There Once Was a Woman in Limerick . . . on a fairy trail

Text & photos © Catherine Nichols

“Life is full of surprises and serendipity. Being open to unexpected turns in the road is an important part of success. If you try to plan every step, you may miss those wonderful twists and turns.”

~Condoleeza Rice

On a recent trip to the UK, the tour guide surprised us with an unscheduled stop at Lough Gur, in Limerick, Ireland.

Lough Gur with dramatic cloudscape

Lough Gur with dramatic cloudscape

We had a little over an hour to look at a falling-down castle and a lake—which seemed excessive, especially since we’d been given only an hour at Blarney Castle where there’s far more to explore. I was a bit unhappy about the pit stop, thinking that the spare hour would have been better spent at Blarney.

Can you spot the fairy?

Can you spot the fairy?

My family and I and a few other travel-weary souls begrudgingly walked a paved path toward the ideal place to look at Black Castle—a castle that is in complete ruins and not accessible. The view was beautiful, and I stopped along the way to take some pictures of the lake and the dramatic clouds. I tried desperately to shake my mood.

From tiny to large fairy doors–all are present in Lough Gur Fairy Village

Didn’t see this till after I saw a moth with the same black-and-red coloring

The paved path ended at a fence like the kind used to keep farm animals in. Near the fence, a dirt path beckoned us up a hill and the kids heeded the call. And because two of my kids were going up a path I didn’t know, I followed. Why not get horribly lost in Ireland? It would have made a great travel story!

The hill was steep and many of us were out of breath by the time we made it to the top. Maybe our out-of-shape-ness had to do with sitting too long on a bus, as well as eating too many bangers and mash on our lengthy tour of Ireland.

Chic purple fairy door

Chic purple fairy door

When every adult found themselves on one side of a fence while the kids were on the other, it became abundantly clear that we were accidentally on someone’s private land. Whoops! We managed to find our way to the public lands by finding an adult-sized hole in the fence. Apparently we weren’t the only tourists to make the same mistake.

I wouldn't have noticed this moth if it wasn't red

I wouldn’t have noticed this moth if it wasn’t red

On the other side of the fence something red on the ground caught my attention. I’d never seen a red moth before. It was so beautiful! As I moved to return to my group further down the path, I stumbled upon the first fairy house.

Magic in the woods

Magic in the woods

The fairy house was so adorable and caught me by surprise. I wondered who had put it there in the woods. Soon, I was finding fairy houses everywhere–in trees, on rocks, and on steps. I called to my companions to come back and see the sweet houses. How did they all miss these cute homesteads? How did I almost miss them?

Tiny homes of Lough Gur Fairy Village

Tiny homes of Lough Gur Fairy Village

Little did I know we had stumbled upon a fairy trail at Lough Gur. Had we entered the trail from the other direction we would have known right away but we came through the “back door.”

Lough Gur Fairy Village – That way!

Fairy Village – That way!

Finding the tiny houses by accident was the cure for my sour mood. How can one be miserable while looking at these little treasures—each unique in its own way?

Seeing these tiny houses spread all over the treesy hill brought some magic into my life that day. Making an unplanned stop at Lough Gur and finding the fairy homes reminded me that not everything has to be scheduled in order to be special.


Cathie Nichols, staff member at Milliver's Travels

Catherine Nichols

Originally from the East Coast, Catherine Nichols has spent the last 29 years in San Diego, and stays in the area because of its extraordinary beauty and a lovely lack of humidity. Accused by her three children of looking at too many rocks while visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and the deserts of Nevada, she continues to marvel at the ever-changing southwest landscape. With trips to Washington DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Portland, and Europe planned, Catherine plans to reawaken her desire to see the world, and leave no stone unturned. Catherine writes in her blog at and tweets as @bloggoneit.

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