Kevin Woods is Ireland's only leprechaun whisperer
Carlingford grandad of 16 Kevin Woods has found an unusual calling to keep him busy during his retirement – the 74-year-old is currently Ireland's only leprechaun whisperer.
The former PJ Carroll's national sales manager hosts daily tours of a magical leprechauns cavern beside Ghan Road in Carlingford.
The tour has attracted tourists from around the world, some coming from as far as Peru and Argentina, and is currently the number one visitor attraction in Carlingford.
The Carlingford man says his path first crossed with the leprechauns back in 2002 when he found a leather purse with four gold coins inside a wall he was fixing.
Kevin says the purse also contained a note from well-known Carlingford publican PJ O'Hare. The pub owner had found a leprechaun hat, trousers and tunic, and bones, on the mountain which overlooks the medieval village back in 1989.
And as luck would have it, one of the gold coins gave him the gift to communicate with the Celtic creatures.
The Louth also man fought to have the Carlingford area, which he says contains the last 236 surviving leprechauns in Ireland, granted protection under the E.U. European Habitats Directive in 2009. And the leprechaun whisperer hasn't looked back since.
Kevin, who is known locally as McCoillte, and his family, also created the Folklore Park, which is situated just beside the underground cavern.
In 2010, the leprechaun-obsessed grandad had a book published about the lives of the little people called “The Last Leprechauns of Ireland.”
Kevin says the book covers the social, geographical and mythological history of Ireland and the Carlingford area.
And as the only leprechaun whisperer in the country, Kevin is in high demand. On St Patrick's Day, the Carlingford man held three tours for eager tourists and children keen to get a glimpse of one of the Celtic creatures.
“I normally do a tour every day and then two or three a day when the kids are off from school. And then I'd have a tour every Saturday and Sunday at 2pm,” says Kevin.
Even though he's racked up hundreds of tours over the last few years, the grandad who has a penchant for storytelling, says he still gets great enjoyment out of each tour.
“If people don't come away entertained, I haven't done my job. Never once, did I not enjoy it. I'm having a ball,” says Kevin.
Whilst he is constantly trying to get the balance right so that his tour will be entertaining for both adults and children, it sounds like the leprechaun whisperer is doing something right. He currently has hundreds of glowing reviews on Tripadvisor and many repeat customers.
Tourists come from all around the world, with busloads of Americans frequently stopping off in the medieval village, but Kevin says home audiences are still his favourites.
“Irish people are the best audiences because they enjoy the craic the most,” he reveals.
And as the busloads of tourists continue to flock to Kevin's quirky leprechaun tour, the Louth man is keen to promote the “intangible heritage” and stunning natural scenery in the North East.
“I think people don't see what's on their doorstep. There is so much more to Louth than what is currently promoted. We definitely need a push to get more tourism in the area,” Kevin says.
Despite all the positive feedback, there have been some naysayers who believe that leprechaun stories should stay in the fairytale books. However, Kevin doesn't let any negative comments get to him.
“I'd ask them [people who don't believe in leprechauns] what do they believe? And for people who believe in God, I'd ask, did they ever see him? My attitude is to just leave people to it. It's none of my business what other people believe in,” Louths very own leprechaun whisperer explains.
The Leprechaun and Fairy Underground Cavern is open during Easter Saturday and Sunday, with tours commencing at 3pm each day. Tours are also held on weekdays.
For more information see www.thelastleprechaunsofireland.com/