The National Museum of Ireland - Country Life is celebrating Heritage Week 2020 with the launch of a beautiful and enchanting new fairy trail for families to enjoy this August and beyond.
The magical outdoor route meanders through the woodlands, along the waterways and through the formal gardens of historic Turlough Park - a 40-acre estate just 10 minutes from Castlebar, Co. Mayo.
It follows on from a hugely successful fairy trail at the Museum five years ago, as part of the family festival Féile na Tuaithe.
This newest fairy trail, dotted with artworks by Carmel Balfe and Tom Meskell, of Wandering Lighthouse Artworks, delivers a timely message about sustainability and biodiversity.
Each fairy dwelling along the way comes with 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.
Some interesting facts to learn along the trail include:
Carrying a hazel stick with you when travelling at night offers protection from evil spirits and mischievous fairies!
Widely known as the Queen of the Woods, the beech tree improves soil fertility and can grow to be 200 years old
Ash is a symbol of wisdom, kingship and mystical knowledge
The red and green of Mayo has its origins in the leaves and berries of the yew tree
A flowering hawthorn heralds the arrival of summer but never bring a stick into the house!
Curious families of all ages can find out more about these native and introduced tree species of Turlough Park along the fairy tree trail.
Speaking on the importance of protecting and sharing our folklore through initiatives such as the fairy trail, curator at the National Museum of Ireland Clodagh Doyle, explained:
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 horseshoe 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.”
On designing the trail, artists Carmel Balfe and Tom Meskell said:
"We are delighted to have had the opportunity to explore the magical grounds of the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life. There are so many hiding places for fairies waiting to be uncovered and we hope visitors enjoy seeking these places out as much as we did!”
The fairy trail is an Education and Outreach Department initiative in response to Covid-19 and physical distancing guidelines. The trail also reflects the Museum’s sustainability and biodiversity programme which offers educational initiatives focussed on valuing and protecting our cultural and natural environment.
Admission to the National Museum of Ireland and Turlough Park House and Gardens is free.
For further information, follow the National Museum of Ireland on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit www.museum.ie/country-life.