The Lost City of Kilstiffen

Cliffs of Moher Kilstiffen

The Lost City of Kilstiffen Cliffs of Moher

Looking south towards Spanish Point, you might see an area of disturbed water. This marks the location of the ancient city of Kilstiffen or Cill Stuifin. The city has also been called Kilstapheen or Kilstuitheen. The city sank when its chieftain lost in battle a golden key, a key which used to open the door of a fine castle there.

The city will not be restored until the key is recovered from its unknown location – some say it lies under the ogam-inscribed gravestone on Slieve Callan, east of Milltown Malbay, while according to others it was thrown into the little lake on the top of that mountain.

The city, with its golden-roofed palaces, churches, and towers, may at times be seen shining far below the surface. Once in every seven years it rises above the waves. But beware!! It is said that those who catch a glimpse of this city will die before it appears again.

Cill Stuifín is the Clare variant of the idea of an otherworld island, prevalent all along the west coast of Ireland. The feast day of St Stephen is December 26, and that of the sea-faring Irish saint Scoithín falls on January 2, exactly a week later. The name of the otherworld island in Clare (variously Cill Stuifín and Cill Stuithín) echoes both these saints, but Scoithín is the greater influence. Within the reef of Liscannor Bay there are submerged forests and bogs and this combined with the record of a great earthquake and tidal wave between 799 & 802AD may form the basis for the legends of the sunken city or lost island.

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