Laura Brodnik takes a magical trip to Ireland and meets the man who talks to leprechauns.

During my visit to the Emerald Isle I expected to find green fields, tumbling down castles and pints of Guinness. What I didn’t expect to find was a race of tiny mountain men who are protected by European Union (EU) Law, but that’s exactly what I did and now I’m going let you in on a little secret – leprechauns exist.

They can be found in Carlingford, a town nestled by the sea just under an hour from Dublin. This medieval town was raided by Vikings and is the location of haunted Taaffe’s Castle but most importantly is home to Irelands last Leprechaun Whisperer Kevin Woods. As someone who has always believed in magic, fairy tales and things that go bump in the night I made it my mission to meet the Leprechaun Whisperer. The journey started when I arrived at a quaint little store overlooking the sea and came face to face with the whisperer himself. A rosy cheeked man with a beaming smile and a lilting Irish accent that made the story he launched into all the more magical.

According to Woods there used to be millions of leprechauns in Europe until they mysteriously began to disappear during the 19th century and now there are only 236 left. Woods himself did not believe in leprechauns until he came across three on Foy Mountain above Carlingford. Since then he has become an advocate, telling their story through his book The Last Leprechauns of Ireland and having them protected under EU Law in 2009. After hearing this tale we headed into the Underground Leprechaun and Fairy Cavern, crawling through a tunnel entrance next to the sea that was guarded by a stone fairy ring. The cavern holds treasures Woods has collected over the years; including a leprechaun suit and some gold, while nooks inside the walls have been decorated to resemble the midnight revelries Woods has seen taking place in the mountains.

With great care he lays out the leprechaun outfit for us to see and explains that legend has it if the leprechaun hat is placed on your head and grows warm then you have the gift to communicate with leprechauns. One by one each memberon their head but no one feels the warmth. At last it is my turn and I’m shaking with anticipation as the tiny hat is placed on my head and I desperately will it to grow hot. Woods then removes the hat and touches the top of my head and with a big grin pronounces it toasty warm and in that moment my life was complete.

Carlingford’s annual Leprechaun Hunt on Foy Mountain is on 7 April 2014. During the hunt 100 ceramic leprechauns are placed around the mountain with treasure hidden under each one. For the rest of the year, The Leprechaun Whisperer is watching over the little people and waiting to tell you their story.