Ireland's magic roads - what they are and how to find them

Ah, Ireland.

(Seanchaí voice)

A land rich in lore and legend. Steeped in story and myth. Where fairy forts dot sheep-speckled fields, the howl of the banshee strikes fear in the heart and the door to the other side hangs ever ajar.

(Bear with us)

Where stories of strange nocturnal goings-on and dealings with the ‘little people’ have long been used as a currency to make small children toe the line, and more importantly to pry another few quid from our US visitors.

“Come here to me,” said yer man, leaning conspiratorially closer, the smell of turf smoke and poteen potent in the air.

“Have ye been up to see the Magic Road?”

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IRELAND'S MAGIC ROADS

Yes, Ireland's 'magic roads' are 'a thing' - a stretch of roadway, usually well off the beaten track and hidden up a succession of byways and boreens, where if you stop the car and let the handbrake off, the vehicle will mysteriously and eerily roll uphill.

We joke you not.

Up. The. Hill.

The explanations for the magic road phenomenon vary depending on who you're talking to - and either fairies or 'magnetic fields' are often cited - but the real answer is pretty simple. It's an optical illusion, where the layout of the landscape makes it look like the slope is going one way, but in fact it's going the other.

So your eyes, rather than the fairies, are playing tricks on you.

Around the world, magic roads are known as 'gravity hills' or 'magnetic hills', and there are hundreds of them.

From the comfort of our desks, and making liberal use of Google Maps, we went to find three of the most famous examples in Ireland.


1. COMERAGH MOUNTAINS

Perhaps Ireland's most famous 'magic road' is in Waterford, located along a country road close to Mahon Falls, in the beautiful Comeragh Mountains.

And yes, as this clip shows, if you stop your car in the right spot it will proceed to roll uphill.

Normally these stretches of road can be hard to find but this one is helpfully marked by a big rock with 'Magic Road' written on it, which is nice. The place to stop was once also marked by a tree known locally as the Fairy Tree, until some fairy-hating miscreants chopped it down in 2011.

There's a new one been planted since though - so park up between the rock and the tree and marvel as forces unknown fight gravity on your behalf.

Here's another clip of the magic road in full effect - this time with a BMW full of bemused Lithuanian tourists and a techno Twin Peaks soundtrack for added effect:

Find it yourself:

GPS COORDINATES: 52.215811,-7.529755

VIEW ON GOOGLE MAPS: Here


2. COOLEY PENINSULA

The second stop on our tour of Ireland's magic roads takes us to Co Louth, and out to the beautiful Cooley Peninsula on the loop between Dundalk and Carlingford.

This one, in the foothills of the Cooley Mountains, is a little more nondescript, but once again - the car 'magically' rolls uphill.

Watch US travel writer Andrew McCarthy attempt to unravel fact from fairytale - if he can find the bloody thing first (starting off the wrong county is not a help).

Although at least it ends well - in the pub.

Find it yourself:

GPS COORDINATES: 54.02237 -6.29178

VIEW ON GOOGLE MAPS: Here


3. BEN BULBEN, SLIGO

Now it's of course to be expected that we'd find a magic road in Yeats country - and as a matter of fact we find not one, but two.

The first is to be located at the back of Ben Bulben, as the below clip shows.

Now we're told that there's another one close by on the valley road known as the Gleniff Horseshoe, but for the life of us we couldn't pin down its exact location.

Here's the skinny on the Ben Bulben one anyways:

GPS COORDINATES: 54.371809,-8.393984

VIEW ON GOOGLE MAPS: Here


We've a feeling that's far from an exhaustive list of Ireland's magic roads - we've heard mention of other examples near Slievenamon in Co Tipperary, and in Hannahstown outside Belfast - but there the trail runs cold.


Is there a 'magic road' or other strange phenomenon in your area? Let us know in the comments…

 

By Conor Hallahan