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1. Fionn mac Cumhail (Finn McCool) (County Antrim)
Fionn mac Cumhail is like Ireland’s own Superman. The renowned warrior paved roads to Scotland, hunted monsters and created entire islands. His father was a bandit outlaw; his mother, the kidnapped daughter of a druid. Fionn’s countless adventures are testament to this unusual heritage, from the time he speared a demon at the Hill of Tara, to the tale of the Salmon of Knowledge, when an enchanted fish and a sucked thumb brought him eternal wisdom. Of course, none of his exploits are more famous than the road-building, giant-battling antics that brought us the Giant’s Causeway.
Betrothed to King Mark of Cornwall, Irish princess Isolde instead fell in love with his nephew, the knight Tristan. Though the two ran away together, theirs was a doomed love; after Tristan was poisoned, Isolde died of a broken heart. They were buried beside each other, and a pair of hazel and honeysuckle trees grew, intertwined, from their graves. Today, the Dublin suburb of Chapelizod is named for the chapel of Isolde (from the Irish ‘Síopéal Iosóid’), where Tristan asked for her hand in marriage.
Son of a god and wife of a prophetess, Balor was a giant with a singular, poisonous eye on his forehead that unleashed a fiery devastation when opened.
Lured from his stronghold on Tory Island, Donegal, Balor was blinded in battle and mistakenly burned his own army to the ground. A huge hole was seared into the earth and later, filled with water, becoming Sligo’s Loch na Súil: the Lake of the Eye.