tells us that this circle of stones was erected in the Bronze Age for an unknown purpose. But local legend recounts a different tale: a piper was leading a group of revellers in a dance on the Sabbath Day, when they were turned to stone for disrespecting this holy time. The truth? You’ll have to visit and decide for yourself...

4 A wedding gift like no other

So this one isn’t a stone as such, it's more of a gigantic rock. The Rock of Dunamase is a huge limestone outcrop that dominates the landscape of County Laois with a castle at the very top. Although it fell into ruin in the 14th century, this was once a lavish wedding present. The King of Leinster granted the castle as part of the dowry for his daughter Aoife when she married the legendary Norman warrior Strongbow in 1170. Today it’s open to explorers, offering unparalleled views of Ireland’s tranquil midlands.

5 The grave of a giant

The Proleek Dolmen has presided over the land of County Louth for over 5 millennia. Constructed in 3000 BC, the capstone of this ancient portal tomb weighs over 40 tons. Historians can’t help but wonder how Neolithic people managed to move these mighty rocks into positions, but myth offers a simple answer. The famous giant Fionn Mac Cumhall is said to have erected the tomb out of respect for the battle prowess of a rival Scottish giant he defeated.

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