The Hill of Tara
From above, the Hill of Tara in County Meath looks like a message to the gods carved in the earth. In reality, this ancient mound was the seat of the Celtic High Kings of Ireland, who ruled over all the lesser kings of the land. But Tara’s mythical importance goes back even farther, as the stronghold was built over Neolithic tombs. The ancient people believed gods dwelt here at the entrance to an other-world of eternal joy. And the place continues to inspire today: Archaeologists are still locating new sites underground, and people gather on the hilltop to celebrate their pagan ancestors on the summer solstice. (Ireland is also one of the best places to go in Europe for spring break.)
Of course, there’s a perfectly logical scientific explanation for the strange interlocking columns that reach out into the sea at this UNESCO World Heritage site in County Antrim, Northern Ireland: The basalt columns were created by volcanic activity millions of years ago. But the legend of Giant’s Causeway is more fun: that the blocks are huge stepping stones the giant Finn McCool used to cross the water to Scotland. Check out these stunning photos of naturally gorgeous rock formations around the world.
This imposing, often-fought-over medieval fortress has a turbulent past: The precarious perch of Dunluce Castle in County Antrim led to the kitchen falling off into the sea one night, taking several cooks with it—or so the legend goes. The ghost of a defeated English captain is said to haunt Dunluce’s ruins, and the cries of a banshee, or Irish spirit, of young Maeve Roe have also been heard. She was locked in a tower here for refusing to marry a man she didn’t love—when her true love rescued her, they set off in a rowboat from the “Mermaid’s Cave” beneath the castle, but were dashed on the rocks. You can visit the cave today, if you dare. Don’t miss these gorgeous castles you can rent on Airbnb.