You are looking south across Loch Bran, named after one of the huge mythical hounds who belonged to the Gaelic hero Fionn mac Cumhaill. Fionn’s nephews, Bran and his brother Sceolán were transformed into ‘conriocht’, the shape of a dog, before they were born. A local legend tells how Loch Bran gets its name from a mythological event when Fionn and Bran were hunting a stag. In the ancient folklore, deer are often magical creatures associated with the ‘lucht sí’ or fairy folk and this story may be a remnant of a more extensive tale within this tradition. As the story goes, the stag strangely disappeared into the ground, but the hound refused to give up and began to dig down after it. The resultant huge pit filled with water and drowned the dog and the deer remained under ground The loch became ‘Loch Bran’ and the nearby ridge became ‘Driom nDamh’ – meaning the Ridge of the Stag. The hill directly to the north on which you stand is said to be the spoil heap from the creation of the loch and is known as ‘Mullach Bran’, Bran’s Summit.
Today Loch Bran has grown over with mosses, rushes and sedges and is a great example of a transitional mire, surrounded by low-lying bog land. The vegetation is dominated by Sphagnum or bog moss. The build up of moss in waterlogged conditions over many centuries creates peat. Bog moss acts like a sponge and soaks up as much as 20 times its own weight in water so helping to keep the bog surface wet. The bogs of Ireland are hugely important in storing water from heavy rainfall, which is then more slowly released. The cumulative effect of drainage of many of our Irish bogs has undoubtedly contributed to major flood events in our farmland and towns in recent times.
Sphagnum, which is known as Súsán in Gaelic, has many traditional uses. It has antiseptic properties and was used as a wound dressing during the First and the Second World Wars.