A Walk in the Footsteps of Lugh and Balor of the Evil Eye

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The beautiful village of Dunlewey Dun Luiche lies at the foot of Errigal Mountain, the highest peak in Donegal.

During last summer’s Feile an Earagail, I joined a guided walk from Dunlewey into The Poisoned Glen Gleann Nemhe, a U-shaped glen believed to have been formed in The Ice Age.

The pleasant weather attracted a large group, that included local families, tourists, walking enthusiasts and curious locals like myself.

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After crossing an ancient bridge, we admired the beauty of the area.

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It is the site of a mythical battle between Lugh – king of the Tuatha De Danaan, and his grandfather Balor of the Evil Eye.

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The Legend of Lugh and Balor of the Evil Eye

A Druid prophecy foretold that Balor would be killed by his grandson. Balor’s only child Eithne, was thus imprisoned in a stone tower on Tor Mor, on the island of ToryTwelve women kept Eithne company, and were warned that they should never speak of a man and Eithne should never see a man.

Balor’s demise unfolds with the stealing of a cow belonging to a swordsman called Gaibhidin from the mainland tribe, the Tuatha De Danaan.

Cian, a Tuatha De Danaan chieftain was sent to find and return the cow to the mainland.

Miraculously, with the aid of a Druid woman called Birog, Cian entered the tower and fell in love with Eithne, who delivered triplets some time after Cian’s visit.

Balor fell into a rage, beheaded Cian and threw the poor triplets into the sea. However, one of the triplets was rescued by Birog and christened Lugh.

Lugh eventually became king of the Tuatha De Danann, and made his home in a fort at Dunlewey.

Some years later, Balor paid a visit to Gaibhidin’s forge, and bragged of killing Cian and the triplets. Unaware that Lugh had survived, Balor succumbed to the prophecy, when his grandson plunged a fiery rod from the furnace into his head and out through his eye!

Another version of the story has Lugh leading the Tuatha De Danaan at the second battle of Moy Tura, and killing Balor with a slingshot that sends Balor’s eye shooting out of the back of his head!

Balor’s head is said to have been thrown onto a rock – seen in the centre of the photograph below.

This legend suggests The Poisoned Glen Gleann Nimhe is named after the poison that flowed from Balor’s Evil Eye.

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Heavenly Glen

An alternative theory on the naming of this beautiful glen, comes from the translation from Irish into English.

Neamh is Irish for heavenly, while neimhe translates as poison.

No matter which theory is true, The Poisoned Glen is indeed a heavenly place, and is well worth a visit.

You can read more about Balor and his fort on Tory Island, in my post:

Tory Island Walks – The Legend of Balor of the Evil Eye

81 Comments »

  1. They really didn’t go in for family counselling in the good old days did they? Personally I feel if the Druid has just stuck to boiling up mistletoe tea none of this would have happened! Lovely site for such random bloodshed though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a inspirational post and stirs up lots of ideas for stories. The walk looks truly out of this world. How wonderful for you to be surrounded by the Heavenly Glen. Thanks so much for the window on this magical world.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Looks beautiful Brigid. Never been to this area but over the years have sent many post cards with the poisoned glen featured. Cards by John Hinde studio.
    Really interesting post, thanks 🌼

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Lovely Brigid- It is incredible seeing the site of the battle between the sun god Lugh of the People of the Goddess Dana, and possibly an earlier sun god Balor of the (possibly earlier indiginous) Formorians. I love the landscape of Ireland still retains its atavistic memories, like Wales and Scotland, that nationally England has lost- although the traditions still exist locally. I always think a people rooted in its past sees its future more clearly. Px

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  5. Wow, what an adventure! It definitely looks heavenly, and it’s so interesting to read about the history of places, and with the story of poison that flowed from Balor’s Evil Eye, it makes it all the more intriguing! Fab photos, thanks for sharing as I’d not heard of the glen before.xx

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  6. I must try to visit Donegal on a visit home – I’ve never been and your posts bring it to life and make me want to visit. Is the Feile an annual event? Or is it better to visit when its less busy?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That would be terrific. Every village has a Feile round here and it can get quite busy. However, Dunlewey had some terrific talks and walks last year that were well worth attending. In general, we don’t get too busy here except for a few weeks in high summer.

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  7. Brigid, thank you so much for letting us join you on this magical, mystical walk! The scenery is stunning, and it must be very atmospheric to walk in the midst of the glen, the mountain looming over, the area so rich in incredible folklore! I loved reading these!

    Liked by 1 person

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