Ireland’s Greatest Romance - The Legend of Diarmuid and Grainne

The legend of Diarmuid and Grainne is one of Ireland’s greatest romantic stories. Grainne was said to have been the most beautiful woman in Ireland. Here, we explain one of Ireland’s most famous - but tragic - stories.


Grainne, known as the most beautiful woman in Ireland was also the daughter of Cormac MacAirt, the High King of Ireland. Eligible Princes and Chieftains travelled to meet and court Grainne, including the Chief Fionn MacCool, who was ageing, but had set his sights on the young Grainne as his second wife.

Fionn asked Grainne to marry him, she agreed and a magnificent feast was set up to celebrate the newly engaged couple. People traveled from far and wide to toast the couple, but on that night Grainne met Diarmuid, one of Fionn’s best warriors, and fell head over heels in love with him at first sight!

The young Grainne was determined to go to any lengths to get her man, so she plotted to drug the entire group, apart from the object of her affections, Diarmuid. When she got Diarmuid all to herself, Grainne confessed her love for him, but Diarmuid did not want to get involved, stating that he was loyal and did not want to betray his leader Fionn.

As the story goes, Grainne still wasn't taking no for an answer, so she put a spell on Diarmuid and he promptly fell in love with her. The couple ran away together but were chased by a very angry and humiliated Fionn and his band of men.

The couple were chased across the whole of Ireland – they sheltered and hid in caves, hideouts and trees. To this day local folklore and legend will tell of places that were said to have harbored the eloping Diarmuid and Grainne.  

After many years on the run, Grainne became pregnant with Diarmuid's child, but here is where the story takes a tragic turn. Fionn and his men finally began to get closer to the couple. Diarmuid and Grainne were traveling across Benbulben in County Sligo when a giant boar suddenly came on the attack.

Diarmuid had been told years before that the only thing that would harm him was that very thing – a wild boar. The boar charged and Diarmuid, in attempt to protect the pregnant Grainne, wrestled the wild animal to the ground, attempting to fight it to the death. He heroically drove his sword in to the boar, killing it, but the boar had also gored him, causing a fatal injury.

Fionn and his men jubilantly came towards the couple but found a dying Diarmuid lying in the arms of Grainne. She knew that there was only one way to save the father of her unborn child. She begged Fionn to show mercy on them and save Diarmuid by giving him a drink of water by cupping it in his hands. Fionn refused, not willing to forgive Diarmuid or Grainne.

Fionn's men begged him to help Diarmuid – pointing out what a great warrior and friend he had been to him. Fionn continued to refuse to help until Fionn’s son, Oisin came on the scene to challenge his father to help. He threatened to kill him and Fionn finally agreed to help Diarmuid. However, it was too late – before Fionn was able to get the water, Diarmuid had died and there ends the most tragic but romantic tale.
Posted on October 10, 2014