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The Tale of the Wily Leprechaun

Powerful Fairy Magic on the Cooley Peninsula

O hare pub in Carlingford. County Louth, Ireland.

In the northeast corner of County Louth in Ireland lies the small and incredibly beautiful Cooley Peninsula. But as well its incredible beauty, it is also home to one wily little Leprechaun.

A long time ago when the giants walked the land of Ireland, the fairies (also known as the wee folk) lived in the underworld, a land known as the Tir na Nog (the land of eternal youth). The fairies were considered to be the most beautiful of all the spirits of this land. The fairy women are always born beautiful, but on occasion a fairy man may be born ugly (some say this is often a result of the union between a human man and a fairy woman). Whatever the reason, the ugly male offspring is considered to be unfitting for the fairy kingdom, and the male baby is cast out and left to fend for itself. This cast-off is known as the Leprechaun. And these, along with all the other wee folk lived long after the giants disappeared.

Here on the Cooley Peninsula, in the principle town of Carlingford, which sits in the shadow of Slieve Foy, is a local pub known as H O’Hare. The original owner of this pub was a Leprechaun hunter and would often go into the hills in search of the little men. According to local folklore, the Leprechaun is a vagabond and due to being cast off as a child, devises all manner of devious, mischievous methods to survive. This includes stealing food, clothes and gold and treasure from people’s homes. If captured, you might be able to force him to give up the location of his hidden treasures.

To Catch a Leprechaun

The pub owner went out one day way back in 1946 and captured a little rascal called Sean Og. He took him back to his pub and forced him to live in captivity, letting him out occasionally to entertain the drinkers with his music. For years he tried to coerce the wily little fellow to give up the secret of his treasure, but Sean proved too clever for his captor and always managed to talk his way around it, often sending his captor on a wild goose chase.

The Great Escape

55 years later, Sean finally made his escape, sneaking out one evening in 2001 after luring his captor into a night of wild music and drinking. Once the owner was suitably inebriated, Sean slipped quietly out the back door.

Sean Og the leprechaun in O hare pub in Carlingford. County Louth, Ireland.
Sean Og's clothes, tools and musical instruments in O hare pub in Carlingford.
Sean Og the leprechaun in O hare pub in Carlingford. County Louth, Ireland.
Sean Og the leprechaun in O hare pub in Carlingford. County Louth, Ireland.

The pub retained many of Sean’s clothes and now offers a reward for his return. Every night the owners go out in search of him, but Sean is too clever to be captured a second time.

Fairy Hill

On a nearby road that heads up into the Cooley Mountains is a phenomenon known as Gravity Hill. Many people have driven this seemingly nondescript section of road and passed by without ever knowing what was there. But those who have stopped have suddenly found that their car will roll back up the hill when the brake is released. The scientific community have called this an optical illusion, where it looks like the hill is sloping upwards, but is actually sloping down. Many of the locals think otherwise. They believe it to be the work of powerful fairy magic. Could it be that this is yet another devious trick by the wily Sean Og; a ruse to distract the traveller who dares to stop there and may discover him and his hidden treasure?

Rolling backwards up Gravity Hill on the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth, Ireland.
Rolling backwards up Gravity Hill on the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth, Ireland.

I tried, but his magic is so strong that all I could do was roll up and down the hill in my van in childish fascination at this strange phenomenon. Once I had overcome the powerful force of his magic it was too late, as Sean had managed once again to escape the clutches of his potential captor. Perhaps others will have more luck, for a grand reward awaits the intrepid explorer who manages to outwit this wily Leprechaun.

Sean Og the leprechaun in O hare pub in Carlingford. County Louth, Ireland.
Sean Og the leprechaun in O hare pub in Carlingford. County Louth, Ireland.

The real truth, according to a local Leprechaun Whisperer

Obviously, if you hadn’t already guessed, the tale above is based on the story I saw on the wall of O Hare pub when I visited many years ago, with a little added “poetic license” on my part. However, I was recently contacted by Kevin Woods, known to all as the Last Leprechaun Whisperer, who corrected me with, “the real story”.

According to Kevin, this story is a complete distortion of the truth, and the clothes and musical instruments were bought by the new owner of the pub in the local pound shop!

Kevin says that what really happened was this:
In 1989, the pub’s original owner, P.J. O’ Hare, found the Leprechaun’s discarded clothes and bones on Slieve Foy, along with some gold coins. He states the Leprechaun was attacked by a demon.

Kevin believes that this was one of more than 200 leprechauns that live on the peninsula, just below the mountain. In 2009 the European Habitat Directive gave the area a protected status, thus allowing the wee folk to live in peace.

Join the annual Leprechaun hunt

As a mark of their gratitude, every year on the first day of summer the wee folk leave 1000 little pots, each with a voucher inside that can be cashed in at a business in Carlingford.

In order to participate in the hunt, you need to register, pay the hunting fee, and get your official hunting license.

This year, 2019, the hunt takes place on Sunday May 12th. More info here:

For more info on the original discovery in 1989, watch this video:

Accommodation in Carlingford

If you are looking for somewhere to stay while in the area then check out the Carlingford Adventure Centre and Holiday Hostel.


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