#50 – “Hy-Brasil”

Out in the ocean west of Ireland lies Hy-Brasil. Whispered of for centuries, the island was first marked on a map in the C14th. No longer though, for Hy-Brasil is enchanted. Visible only every 7 years. Last sighted in 1872, its next appearance will be in 2026.


On the ocean that hollows the rocks where ye dwell,

A shadowy land has appeared, as they tell;

Men thought it a region of sunshine and rest,

And they called it Hy-Brasail, the isle of the blest.

From year unto year on the ocean’s blue rim,

The beautiful spectre showed lovely and dim;

The golden clouds curtained the deep where it lay,

And it looked like an Eden, away, far away. 

— From Hy-Brasil – Isle of the Blest by Gerald Griffin, taken from Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888) [1]

In 1325, an Italian-Majorcan cartographer named Angelino Dulcert included the island of “Bracile” off the west coast of Ireland on his latest nautical chart, and in doing so he created the oldest surviving cartographic record of the island of Hy-Brasil. Already spoken of for centuries, the island’s name is thought to derive from the Irish Uí Breasail meaning “descendants of Bresail clan“, who were themselves the descendants of the ancient High Kings of Ireland. The island was often depicted on those early maps as a perfect circle, bisected by a large central river. 

Under the heading Hy-Brasail in Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1898), we find the following information:

“The people of Aran [a group of three islands located at the mouth of Galway Bay, on the west coast of Ireland], with characteristic enthusiasm, fancy, that at certain periods, they see Hy-Brasail, elevated far to the west in their watery horizon. This has been the universal tradition of the ancient Irish, who supposed that a great part of Ireland had been swallowed by the sea, and that the sunken part often rose and was seen hanging in the horizon: such was the popular notion. The Hy-Brasail of the Irish is evidently a part of the Atlantis of Plato.” [2] 

Many sources tell of a Captain John Nisbet having landed on Hy-Brasil in 1674, finding the island populated by strange, huge black rabbits and a lone man who lived in a castle. This account however, is taken from a satirical pamphlet written and distributed by Irish author, playwright and bookseller Richard Head at the time. [3]

It is possible that Old Irish tales of Hy-Brasil stem from folk-memory, and tales passed down over generations. 120 miles (220 km) west of Ireland lies Porcupine Bank – a sea-shoal which, thousands of years ago, would have been visible above the waves. 


  1. https://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/yeats/fip/fip56.htm
  2. https://www.sacred-texts.com/earth/teia/teia24.htm 
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Head