Historically thought of as tiny, shoe-making people of the fairy world, leprechauns have been a mainstay of Irish folklore since medieval times. And like many of the fantastic creatures that dwell beneath the misty veil of Irish legend, leprechauns have their origin in magic. Theories abound as to how leprechauns came to be, but general belief dictates that they’re descended from the Tuatha De Danaan, a race of magical beings who arrived in Ireland 2,500 years before the Celtic invasion.
With the arrival of the Celts, their superior iron weapons no match for those of the Tuatha De Danaan, the descendants of the leprechauns are said to have gone into hiding. To protect themselves they constructed a vast underworld beneath Ireland’s soil– one that many Irish still believe to exist today.
The portals to his shadowy fairy world are many and include places like waterfalls, lakes and standing rock formations. Leprechauns are believed to have the ability to pass between this underworld and world of humans freely, and have historically been known to appear suddenly to many unsuspecting bystanders.
Classically taking on the form of small, well dressed old men that favor heavy overcoats and hats, leprechauns are thought to guard treasure supposedly hidden by the Danes when they invaded Ireland in the 9 th century. Seeing a leprechaun is considered to be good luck because if one is ever captured by a human they are obligated to grant he or she three wishes. But leprechauns will do just about anything to avoid being caught, including vanishing into thin air—or more likely into one of their magic doorways.
According to many locals, there are places in Ireland where you’re more likely to see leprechauns than others. Several people in Ireland have devoted themselves to the art of finding these magical places: writing books, giving tours and building websites. One website, www.irelandseye.com, has an entire section devoted to the quest for Ireland’s leprechauns called The Leprechaun Watch that even includes a live web cam .
Several places where leprechauns have reportedly been seen can be visited on many of Tenon Tour’s optional day tours, including the Rock of Cashel and Giant’s Causeway. Tenon also offers tours to Dublin’s Leprechaun Museum , where you can learn everything there is know not just about leprechauns but the whole of mystical Ireland. These optional tours are available as part of our Signature Tenon Tours to Ireland. So be sure to have your camera ready on your next Ireland vacation!