Skip to content

Of Fairies and Fairy Folk

The fairy trail at NMI - Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar

Some old friends have returned to the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life this summer. Join us for a reimagining of the original Fairy Trail from Féile na Tuath in 2015. 

This newest fairy trail, called Of Fairies and Fairy Folk, explores fairy dwellings and tree folklore and is created from artworks produced by local artists Carmel Balfe and Tom Meskell, of Wandering Lighthouse Artworks.

Of Fairies and Fairy Folk delivers a timely message about sustainability and biodiversity and curious families of all ages can find out more about the native and introduced tree species dotted across the grounds of Turlough Park House, in our magical woodlands, wonderful waterways and beautifully restored gardens.

What will we see along the way?

Alongside each fairy settlement is an illustrated panel exploring the connections between the ethereal world of the fairies and the very real world of the National Folklife Collection on display in the Museum galleries. The panels detail the folklore associated with each tree on the route and look at the many varieties of wood used in the construction of traditional objects in the Museum. 

Where do we start and how does it work?

You can either download the map ahead of your visit, or take a picture of the map on your phone or other mobile device when you get to the Museum. The map is located between Turlough Park House and the Museum galleries. With the map in hand, it is simply a matter of deciding which direction you would like to go in first. There is no one direction you need follow, nor any particular order in which the settlements need to be visited. We do ask all participants on the trail to remain conscious of the social distancing guidelines, be considerate of other users of the trail, and to not touch any of the artworks along the way.

“The folklore associated with our Museum objects is of great importance to us. Our folklore is our beliefs, customs, stories and oral traditions - it is the intangible aspect of our culture. Many of the objects on display in our Museum galleries have basic functionality but often have other customs associated with them. Iron was believed to offer protection and so objects like the fire tongs were used to maintain safety from evil. A horse shoe left in the churn offered protection from the ‘Evil Eye’. Red flannel and ribbons also gave protection… Folklore gives an insight into the minds of the people who made and used the objects we safeguard.”
- Clodagh Doyle, Keeper, Irish Folklife Division, National Museum of Ireland

The trees you will see as you follow our trail:

  • Carrying a hazel stick with you when travelling at night offers protection from evil spirits and fairies! Find out more

  • A flowering hawthorn heralds the arrival of summer but never bring a stick into the house! Find out more

  • Widely known as the Queen of the Woods, the beech tree improves soil fertility. Find out more

  • Ash is a symbol of wisdom, kingship and mystical knowledge. Find out more

  • The red and green of Mayo has its origins in the leaves and berries of the yew tree. Find out more

  • During the Emergency (World War II), oak acorns were ground and roasted as a coffee substitute. Find out more

  • Sycamore is particularly favoured by wood carvers and furniture makers for its hard and strong, fine grained timber. Find out more


Sign up to our newsletter

Keep up to date

Receive updates on the latest exhibitions

Country Life

Turlough Park,
Co. Mayo,
F23 HY31

+353 94 903 1755