Ireland’s place names reflect the supernatural and gory nature of its past. Here ANN MASSEY tells us of its top 10 strangest place names.

Blackskull, County Down

The small village in County Down is so named after the nineteenth century inn, The Black Skull. The sign that hanged from the pub was that of a black man’s head, hence the name. Before that it was somewhat literal, as an African male was beheaded by locals and his head nailed above the inn door.

Devil’s Bit Mountain, County Tipperary

Devil’s Bit Mountain stands ominously just outside of Templemore in County Tipperary. Legend dictates that Satan himself took a bite out of the craggy hillside which created the recognisable gap in the mountain’s silhouette. The Devil then spat it out and it landed to create the Rock of Cashel.

Misery Hill, Dublin

Misery Hill is a place in Dublin, Irelnad.
Misery Hill is a place in Dublin, Irelnad.

A hospital stood on the site which is now nothing more than a small lane by the Bord Gais Theatre. The location was said to be the domain of 13th century lepers and later a place where the bodies of those hanged were put on public display. It is believed the name stems from the pilgrims who passed through for medical checks before going overseas. The hospital was so filthy and grim it was declared a place of pure misery.

The Dead Man, Blasket Islands, County Kerry

The Dead Man, Blasket Islands, in County Kerry.
The Dead Man, Blasket Islands, in County Kerry.

‘The Dead Man’ is the translation from Irish of An Fhear Marbh, on the Blasket Islands in County Kerry. It is so named due to the outline shape of the island from the mainland.

Goblin’s Ford, Border of County Limerick and County Cork

Known by the Irish of Ahaphuca, this area is at the halfway point between Kilfinane in County Limerick and Mitchelstown in County Cork. The bridge there now crosses the River Ounageeragh and had a reputation of evil and malice, thought to be caused by a vicious ghost (Phuca, Pooka) or Goblin. Travellers were regularly swept to their deaths in the icy waters of the Goblin/Pooka Ford.

Little Church of Phantoms, County Tipperary

In the townland of Killeennagallive, there is a churchyard called Cillin-na-ndealbh. The name is said to derive from the fact those buried in this location do not rest in peace.

Kill, County Kildare

Kill in County Kildare.
Kill in County Kildare.

This County Kildare village sounds menacing, but the word ‘Kill’ is simply Irish for ‘Church.’ It is however , the burial place of no fewer than Uí Fáeláin kings of Leinster.

Headless Man’s Lake, County Donegal

Lough Gilligancan translates as Headless Man’s Lake and is just outside of Stranolar in County Donegal. It is so named due to the regular sightings of beheaded spectres on the lake shores and even within!

Devil’s Glen, County Wicklow

The Devil's Glen is in County WIcklow, Ireland.
The Devil’s Glen is in County WIcklow, Ireland.

A hiker’s paradise, this delightful walk leads to an enchanting waterfall, which in bygone years, sounded like a Lucifer-esque roar from the pits of Hades.

Queen Maeve’s Vulva, County Antrim

The townland of Ballypitmave is said to be the place where the Irish demi-god Queen Medb of Connacht stole a prize bull and finished her years after murdering her sister and nephew. It is said the menstrual flow of the fertility goddess carved channels into the landscape of County Down and County Armagh. It leads to a burial chamber on Cairn Hill which is said to be a portal to Hell itself.

Ann Massey
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