IF you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise — thanks to the fairies. Across Ireland and exempt from normal planning permission, the Little People are building houses in tree trunks at a rate not seen since the Celtic Tiger boom.
County Councils, tidy towns, schools, hotels and private individuals are employing ‘fairy architects’ to build miniature homes, and it all began in Cork, when fairy builder Peter, who chooses to remain anonymous ‘out of respect for the fairies’ privacy’ built exquisite little homes in Rineen Woods.
“One day I went for a walk with my dog, saw a hole in a tree and thought that needs a door, it was as simple as that. I built about five houses in all; kids leave little notes and coins for the fairies — it’s all very sweet,” he says.
Inspired by Peter, Cork woman Ginny Darrer of irishfairytrails.com started a fairy trail in Derrynane House, the Kerry ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell, for her grandchildren who were holidaying in the area. Then friends wanted houses for gardens and nearby Parknasilla Resort offered to help out homeless fairies too. “I’ve always been good with my hands. I make the houses with my sister Margot and repair them. It’s brought a lot of tourism to the area,” Darrer says.
Traditionally South Kerry has been steeped in fairy lore; a picture in Derrynane House shows the infant O’Connell wearing a dress, as long ago people disguised boys as girls in case fairies stole their sons. Ita Corridan, head of the tearooms in Derrynane, says interest in fairies is as strong as ever. “Children leave coins at the fairy doors and money raised goes towards the Inshore Rescue. We also sell fairy maps and that too goes to local projects. Children and adults alike love the fairy trail and we have a comment book where people can leave a message for the fairies,” she says.
Carmel Flynn, Head of Sales and Marketing at parknasillaresort.com, says foreign visitors in particular are enthralled with our fairies. “The fairy trail is a very Irish thing, it’s part of our folklore. Last year we put in a playground at Parknasilla but it’s the fairytrail that really seems to have caught children’s imagination, people say their children cannot wait to come back,” she explains.
Although it’s not up and running a year, Niamh Sherwin-Barry of The Irish Fairy Door Company says the building business is booming, domestically and internationally when it comes to fairies. “It’s been a crazy year, we’ve shipped fairy doors to over 70 different countries and we have a huge amount of interest in the US where there are 40 million Irish Americans.” Sherwin-Barry says herself and her three childhood friends who formed the company, knew children would love their, “painted, sanded and blinged fairy doors” but they never realised how much adults would be gripped by fairy fever. This year the IFDC opened two fairy trails in Corkagh and Tymon Parks, Dublin; they helped with a fairy trail in Athea, Limerick, which opened a few weeks ago, and are working on another two trails for Lough Rea, Galway and the North side of Dublin.
“We’ve done fairytrails for schools and for tidy towns and we always try and find out about the history of fairies in each locality to personalise the experience.
“In Corkage Park there are different fairies, each of whom have a special job. I especially love to see people go up to Willow, the Worry Fairy, you put out your hand and she takes your worries away. There’s also a wishing tree and a wishing tree chair where people can dream a little about what they’d like in life. “The Irish are storytellers and fairytales are in our bones — it’s part of who we are, it’s part of our imagination. When we were starting up we wondered if ‘Irish’ should be in our company name but the feedback we got internationally was absolutely yes, when people thought of fairies they always thought of Ireland.”
Fairy doors are only the start for this Dublin-based company — you can also buy miniature bicycles, benches and washing lines for those wanting to home their own fairies.
So, if you’re looking for Little People magic with your own little people, as well as going on the trails, you can go knocking on fairy doors Templemore Park, Tipperary and Wells House, Wexford.