Myths & Stories

Almu – the Hill of Allen

The druid Nuada built an imposing white-walled fort on a hill in Leinster, visible from all the surrounding plains. His wife Almu, was so beautiful, he named the fort after her.

Their son was Tadg, and Tadg’s daughter Muirne fell in love with Cumhall, a great warrior and head of the Fianna, an elite corps of fighters in the service of the High King at Tara. When Cumhall was refused Muirne’s hand, he carried her away from the Hill of Allen; he was killed soon after in the battle of Cnuca.

Finn Mac Cumhaill

Finn grew up in hiding, because his father had eloped with his mother Muirne, and many powerful men, including his own grandfather, wanted to destroy him. Raised by trackers in the Slieve Bloom mountains, he grew up to be a fierce warrior and unrivalled hunter.

Forced to leave Leinster by those who sought to fill him, he fought for the King of Bantry in Munster.  Before he could challenge the man who had killed his father for the leadership of the Fianna, the elite corps of warriors his father had led, he ahd to become as great a poet as he was a fighter.

He apprenticed himself to the poet Finnegas, who had been fishing a pool in the river Boyne for the salmon of knowledge. The salmon fed on the berries of a magical rowan tree that overhung the pool and were said to give complete knowledge to any who caught and ate one.

Finnegas finally caught one soon after Finn arrived. The poet ordered his apprentice to cook the fish for him, and forbade him to taste it.

As Finn lifted the fish off the fire, he burnt his thumb, and licked it. Finnegas knew immediately his pupil had tasted the fish when he saw the change that had come over him. He told Finn to eat the rest of the fish, and from then, Finn placed his thumb in his mouth when he needed to know anything.

Finn’s Hounds

Bran and Sceolan, Finn’s favoured hunting dogs, were extraordinary animals. The hounds were so close to Finn, they seemed able to read his mind. Bran would always get something for Finn if he was hungry after a day’s hunting; Sceolan’s cry could be heard above the baying of all the other hounds.

It was said that Tuiren, lover of Iollan, the sister of Finn’s mother Muirne, had been enchanted by a woman of the Sidhe, or fairies, when she was pregnant. Turned into a staghound and living with Fergus, she was the most beautiful creature imaginable, the fastest hunter and gave birth to two pups, Bran and Sceolan.

When Finn discovered his aunt was no longer with Iollan, he demanded she be brought back to Allen. As soon as she left Fergus’s house, the enchantment left her, and the hounds, her children were delivered to Finn’s care.

Centuries have passed since Finn and the Fianna hunted around the Hill of Allen, but local people have claimed to see two large staghounds bounding over the hill in the night, barking for their master, and still hunting.