I can’t remember a time when my nose wasn’t stuck in a fantasy book; mischievous fairies, cunning nymphs, and all sorts of magical creatures flit around my head. I used to walk into the forest around my house and sit down quietly, hoping that a tiny winged creature would tiptoe daintily near me and show me how to cast spells. So you can imagine how delighted that little girl in me was when a few friends and I journeyed to the land of leprechauns, fairies, and endless tales of magic- Ireland.
After a few days in Dublin, my friend Courtney and I embarked on a tour out to Howth, a small village in the outer suburb of Dublin. Misty, cloud-filled skies greeted us that morning, casting a mysterious fog over the peninsula as our train deposited us in a cute, little town with cafes even more hipster than Taste. Lush greenery and the light pitter-patter of rain guided our way towards Howth Castle. The gates of the castle were always open ever since, legend has it, Gráinne O’Malley was rebuffed while attempting to seek shelter at the castle. Gráinne, frustrated then, abducted the castle’s heir, and as ransom, exacted a promise that the gates would never be closed to the public and a place would always be set at the table for unexpected guests.
Hiking past golf fields overlooking the stormy, charcoal bay, we weaved our way towards Aideen’s grave, the burial ground for a woman whose father-in-law had journeyed to the land of eternal youth on the back of a magical, white horse. Sidestepping broken branches and waving aside thorny boughs, we headed upwards toward the slowly clearing skies. Perhaps in order to stop me from pestering him about the whereabouts of this land of eternal youth, our guide pointed out two small trees leaning towards each other, creating a gateway in the middle of the damp, leaf-lined path. These he called fairy trees, the gathering places for the tiny and winged that retained their magical properties. Anyone who walked between the two trees would be sprinkled with luck for the year to come. Needless to say, I was the first one through with fingers crossed that Second Year wouldn’t be the death of me.
Emerging from the canopy of greenery, I felt like a bird surveying the world from above, spinning around to see Dublin spread before me, caught between fields of green and wide expanses of brooding sea. The cliffs around us stood jagged against the waving thistle behind. Peering cautiously over the edge, I noticed the bonnet of a car I could only imagine careening down the slope, falling to its permanent parking spot among the cliff-side vegetation. Weaving our way along the coast, we stopped for a wee rest amidst a field of heather, our guide whispered that once there was man who tried to outsmart a leprechaun, forcing him to tie a red sock around the clump of heather under which his gold was buried. When the man returned with a shovel the next day, every heather plant had a red sock tied around its stalk; I could almost hear the leprechaun laughing in the distance. As we began our descent back into town, a rocky island practically split in two caught my eye, Devil’s Rock. Laughing, our guide told me that long ago, a fierce battle between Satan and a priest occurred on that island, and the priest split the ground to force the devil back into hell.
Exhausted, we finally arrived back at the train station. Delighted though I was to sit, I would miss the magic I felt in the air up on those cliffs, the tingly feeling that perhaps there was more to this world than we could see, and the possibility that if I was lucky, a little green man might come whistling my way.
Photo credit: Jessica Yin