Rainbows matter in Ireland: Epic places to see them in Ireland

Given its weather, there’s no surprise Ireland is a great place to see rainbows. But did you know they also bear deeper significance?

Rainbows matter in Ireland: Epic places to see them in Ireland.

For centuries, rainbows have held a special place in the mythologies of people all around the world. To some, they are gateways to another realm of being, while to others, they signal hope and good luck.

Yet, of all of the places in the world where one can see sunlight striking water droplets at a 42-degree angle in front of you, which is the optical illusion National Geographic details, Ireland is hailed as a land of special significance for rainbows.

So, why is this, and if the Emerald Isle really is a rainbow haven, where can you experience these colourful archways?

What exactly is a rainbow? – how does that spectrum appear in the sky?

A double rainbow over a field with some grey clouds.
Credit: Pexels/ James Wheeler

As mentioned, a rainbow is an optical illusion. It is caused by the simultaneous refraction, internal reflection, and dispersion of light through the water droplets on the ground after a spell of rain. Hence the name!

The result is a multicoloured arc through the sky in which you’ll see red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

Now, we could go into a lot of mathematical information about rainbows, but we know you don’t want that. Instead, let’s explore their cultural significance in Ireland and the country’s top rainbow spots.

Rainbows and culture – intrinsically tied to Irish myths, folklore, and iconography

A rainbow in Ireland over Downings Beach, County Donegal.
Credit: Tourism Ireland / Fáilte Ireland

Being a clearly visible arc of colour that people can see but never get to, rainbows were always destined to be the subject of myth, folklore, and fantasy.

The beauty of the mix of colours can so easily be melded into fantastical tales, and regularly were by the storytellers of history.

In Norse mythology, the Bifrost is a rainbow bridge that connects the realm of the gods (Asgard) with Earth (Midgard). Māori myths say Hina sent a rainbow to Earth so that her mortal husband could return, as death isn’t welcome among the deities.

In Irish folklore, or rather, Celtic mythology, the rainbow was a signal of hope and the goals to be achieved.

How it’s better known, of course, is as the hiding place for the leprechaun’s pot of gold. According to Irish History, the pot can be found if you capture a leprechaun.

However, leprechauns are cunning creatures that, even if you do manage to capture one, will use their sly minds to escape your grasp, and, with them goes any hope of getting their coveted treasures.

Now, leprechauns, rainbows, and pots of gold that have never been seen are icons of Ireland. They’re linked to luck and good fortune, as so many of Ireland’s icons are. This is further enforced across media, particularly in the online slots at Betway.

Just among the top-ranking games, there’s Fishin’ Pots of Gold, 9 Pots of Gold, Multi Charm, 3 Lucky Rainbows: Action Boost, and Tippy’s Golden Pot.

In some of these slots, the leprechaun isn’t even present. Instead, the rainbow and pot of gold iconography is enough to take centre stage.

Where to see the most rainbows in Ireland – the top spots

A single rainbow over a field with a blue sky with some clouds.
Credit: Unsplash/ Stainless Images

While not integral to the everyday lives of Irish people anymore, rainbows do still hold a lot of weight. They make Ireland’s already stunning landscapes that bit more magical. Even if you don’t know their associations to the myths of the world.

Now, you can see rainbows anywhere in the country. But to increase your chances of doing so, you’ll want to go somewhere that flicks between rain and sunshine often. For this, turn to the northwest and head toward the best beaches.

In the northwest, you could walk across any number of sprawling green fields, but the ideal coastal route is, almost certainly, the Wild Atlantic Way.

The Wild Atlantic Way route is incredibly long at over 1,500 miles, crawling along the west coast. So, you wouldn’t want to walk it all. But wherever you get on it, you’ll find yourself in a prime location for spotting rainbows.

Alternatively, you could drive the route! You’ll just have to have your fingers crossed for some flickering weather patterns.

The misty landscapes and switching of the weather between rainy and sunny days make Ireland a rainbow hotspot. But these characteristics are owed to the latitude, which helps to create these weather patterns.

Being so coastal, sprawling out from the middle of the island and below the bulge above, County Galway’s best walks can be a great way to spot plenty of rainbows. They offer the ideal mix between high and low terrain as well as particularly damp areas.

The scenery of County Galway is, as you’d expect, spectacular. And it’s only made more mystical by the regularity of rainbow sightings.  

In the right weather, you never have to go too far to spot a rainbow in Ireland. However, if you seek that perfect beam of colour to really punctuate your landscape shots, see what the northwest of the Emerald Isle has to offer.

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