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It’s not every day you meet a Leprechaun Whisperer

It’s not every day you meet a Leprechaun Whisperer. And I thought it would be hard to suppress cynical smirks when I did, but when Kevin Woods of Carlingford, County Louth shook my hand firmly, looked me in the eye and gave me one of those smiles which emitted instant kindness and warmth, I could only mirror this and show respect and openness back.

As Kevin (or McCoillte as he is sometimes called) and I walked up Slieve Foye mountain together, I found myself wanting to believe that this was, as he told me, “the only place in Ireland where Leprechauns live”, not just because the affable Kevin has seen three Leprechauns in his life on this mountain but because this is, for me, one of the most magical spots in my home country of Ireland. Located right on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Cooley Mountain range on the southern side of Carlingford Lough looking straight out over this dividing piece of water to the Mountains of Mourne in the North, an invisible border going with the flow between them, this small town holds a wealth of natural and cultural heritage in its pocket. Any sense of divide is hidden here and long may it continue – starting with my respect for Kevin’s beliefs in Leprechauns.

Leprechauns don’t appear to everyone, according to Kevin, and indeed he shared many people’s cynicism twenty odd years ago when local publican PJ O’Hare found a small suit and collection of tiny bones up on the mountain, as well as a few gold coins. Doubting their origin, Wood decided to make the most of the ‘find’ and organised a Leprechaun Hunt in his capacity as Regional Tourism Chairman at the time. It worked and the hunters came in hoardes but, as if to warn him that there were too many people on the mountain, the Leprechauns then appeared to Kevin on a walk in the hills one day.

I asked Kevin what they looked like as we continued our hike up along the Slieve Foye Loop. “They look just as you might imagine them – like in the cartoons really. That is how they appear to me, because they are spirits. They are about 18 inches tall, have top hats, green jackets, trousers and shoes which are pointed or round and always with gold buckles. They were cobblers because they spent so much time dancing, and so they wear out their shoes – which is why they became cobblers’.

Kevin certainly had the gift of storytelling as we continued up further into the Cooley Mountain range, a landscape where myths abound. Myths which tell of Greek-like transformations from human to animal form such as Donn Cúailnge, the Brown Bull of Cooley,  a human who had been turned into a bull and which then went on to become the focus of battles between Ulster and Connaught led by Queen Medb in these very mountains.

“I can see some sheep or goats grazing up there on the heathland “I said, soon to be corrected by Kevin who told me, quite nonchalantly, “One of those is the Ghost Horse of Mountain Park. There was a fella called Cocker Reilly – he was known as that because he was cock sure of everything. He used to come up by this part of the Mountain Park, passing a fairy mound every night. One night he relieved himself close to the fairy mound. When he woke up in the morning he couldn’t get out of bed, as he had two extra legs. They (the fairies) had turned him into a horse. He took off up into the hills and that’s who you can see there. You’ll often see him up there. ”

Kevin told these stories in such a matter of fact way that I just wanted to believe him. And so by the time we approached the Slate Rock, a massive ramp of granite which emerges from the hillside, and the place where he first saw the Leprechauns, I asked him if he thinks I will see them.  “It’s up to you, if you have the gift”, he said, “I am not sure whether you have the gift or not’. So, keeping my eyes and mind well open, Kevin went on to tell me more about his gift, which allows him not only to communicate with the Leprechaun’s chief elder, Corrig, learn about their history and lifestyles, but also brings him the ability to bring happiness to others and be happy for the rest of his life.

One thing that makes me happy, however, is that Kevin spent nineteen years campaigning for this part of the Slieve Foye Mountain to be officially protected by the European Union, under the EU Habitats Directive to protect flora, fauna and wild animals. He won and in 2009, they received protection, with big brown EU signs up on the hill to prove it. I asked him how he managed to persuade the EU to protect something that was not actually in the physical world, and he said that the artefacts of the clothes and bones were proof enough.

As well as that,  the Leprechaun Hunt still happens in April every year which is “not to make money”, Kevin tells me, “but because for every person who stops believing, another Leprechaun spirit dies and so the Hunt increases the likelihood of more people believing.” (For more details see thelastleprechaunsofireland.com). As we headed back down the mountain towards Carlingford  town, with sadly no Leprechaun sightings to record this time, and headed for a drink in O’Hares, I couldn’t help wondering if I would be laughed at in the pub as they saw me walking in with Kevin, knowing that another tourist was ‘being had’. But no, we were met with joviality rather than jeers and welcomed in to this lovely local gathering spot. This gift of spreading happiness must be working, I thought to myself. I may have been tricked, or I might not have the gift, but there are few belief systems which make me smile as much as this one. And if Kevin’s gift is to continue spreading the word and happiness with it, who am I to argue? And anyway,  I don’t want a dead Leprechaun on my conscience. To be sure, to be sure.

Catherine cycling on Carlingford Lough near Greenore Photo Shay Larkin

For more information on The Last Leprechauns in Ireland, see thelastleprechaunsofireland.com. And click here for a podcast of Catherine’s walk and talk with the Leprechaun Whisperer. Or to go exploring the hiking trails of the Cooley Mountains see walkni.com and irishtrails.ie. In particular, check out The Tain Walking Festival 1-3 March 2103(carlingford.ie and discoverireland.com)


Carlingford Adventure Centre Fantastic 2 for 1 Deal over Easter

Carlingford Adventure Centre Fantastic 2 for 1 Deal over Easter
Sunday March 24th to Sunday 7th April

Carlingford Adventure Centre, Carlingford

Carlingford Adventure Centre, CarlingfordEscape to Carlingford Adventure Centre Ireland for an Easter Adventure Holiday your family will not forget!

Spend quality time together that won’t break the budget. Carlingford Adventure Centre offer fun adventure holidays for children ages 6 and up!

An amazing range of outdoor activities are offered daily, Pier Jumping, Kayaking, Laser Combat, Crystal Maze, High Ropes Course and many more….But it’s up to you – do as little or as much as you like!

Whether you want to take part as a family or leave the kids to it with our capable instructors, we have packages to suit all tastes and all ages.

Fantastic 2 for 1 Deal over Easter, activities starting at €29pp
5 Night Easter Family Self Catering Package…€544
2 for 1 on Kids Camp during Easter Holidays

Arrive Sunday, Depart Friday for a 5 night self catering break in any of our Holiday Homes.
For more information please visit the Carlingford Adventure Centre website Here
For the full list of activities at Carlingford Adventure Centre click Here



Carlingford Lough car ferry could bring €10m boost

A CROSS-border car ferry linking Down and Louth could provide a €10m a year boost for the counties, a study has predicted.

The service, from Greencastle in the North across Carlingford Lough to Greenore in the Republic, would create 24 direct jobs and 300 additional jobs in the wider area, according to consultants.

The research was commissioned by the private-sector backers behind the €8m project.

The route, close to the mouth of the lough, could be operating before the planned Narrow Water bridge is opened.

The Carlingford Ferries consortium behind the project is made up of three families from Limerick and Clare with previous experience in the car ferry industry in the Shannon region.

Complementing the bridge, the investors believe it would create a circular tourism route between the Mourne region and the Cooley Peninsula.

The developers also commissioned an environmental impact assessment and engaged with local communities.

They hope to submit proposals to the planning authorities with the aim of getting the service running within 12 months.

Article written by David Young, Irish Independent

link: http://www.independent.ie/national-news/crossborder-car-ferry-could-bring-10m-boost-3337258.html

Greenore to Greencastle Car Ferry plans


Carlingford Venue for 2013 National Cycling Championships

2013 National Elite Male & Female Championships coming to Carlingford

Dundalk’s Cuchulainn Cycling Club has officially been appointed as the promoter of the 2013 National Cycling Championships for Elite men and women and also the vets Championship. These Championships, comprising both a road race and time trial, are the most prestigious one day cycling event in the country. The club committee considered a number of courses that would suit the unique requirements of this race and finally settled on a location. Carlingford Village has been selected as the host venue. Carlingford is ideally located, being equidistant between both Dublin and Belfast, in addition the stunning scenery of the Lough and Cooley mountains will make for a magnificent backdrop for the premier event.

The Elite race will attract Ireland’s top cyclists including Tour de France stars Nicholas Roche and Dan Martin, Olympic Stars Martin Irvine and David McCann. The riders will do battle for the right to wear the prestigious National Champions Green Jersey for the next year and more importantly in the Tour De France which will be starting the following weekend. Meanwhile the ladies race will say World Championship medallist Caroline Ryan in the thick of the action, battling with the defending champion Melanie Spath from Dublin.

2013 National Elite Male & Female ChampionshipsThe action will kick off with a Time Trial on the evening of Thursday, June 20th. This event, also known as the race of truth, sees each rider cover 40km alone with the fastest time winning. The Elite event was last year was won by former World Champion Michael Hutchinson. In the women’s event all eyes will be on local rider Eve McCrystal, (European Medal winner at the police games in 2012) to claim a podium finish. The Time Trial will take place along the R176 and R173 on a rolling course with a total of 65m of climbing and with such little climbing the fast course may see a new national record set, which is currently held by David McCann. McCann in 2008 covered a 40km course in a staggering time of 47mins and 6seconds, an average speed of 51kph.

On Saturday June 22nd, the action switches to road racing with the National Ladies and Veterans races. The circuit for the road race will cover laps of a 14.4km route with 61m of climbing, per lap, on a mixture of both main and rural roads. The route will incorporate some stunning scenery including views of Carlingford Lough, The Cooley and Mourne Mountains as well as passing through the streets of the medieval village.

Sunday June 23rd will see the main event, when Ireland’s top stars line up to see who will be crowned Irish Cycling Champion for 2013. The event is Ireland’s biggest one day race and the only single day event in the country with valuable UCI points up for grabs. The race will be contested over a gruelling 172km with riders passing through Carlingford village 14 times. The relatively flat circuit should make for an attacking, fast paced race. 2012 winner and Pro-Tour rider Matt Brammeier will be hoping to retain his title and have the honour of wearing the National Champions Jersey for a further 12 Months. Also up for grabs, as part of the Elite race, will be the Under 23 Jersey, last year won by Philip Lavery riding with UK pro team  Node 4-Giordana Racing.




The Burren, The Fertile Rock


Cavan Town


Mulranny & The Great Western Greenway


Loop Head Peninsula


Sheep's Head Peninsula


Carlingford & The Cooley Peninsula


Clonakilty District, West Cork