The Shillelagh Stick Maker
Here in Ireland in any tourist shop, you will see awkward looking black walking sticks for sale. These are cheap imitations of the ancient (and I mean ancient!) tradition of the Shillelagh Stick. A martial art once unique here in Ireland and now almost extinct. Come with me to meet Liam O’Caidhla, the last surviving Shillelagh Stickmaker in the village of Shillelagh and discover the stories behind this ancient craft
Liam O Caidhla has been making sticks most of his life. A special arrangement with local farmers means he always has a good selection to choose from. His workshop and sheds are filled with neat stacks and bundles of sticks harvested from the local hedgerows and surrounding forests. The sheer mass of them is no surprise when you consider it takes up to three years to properly create an authentic fighting cudgel, and that he is one of the only traditional Stickmakers remaining in Ireland, shipping his sticks worldwide.
A visit to Liams shop typically takes a few hours, he’ll gladly tell you the fascinating stories behind the sticks
- The Sticks links with the faeries, namely the infamous leprechaun!
- How Robin Hood may have come from this part of the world
- How so many Stickfighters left Ireland to work on the US Railways during the 1800s the craft almost died out in Ireland
- How organisations from The NY Police Dept to the French Foreign Legion use the Shillelagh Stick to this day
Private Tours to visit Liam at his workshop can be arranged exclusively through Gallivanting Tours.
Including collection from accommodation in Dublin.
Tours must be booked in advance to ensure Liam is available.
The Shillelagh Day Tour:
9.00am Collection from your accommodation
Taking a scenic drive through the Wicklow Mountains, we will pass by some truly breathtaking landscapes. It is easy to understand why so many films and TV shows such as Braveheart, The Vikings, and The Tudors among many many others have been filmed here!
10.30am approx On arrival in Shillelagh, you will be greeted by Liam himself, as he opens the door to the small craft shop on the main street of the village. Once inside, Liam will start his storytelling! You’ll be fascinated, I promise! As he weaves his stories let your eyes drift over the many Shillelaghs, Staffs, Wands and Cudgels on display. Be sure to check out the 120 year old Stick, made by Liams Great Grandfather, hanging near the door!
Afterwards, Liam will measure your height and arm length to ensure your Stick is the perfect size for you. A short lesson in self-defence and you’re ready to go!
1.00pm – Lunchtime
As the afternoon rolls around, we will head to the nearby village of Tinahely to visit the farm shop. Here you can tuck into a fresh, organic lunch made with locally grown foods, fresh bread, handmade cheese and some of the most delicious home baking you’ll have ever tasted!
2.30pm Time to Road Test your Stick or Staff
Fully kitted out and with Liams instructions ringing in your ears, you’ll be anxious to try it out…. so nearby is a small playground filled with loud crying children…..
No! of course not! Nearby is, however, the start of the Wicklow Way, a 131km Walking Trail. And here at the very end (or the beginning?) is a choice of some very special places to go walking for all types of walkers and fitness levels.
Tomnfinnoge Woods is a popular walking spot for locals and visitors. A simple but achingly lovely meandering path wanders through this ancient woodland. This is the same woods Liam gets many of his raw materials from. It once stretched 100s of miles across the land and what now remains is protected.
The surrounding hillsides provide plenty of walking trails for the fitter among you! Plenty of steep hills with some spectacular views from the top!
4.00pm Time to head for home
As the day comes to an end, and everyone piles back into my little bus to return, you will be gratified to discover the Wexford Food Family Hamper waiting for you, with plenty of delicious treats to enjoy, and a large glass of Jameson Whiskey to sip on as I drive you back to your accommodation. A happy day, filled with memories and bringing home a wonderful memento of your time in Ireland!