Symbols of Ancient Ireland

Posted on: September 19th, 2015 by Jessica Hickey 1 Comment

Ireland has a rich Celtic history and culture, and is associated with a fairly large amount of things. Ranging from legends and stories to items of clothing, colors, and jewelry, there are many symbols associated with this small but famous country.

These symbols are quintessentially Celtic at first glance, but over many years many interpretations, (and dare I say misinterpretations) have left it so that very few people actually grasp why these symbols have become synonymous with Ireland.

Due to the volume of symbols, I’ll focus on two of the most iconic symbols of Ireland; the shamrock and the harp.


You see a shamrock; you think “Ireland”. Known well as the badge of the country, the green three leaved clover is worn on St. Patrick’s Day as a sign of Irish pride. Most Irish people have been taught in school, that St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the pagans of 5th century Ireland about the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Each of the three leaves representing the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit respectively. There is no mention of the use of shamrock in the writings of St. Patrick, but this story remains the popular belief of most people.

The shamrock has been used as the symbol of Ireland since the 18th century and the wearing of shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day is well observed. It is used in many logos of Irish businesses and sports teams of Irish origin throughout the world.

Image of Celtic Shamrock Ring

Silver Celtic Shamrock Ring

Shamrock even has a place in weddings! It’s very often included in an Irish bride’s bouquet and in the boutonniere of the groom for good luck and prosperity. Jewelry incorporating shamrocks into their design are extremely popular in Ireland and there are many beautiful pieces available from Celtic Rings Ltd.



The harp has long been associated with Ireland. This association has no specific origin but may stem from the 6th century, as written and oral evidence denotes its presence. The belief that the High King of Ireland Brian Boru played the harp as did many nobles and higher classes from the 11th to 17th century.

The Trinity College Harp is said to have been owned by the High King and is displayed in the college and is also included in the college’s coat of arms to this day! So popular it was, that it became the symbol of the Kingdom of Ireland and has appeared on the coinage ever since, with the present day Euro minted in Ireland having a harp on its “flipside”.

Image of 2 Cent Coin with Harp

A 2 Cent Coin with Harp

Along with the appearance of the harp on our coins and coat of arms, many other Irish institutions and businesses have adopted the musical instrument as a part of their branding.

The most famous of these, may be that of a particular drink, black in color and served by the pint; Guinness. Guinness is an iconic drink and could almost be talked about as a symbol of Ireland in its own right!

Brewed since 1759, the company has been using a right facing harp (modeled off the Trinity College Harp) as its logo for 153 years.

Image of pints of Guinness

A couple of pints of the ‘black stuff’.

The harp is a very beautiful and elegant instrument to listen to and to look at. It can be a great alternative to wearing a shamrock or even a leprechaun hat, to show your Irish pride!

The Irish Harp Pin, to be worn on a tie, is a gorgeous piece stocked here and is a subtle way to celebrate Irish culture and heritage.

So, the shamrock and the harp are the first two symbols that come to MY mind when I think of Irish or Gaelic symbols. What symbols do you think are distinctly Irish, and do you know why they’re associated with the Emerald Isle?

Ireland on Film

Posted on: September 4th, 2015 by Sine Treanor No Comments

For a very small nation, Ireland generates a lot of interest worldwide. As a result, movies and TV shows based in Ireland or about the country are numerous and popular globally!

These productions are very much responsible for outsiders’ views and knowledge of Ireland and what it means to be Irish. Let’s face it, sometimes producers and filmmakers are a tad off the mark and this has no doubt led to many humorous beliefs about us which may not be entirely accurate.

These usually portray the “top o’ the mornin’ to ya” potato loving, leprechaun meeting, Guinness drinking Paddy!

The last time I was greeted with “top o’ the mornin’ to ya” was years ago and it was a tourist who said it! Stereotypical Ireland at its best and I adore the humor. I have a couple of favorites;

Darby O’ Gill and the Little People

Released in 1959, this film is literally the most stereotypical Irish film I’ve seen. The plot sees an old caretaker (fond of a drop of whiskey) trying to outsmart the king of the leprechauns to win a pot of gold.

Image from the film Darby O'Gill & The Little People

Darby meets King Brian of the Little People

Alongside the leprechauns, whiskey and a pot of gold, a fiddle and banshee appears, making it the “Full Irish” of the film world. It’s actually very well made, with lots of twists and subplots too, making it a good watch.

I’d imagine most people would know this film as it’s produced by Disney and a very young and handsome Seán Connery stars, which I’m appreciating more and more with every viewing.

If you need some Paddy’s Day costume or character ideas, look no further! – IMDB Link

Father Ted

There is not one person I know, Irish or non-Irish, who has seen Father Ted and not loved every minute of it. It was an Irish sitcom made by the BBC in the mid 90s, based on the life of Father Ted Crilly and his life as a Catholic priest on Craggy Island.

Characters from the TV show Father Ted

Father Ted was a hit TV show on Channel 4

It’s actually not far off the mark when it comes to rural Ireland and I do relate to most of what goes on! The characters really make the show with everyone having a favorite. Dougal, Ted’s dim-witted “sidekick” provides a lot of laughs and Father Jack, another priest living in the same house is something to behold.

Although the show was very successful, sadly Dermot Morgan who played Ted passed away in 1998 bringing an end to the show. Those 12 episodes have influenced Irish culture more than you could imagine, with some scenes, quotes and lines known by practically everyone!

Ireland also has a less “happy-go-lucky” and far darker side too. So many films and shows giving a deeper insight into our people and institutions have been extremely compelling and honest.

The Irish film industry has really come into its own in the past 20 years or so, and has produced some of my favorite movies. These have been critically acclaimed worldwide and starred some seriously big names. – IMDB Link

Angela’s Ashes

Based on the memoir of Frank McCourt, “Angela’s Ashes” is as real and harrowing as it gets. It tells the story of Frank and his family’s struggles as they move back to Ireland from the US in the 1930s due to financial problems and his father’s alcoholism.

Characters from the film Angelas Ashes

Angela’s Ashes was an international hit film.

The movie portrayed the reality of life in Ireland for many families in that era, and is hard to watch at times. There is no escape from the horror of the life they led and the rawness and honesty of the story is what makes the film as engrossing as it is.

The winner of multiple Academy Awards is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece. – IMDB Link


The TV series based on gangland crime in Dublin is probably the most popular and watched Irish show to be released in years. It follows the lives of young men involved in drug deals, assassinations, prostitution and anything else you could possibly imagine!

Charcters from the TV show Love Hate

Love/Hate was a big TV hit in Ireland and abroad.

It’s one of those shows that you can’t help but get sucked into. Clever writing, amazing acting and so unmistakeably Irish. What’s crazy is that according to writers, the fictional stories are not entirely fictional.

Some are based on real life deals, heists and crimes by some of Dublin’s most notorious gangsters. What’s more is you grow to root for the “bad” guys. My favorite character sells drugs, works as a hitman and threatens people and the infamous “Nidge” is the guy everyone loves to hate; hence the name.

Dublin’s underground was invisible until now… If you choose to watch any of my favorites I’m telling you to watch this series. You’ll be blown away!

Ireland has a lot of sides. I believe it’s important to see all these sides to really get Irish humor and reality. What shines through in practically all Irish based shows and movies is our resilience and ability to laugh through the most difficult of times.

Even in “Angela’s Ashes” there are many humorous moments to lighten up the dark! There are so many movies and shows out there that give Ireland its “up for the craic” and friendly reputation abroad. – IMDB Link

Are any movies or shows responsible for your love of Ireland?

Lá Lúnasa – Celtic Festival

Posted on: August 13th, 2015 by Jessica Hickey No Comments

August in most languages,  is in reference to the emperor of the Roman Empire Augustus. In Irish however, August is known as “Lúnasa” (Pronounced Loo-na-sa).

Lá Lúnasa, the 1st of August, is an old Celtic festival worshiping Lugh, an old Irish deity of light. It was hoped that celebrating this day would please Lugh and he would bless the Celts with a good harvest the following month.

Lugh - Celtic Sun God

Lugh – Celtic Sun God

There are many stories and legends surrounding Lugh and he is a prominent and often central part of the Irish stories he features in. As with all Irish mythology, the tales were passed on by word of mouth.

For those of you adept with “Chinese Whispers”, you’ll understand that this leads to some muddled up accounts of the same story and often many semi-true and semi-false additions to said stories. As a result, Lugh appears in many roles and many places but these basic facts remain the same:

He was born to a mother and father who belonged to very important and powerful, but separate clans. So he was born illegitimately, which was rather a big deal back then. His father was Cian, a high standing member of the Tuath Dé Danann and his mother, a Fomoire and daughter of the ferocious Balor.

Other things about him aren’t agreed on as much and it’s clear that the “God of Light” is a “Jack of all trades”. He is known as a master craftsman, a fearsome warrior and the father of the famous Cú Chulainn.

Cú Chulainn - Ancient Gaelic Warrior

Cú Chulainn – Ancient Gaelic Warrior

Known for his fiery temper, he was believed  to cause summer storms which ruined crops, leading to appeasing the multifaceted god on Lá Lúnasa.

Lugh also had magical powers and this magic used alongside his craftsmanship led to his ability to create magical weapons and items of clothing. Lughchromain was a nickname given to him,  roughly  translating as “small stooping Lugh” His fiery and cantankerous personality made him famous and  his nickname crossed over into the English language as “leprechaun”.

As the month of Lúnasa is upon us, you may wish to have a piece of jewelry incorporating a peridot, the month’s birthstone to celebrate! There are some beautiful items available from Celtic Wedding Rings that would make the perfect birthday gift for the August born lady or even an anniversary present for those who married in August.

The August Claddagh earrings are a stunning gift any lucky lady would love to have. They are available in silver, 10K and 14K karat gold, and 14K white gold. They are beautifully crafted, with the peridot stone is elegantly set into the classic Claddagh design as the heart.

Celtic Birthstone Earrings - August

Claddagh Birthstone Earrings – August

These earrings are very modern and understated, yet very fashionable. Peridot is a sacred stone, symbolizing purity and morality, while the Claddagh design represents friendship, loyalty and true love.

The earrings as a result are extremely meaningful and symbolic, making the ideal present for the beautiful lady in your life.

Valentines Day Roots

Posted on: February 4th, 2015 by Mike No Comments

Celebrating Saint Valentines Day

Valentines day comes around every year, and is often just seen to be a day when notes, or cards are passed around to either known loved ones or to ones ‘secret love’.

Valentines Day, or Saint Valentines Day also known as the Feast of St Valentines is a holiday celebrated each year and as we all know happens on the 14th February.

What seems to be a modern tradition and somewhat simple offering, actually dates back centuries with many stories and depictions that, over the years have either been amended, lost or simply made up.

Who is Saint Valentine?

There was many over centuries that were called Valentine but it was a name given to early christians that became martyrs against , one that would see the suffering and death as a test of their faith for being against the views of the then ruler, One of the stories and one that springs to mind and have read about in books is most famously based around the story of Saint Valentine. This story vaguely mentions the account of the Saint performed weddings to soldiers who were forbidden from marriage for ministering to Christians, who were in turn persecuted under the Roman Empire.


A Visit to Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

Posted on: April 25th, 2014 by Jessica Hickey No Comments

I’m the least outdoorsy person I know of. So, when I heard my class and I had to go on a field course for a week, I was not amused. (I may have shed a few tears) The thought of hiking, getting muddy and drenched in the rain whilst trying to collect bugs and identify rodent droppings did not appeal to me at all.

On the other weather spectrum, being burnt to a crisp in the sun and sweating through my shirt after climbing uphill to bird-watch for 3 hours, was also the last thing I ever wanted to do! The moaning stops now.

On a positive note, the fact that the trip was going to take place in Glendalough really changed my attitude towards it, in that I no longer saw it as a “week of doom”.

Simply put, Glendalough is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland.

Glendalough, County Wicklow

Only an hour‘s drive from the center of Dublin, Glendalough shows no signs of being even remotely close to a city! The area boasts the rolling green hills and forests that the world associates with our little country.

In fact, if you type “Ireland” into Google Images, you’re going to come across numerous photos that have been taken in this valley.

I took up all the memory space on my camera taking photos! I think you’ll understand why. The area is definitely a must see for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts!

Being a zoologist myself, it was a real treat to be able to see squirrels, goats, mice and deer outside of enclosures, in their natural habitat.

Aww, a rare red deer/sika deer hybrid with her baby.


Apart from the breath-taking views and wildlife everywhere, the history of Glendalough is very interesting. The name is derived from the Irish ‘Gleann Dá Loch‘, meaning “glen/valley of the two lakes“. Pretty self explanatory, I think!

The area is a monastic settlement, established in the 6th century by St. Kevin. If you do come here, which I think you should, be warned that basically every tourist stall has some sort of reference to Kevin!

Saint Kevin of Glendalough

The famous holy man died in 618AD and for centuries afterwards, Glendalough flourished. Numerous raids of the settlement took place and they were all noted in the Irish Annals (Annals were the means by which monks determined the yearly chronology of feast days).

Another “claim to fame” of the area is that the longest Viking ship ever found, was built around 1042AD using wood from the valley.

Unlike the other very famous Irish built ship, the Titanic, this one didn’t sink. There is a modern replica of the longship residing in Roskilde Denmark.

For those interested in the construction of the ship, here’s a clip!

One of the most famous and iconic structures in Glendalough is probably the round tower. It stands at in impressive 33m tall and was built around 1, 000 years ago by the monks of St. Kevin’s monastery! What an incredible feat!

Took this one chilly evening whilst looking for bats!

Unfortunately it was hit by lightning in 1876, so the conical roof had to be replaced but it’s looking quite sturdy otherwise!

Round towers served as a look out for monks and a store for their assets. (For guys with a vow of poverty, they sure had a lot of gold and silver..)

The Glendalough Lakes

Despite my apprehension, the trip to Glendalough turned out to be a great experience! The 12 mile hike wasn’t the highlight and my vampire complexion was done no favours by the sun, but the views were spectacular!

Along with the nature, stories and history surrounding the area made it very much worthwhile!

I’m not a travel agent or anything, but if there is anywhere to visit when in Ireland; VISIT GLENDALOUGH!

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