If you are looking for bizarre and weird experiences, what about a country where goats are crowned kings, Leprechauns have legal protection, and a magic road pulls your car uphill?
From Celtic legends to haunted grounds, curing wells to holistic gardens, Ireland does not lack mysterious tales. Despite the History of despair and the cold winters, Nature reveals its force and creates unusual phenomena. Irish people, on their side, see life as a festivity where eccentricity is a must. A kick of character gives more authenticity to society, and that’s what Ireland is all about.
We are all strange in our own way. That’s the beauty of individuality. This guide of the “20 weirdest and Unusual Things to Do in Ireland” will lead you to a peculiar journey through a real Eire.
#1 St. Michan’s
Located on Church Street in Dublin, St. Michan’s Church dates back from 1685. Underneath the edifice, you will find five graves containing the remains of the most powerful families of the next three centuries. In fact, the lack of moisture in the air led to a natural conservation of the corpses and most of the coffins. The weakest funerary boxes broke with time and, reveal to you mummified bodies such as the revolutionary Sheares Brothers or the rebellious Theobald Wolfe Tone.
Address: Church St, Arran Quay, Dublin 7
If you are into mummified remains, then you will love to see the preserved bodies of both a cat and the rat it was chasing. Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin has them on display as they got stuck into the church’s organ!
For those who have a strong stomach, Saint Peter’s Church in Drogheda displays the embalmed head of Saint Oliver Plunkett, a 17th-century martyr. The top part of the earliest new canonised martyr rests in a golden altar.
#2 Dunmore Cave
Enter the cave from Mohill Township and discover the mystic undergrounds of Castlecomer Plateau. With the 5.8 meters (19 feet) high ‘Market Cross,’ Dunmore might not be the biggest cavern in the country, but certainly is one-of-a-kind. This peculiar grotto, discovered in the 10th century, overflows with both natural beauty and tragic history. This splendid limestone formation is said to be the location of a massacre that occurred in 928 A.D. The Vikings, archaeologically proven here, hypothetically decimated families who were hiding from them. One of the theories implies that they lighted on a fire to block the exit and asphyxiate them all.
#3 Brigit’s Garden
This kid-friendly and award-winning garden will offer you the mystical experience you are looking for. The quartet grounds, named after the four seasonal Celtic festivals, illustrate the civilisation and depict the sacred rituals.
Lá Bealtaine celebrates the beginning of summer through fire. The garden’ standing stones will lead you to an abonos-wood ceremonial chair where ones become royalty.
Samhain marks the end of the Celtic year. A woman figure fixed by the pond represents the earth hibernating.
Imbolc honours spring and Brigit, both a Christian saint and a Celtic earth deity.
Surrounded by laying and standing stones, Lughnasa area commemorates both the abundance of the start of the harvest and the end of the growing year cycle.
Address: Pollagh, Rosscahill, County Galway
#4 The healing waters of St Brigid’s well
The mystical earth of Eire records over 3,000 holy wells. Among them lies St Brigid’s one of the earliest therapeutic source ever documented. It is situated next to a cemetery where high royalty and clan chiefs rest in peace. Irish mythology states Brigid and her two other sisters of the same name as both treble deities and as the St Patron of Druids. Celtics went on pilgrimage to the ground every first day of spring to celebrate Imbolc (see above) and pray for fertility. Her popularity was so high that Christians canonised her centuries later. The place never closes so you can have a transcendental practice any time of the year.
Address: Ballymaclinaun, County Clare
#5 Victor’s Way Indian Sculpture Park
This spiritual land is for adults seeking some calm (no teenagers sorry!). A great place to invigorate through forest bathing or meditation. Walk through the vulvar birth channel and cleanse your soul. It is the start of a deep self-reflection journey through 14 other meaningful spots. ‘The Split Man,’ the symbol for ambivalence, depicts a human head sliced in two. ‘The Fasting Buddha, on its side, appearing as nothing but skin and bones, is a figure for extreme focusing. You will also find a quirky collection of Ganesha dancing statues and other Hindu Gods such as Shiva or Vishnu.
Address: Sallygap Road, Roundwood, County Wicklow
#6 Liss Ard Sky Garden
This 1,250m² (13454f²) oviform garden, creation of James Turrell, is a real work of art. Silently cross the woodlands to the rebirthing stone arch, and enter the bowl where no external sound can disturb you. The sound of silence is powerful and healing. Head to the heart of the elliptical land, lie on the stone podium and look at the sky. A peaceful feeling will take hold of you. Relax and let your instincts guide you into intense contemplation.
Pre-booking is required to visit the site.
Address: Russagh, County Cork
#7 National Leprechaun Museum
The first Leprechaun Museum in the world offers you the ultimate interactive storytelling experience. The tour will lead you to multiple spaces staged in accordance to the narrated Irish folklore. Visual illusions and gargantuan furniture will transform you into a miniature version of yourself. Choose between a fun day visit or a gloomy night action and, discover the greatest native legends.
Address: Twilfit House, Jervis St, Dublin 1
#8 Kilmainham Gaol, where rebels and kids share cubicle
This symbol of political militancy used to be the last home, and the detention place, of many 1916 Easter Rising revolutionaries. Death penalties were at public display and hanging was performed at the front of the gaol. During the Great Famine, starving people would purposely commit an offence so they can feed on prison food. Criminals incarcerated included women, children (the youngest recorded was 7-year-old!) and men; they shared overcrowded cells regardless of their age or gender.
The jail, seen as a sad figure of decennials of repression and torments, closed in 1924. It officially became both a memorial and a museum in May 1960.
Address: Inchicore Rd, Kilmainham, Dublin 8
#9 Kyteler’s Inn
Witch, Ireland, History and boose, a great introduction to an unusual night. Alice Kyteler, an Irish aristocrat, opened the watering hole in the 14th century. After four marriages (including two dead husbands), some of her children and one of her ex accused her of being a love evil. She was the first person accused of witchery in the country. She escaped, but her servant was tortured for days before burning alive. No one ever heard about Alice since then. Legends say that her soul haunts the inn. After a few pints, her statue might come to life, and the myth will turn real.
Address: St Kieran’s St, Gardens, County Kilkenny
#10 The Hungry Tree
Have you ever seen an 80-year-old tree swallowing a bench? The oldest law school in Ireland is also the refuge of an unusual phenomenon. The growth of the Platanus involved a partial bench feast where Nature reassert itself. The bark recovers most of the back parts of the cast-iron chair, as they became internal elements of the London Plane.
Address: King’s Inns Park, Constitution Hill, Inns Quay, Dublin 7
#11 Menlo Castle
As we just mentioned, the dominant force of Nature can easily erase any trace of Human presence. Another picturesque site by the Corrib River, dating back from the 16th century, stands in Galway. The splendid silhouette of Menlo Castle walls actually hides a series of bleak episodes.
Indeed, one of the wealthiest families in Ireland, the Blakes, owned the castle for three centuries. One day, a fire immersed the edifice taking the lives of Eleanor, the physically challenged daughter of the kin, alongside two of her domestics. The body of the offspring was never found and the building completely scavenged. To feed the mystery, the succeeding land heir was found lifeless in his vehicle.
Those dreary stories topped up with the ivy covering up most of the fortress; add a mystical aspect to the unspeakable beauty of these ruins.
Address: Menlo, County Galway
#12 The Conolly Folly, a Weird Structure for a Good Cause
When starvation was at its peak, the wife of the richest man in Ireland made the project come to life. The most impoverished farmers, lacking food, did not have any income to survive the harshest years. She decided to erect one of the weirdest structure you could imagine to provide them with a salary. The 42-metre (140 feet) construction consists of multiple arches and an Obelisk that can be seen up to a distance of 4 kilometres (about 2.5 feet).
Address: Barrogstown West, County Kildare
#13 The Wonderful Barn
Have you ever seen a 22-metre (72 feet) high corkscrew structure? The Wonderful Barn was built for the same Conolly family. This time, the construction will serve a triple noble purpose. The first one remains the same: helping the unfortunate by providing work and earnings. The second, preventing a hypothetical other food shortage by storing cereals. The third and last, the height provides the ideal shooting game spot, to provide meat. The inspiration of the shape of the edifice presumably comes from traditional Indian rice storage baskets.
Address: Celbridge Rd, Barnhall, Leixlip, County Kildare
#14 Lambay Island, Where Wallabies Thrive
Would you expect Australian Red Neck wallabies to run free in the Irish wilderness? Well, when a zoo lacks to control the rise of its animal reproduction, the results can be exponential. In the 1980s, Dublin Zoo bore the consequences of such an oversight. Luckily, the owners of the nearby Lambay Island, the Baring Family, agreed to welcome seven of the marsupials. Since then, the tame population flourished abundantly, evolved by growing a thicker coat and instinctively reverted to their primitive habits.
#15 A nun, an Oratory, 16 years, a Masterpiece
In Dún Laoghaire, lies the Oratory of the Sacred Heart, a memorial for World War I Irish fighters. The Sacred Heart Statue, refused by all the religious except for one (Sister M.Concepta Lynch), was a gift from France. The sister, a talented artist, started painting the wall behind the statue in 1919 and kept going for 16 years. From outside, the modern salmon structure looks like nothing in particular. Once inside, the colourful hand-painted mural patterns will bring you on an esoteric trip one wall at a time. This extraordinary masterpiece, a work of love and passion, is pure gold.
Address: Rathdown County Council, Marine Road, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin
#16 An Egyptian Pyramid in an Irish Village
How does a 9-metre (30 feet) Pharaonic mastaba end up in the Christian cemetery of Kinnitty? A question that rose up multiple theories. The tomb, also known as “Bernard Mausoleum,” contains the remains of Lieutenant Colonel Richard Wesley Bernard as well as five other members of his family. He hypothetically erected the vault in the 19th century, after returning from “the land of the (Nile) riverbank.” The miniature replica that took 4 years to execute respects the exact proportions of the Great Giza Monuments.
Address: Saint Finains Church of Ireland Graveyard, Lismoney, Kinnitty, County Offaly
#17 Howard Mausoleum
Believe it or not, “Bernard Mausoleum” is not the only pyramid in the country! The Howard Family launched the conical-crypt trend years before, in Arklow. Eighteen descendants have been resting in the crypt since its creation in 1785. Sealed for unclear reasons about 40 years later, it is the same size as Kinitty’s.
Local stories report that the sound of a crying baby, supposedly Howard’s child, often came out of the pyramid. It is said that the exhumation (and relocation) of the infant led to both the cessation of the weeping and the locking of the mausoleum.
Address: Old Kilbride Cemetery, County Wicklow
#18 Dublin’s darkest Alleyways
The ‘Forty Steps’ of the arduous hill of Kilmainham, named today ‘Cromwell’s Quarters,’ was called ‘Murdering Lane’ for over three centuries. Next to it, is the 15th-century Cut-Throat Lane; renamed ‘Roundhead Row’. Although there are 39 stairs, the name remains unchanged.
No one really knows why the streets had such appellation. One thing is for sure, they were not medieval tourist hubs.
Other weird street names include Cutpurse Lane, Hangman’s Lane, Joy Street, Coke and Balls Lane.
#19 A Celtic Cross Hidden in the Forest
In Donegal forest, stretches a gargantuan Celtic cross made out of 3,000 lighter-green trees. His creator, Liam Emmery, was a forester. He planted the 70-metre wide and 100-metre long classical religious symbol in 2005. This masterpiece, qualified by experts as “horticultural engineering,” will keep the same shape for, at least, half a century. In autumn, the leaves that form the cross turn yellow, splendidly contrast with the green spruce trees.
Unfortunately, the humbling artist died before seeing the results of his hard work.
Address: Bogay Glebe, near Killea, County Donegal
#20 A Museum Dedicated to Butter
You heard right, Shandon is the home to this hare-brained institution. In the 19th century, this area of Cork, known for making some of the tastiest butter, was the first exporter worldwide. Did you know that traces of bog butter were found as early as the 1st century AD? Throughout your visit, you will learn about the dairy origin, the culture of cattle and trade history. The expo will lead from a container full of a millenary-old bog fat to a lesson on “how to prepare a divine spread?” The end of your tour will treat you with a spread of the delicious local produce.
Address: O’Connell Square, Shandon, Cork, County Cork
A Little More
Have a Medieval Banquet at Bunratty Castle
Book your tickets to assist to an extraordinary dinner night. The 15th-century tower house hosts medieval 4-course Irish traditional banquet. Eat your dinner with your hands inside the most authentic and complete castle in the country. Sit comfortably as the feudal show entertains your night in the Great Hall.
Address: Bunratty West, Bunratty, County Clare
If there is no available space, you can also experience banquets at both Knappogue Castle, in County Clare, and Dunguaire Castle, in Galway.
Get a Holy Cure for Insanity
If you ever feel that you are losing it, the Valley of the Mad in County Kerry has a solution for you. For hundreds of years, locals regularly came to eat the cress and drink from the source of the magical well of Tobar na nGealt. Legend says that the healing powers of the water are so strong, that people are instinctively attracted to it. Even Merlin, the enchanter himself, ended up visiting this sacred land.
Some recent sample studies revealed high degrees of lithium, a medicinal component used to treat bipolar disorder.
Address: Scrallaghbeg, Kilgobbin, County Kerry
Go to Festivals
From the matchmaking fest to the poultry race, bog snorkelling to goat milking or, the red hair convention; Ireland celebrates pretty much everything. Countless of sensational weird (public and private) events take place yearly. Even scarecrows and trim haymaking are prestigious, and we find that, pretty cool.
You can also:
Stroll in Loftus, the most haunted place in Ireland
Visit the kaleidoscopic village of Eyeries
Go to the Dead Zoo in Dublin
Discover the Bloody Kingship and Sacrifice permanent exhibit
The Donkey Sanctuary of Liscarroll (Cork), home to over 3,600 mammals
Retrace Obama’s Irish Roots
Cross the fairy fortress in Knockma Woods (Galway)
To add a bit of crust to the pie, we’ve added this Bygone List of Irish Weirdest Laws.
The hundred thousands of lives lost due to Bubonic Plague led the government to create a remembrance law. Every first Wednesday of the month, Irish citizens had to fast and make amends for the dead.
The Marketing Eggs Act gives authority to any official to inspect the eggs you carry. (No joke)
Due to Sabbath, going to the movie was illegal on Sundays (and still is in Northern Ireland)
The legal sanction for suicide was hanging!
Exporting potato was illegal (and still is in Northern Ireland)
If a Leprechaun comes at your door, it is your constitutional duty to offer a meal.