The Poisoned Glen is one of the most beautiful spots in Donegal, Ireland - it's a small glacial valley sandwiched between Errigal, Lake Dunlewy, and the Glenveagh National Park. It is lush, green and boggy, with gorgeous views in every direction, particularly of Errigal's quartzite slopes. There are no roads, no birds and only one headstone in the parish graveyard. The church, built of locally quarried white marble, was abandoned decades ago because no one lives near it any more.

Herds of red deer roam wild in the Poisoned Glen, and apparently it had a breeding population of golden eagles until 1910, when the last recorded sighting occurred.

There are several stories going as to how the Glen got its name:

  • A king of Tory Island called Balor had a daughter who was renowned across the whole country for her beauty. As kings do, he locked her in a tower 'for her own protection' until eventually some brave lad broke in and stole her away. Balor chased them across Ireland, caught them, and killed the poor guy with a giant stone. That stone stands at the entrance to the Glen, and is the 'poisoned' eye of Balor.
  • In an alternative story, Balor was in fact an evil cyclops who terrorized the land until he was killed by his grandson, Lugh. The blood from his eye poisoned the land all around.
  • The water in the Glen is undrinkable. Supposedly this dates back to a time when Irish rebels poisoned it in order to kill the horses of a battalion of the English army that had camped there. Hence the name.
  • A poisonous plant called spurge (Euphorbia) grows in the Glen - its juice is milky-white and not very good for you.
  • The most likely story: The Irish words for 'of heaven' (neimhe) and 'of poison' (nimhe)1 are very similar in spelling, if not pronunciation, and in fact the local name for the place was The Heavenly Glen, which sounds a lot more plausible, it being so beautiful and all. However, an English cartographer mistranslated the name, as is the case with many place names across Ireland, and it has been so long now that the mistranslation has stuck.

1. Thanks to Wolfram for corrections to my woeful Irish grammar!


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