Leprechauns are as Irish as Guinness and St. Patrick’s Day. They are fairies or wood spirits, mostly depicted as little men with red hair and beards and dressed in a green coat and top hat with a leather belt and pointed shoes. Leprechauns are supernatural beings who often play pranks on humans. They are also thought to make a living as cobblers and to own a pot of gold that sits at the end of a rainbow. Legends and tales in Irish folklore related to the leprechauns, their nature, and their doings abound in Ireland. Therefore it is no surprise that a museum is dedicated to them called the National Leprechaun Museum of Ireland. It is to be found in Jarvis Street, right in the heart of Dublin. The museum takes you into what they call the “otherworld,” a world full of Irish myths, legends, and storytelling.
This is a museum of a different kind. There are exhibits and rooms, but the most important part is the storytelling. No understanding of the world of the “little folk” is possible without hearing all the stories and legends and then finding them and all the typical leprechaun items in this unique museum.
The museum can only be enjoyed and viewed by a guided tour. It is suitable for adults who are curious about the evasive leprechauns and kids from the age of seven and older. There are two kinds of tours available: daytime and nighttime. The nighttime tour is only available to persons aged 18 and over because of the dark nature of the stories. The tours are conducted in English, although as you may suspect, there might be a strong Irish accent.
1. Enthusiastic Story Telling
Be prepared to become an attentive listener. Without the storytelling, you will not understand the character and nature of the Irish and how the spirit world and the leprechauns became part of such deeply embedded beliefs in the supernatural. The guides who tell the stories assemble their flock around them. Each and every one is a true enthusiast who can capture their audience’s attention from the very first moment.
Even the most unruly kids quickly fall under the spell of hearing about wood spirits, how they appear in human form and interact with humans, the often hilarious and mischievous pranks they play on people, their work as shoemakers, how they live in magic forests underground or at the end of the rainbow, and how they amass or hide their pot of gold.
2. The Giant Furniture
The museum features several rooms illuminated by mystical lights which the tour explores one by one. To illustrate what it is like for the little folk to live in a world of human dimension, there is a room that is a special delight for kids, who can relate because of their own size. This room consists of oversized tables, sofas, and chairs hanging from the ceiling or standing on the wooden floor. Best of all, kids are allowed to sit on them and feel like leprechauns themselves. They are so big that even grown-ups feel small again.
3. The Giants’ Causeway
After the room with the giant furniture, you come into a tunnel with flickering turquoise lights illuminating the ceiling. Then you notice that this is actually a giant causeway so typical of Ireland and that gives you the illusion of walking in a magical underground world.
4. Run Through The Rainbow
As you already know, the leprechauns are closely connected to the rainbow, and some are believed to live under one. After the causeway tunnel, you can make a childhood fantasy come true and walk beneath a multi-colored rainbow created by inventive lighting.
5. The Pot Of Gold
Finally, the biggest prize of all: In a glittering room stands the leprechauns’ pot of gold. Here is the story of why the little folk have so much gold. They used to work as cobblers. Apparently, the Irish love to dance and they indulge so much that they often wear out the soles of their shoes. The leprechauns were then called upon to replace them. However, they would only accept payment in gold coins for their labor, which they stored in a pot hidden away.
Mortals who tried to find and rob the pot of gold would find themselves in deep trouble; the mischievous leprechauns are not of a forgiving nature. The storyteller explains this all while sitting next to the giant cauldron of coins, the blue lighting lending the whole experience even more magic.
A big stone with the image of a leprechaun also stands at the entrance and greets you at the beginning of this magical tour. Leprechauns (as well as people) love to dangle from its sides.
There is also a gift shop where you can buy literature, pictures, and leprechauns of all sizes. I got two leprechauns as lucky charms, which I named Mikelin and Finnegan. They have traveled in my purse ever since.
The tales of the nighttime tour are of a darker and more scary nature, which is why the age of admission is 18+. The Irish are a Celtic people, notorious for their stories and legends of far more malevolent spirits and fairies. You will hear about The Dark Man, banshees, the wife of Fionn, and the will-o’-the-wisp. This is a fairy appearing as a light, often over bogs, swamps, and dangerous terrain with the aim to lead wanderers astray and to their death.
Pro Tip: Visit The Leprechaun Whisperer
If after you visit the Leprechaun Museum in Dublin and hear all the stories and legends, your interest in the leprechauns may increase. If you want to learn more, make the trip to the Cooley Mountains in County Louth to meet a very special man, Kevin Woods. It’s only an hour and a half’s trip north by car.
Kevin Woods is also known as the “Leprechaun Whisperer.” He hails from Carlingford, where he runs the Leprechaun Cavern. But there is much more to Mr. Woods than his dedication to the little folk. He is a true believer in their existence and claims to be able to communicate with them. According to him, there are only 236 leprechauns left alive, all living in caves under the Cooley Mountains. He has dedicated his life to their protection and even helped the leprechauns achieve recognition as an endangered species by the European Union in 2009.
In his tour of the cavern and the house in Carlingford, he tells the story of how he came upon a leprechaun himself, how they were hunted, and of their struggle for survival. He reveals how they interact with humans and has countless visitors from all over the world who want to know all about these deeply Irish creatures. He also conducts guided tours into the mountains and has been on many TV programs.
The Museum in Dublin is a great initiation into the world of Irish fairies, legends, and especially the leprechauns, and a trip to Carlingford will give the final touch to your experience.
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