Tag Archives: High cross

Postcards from the Wild Atlantic Way – Sligo poetry, scenery,history

imageMy wanders northwards along the Wild Atlantic Way continued into County Sligo. There is something about Sligo that I cannot quite describe. Ben Bulbin in the Dartry Mountain range with its distinctive plateau, has for decades intrigued me as it changes mood and profile almost with every mile. Over the years when making my way from my home in Limerick to my former home in Donegal, there was always a compulsory stop in Drumcliffe, Sligo to visit the resting place of one of our greatest poets, W.B.Yeats. On this trip however, I am not just passing through, I am here to explore places that have long since beckoned and beguiled me.

And so I took a right hand turn and followed the signs for Glencar, a place I know only from the Yeats poem, ‘A Stolen Child’.

Glencar straddles the border between Counties Sligo and Leitrim, and the lake did not disappoint! I half expected dozens of swan, but saw only two! The waterfall that falls from the side of Ben Bulbin into the lake below was a delight. I felt that I had ‘arrived’ – and why wouldn’t I, given that it inspired one of Ireland’s most famous poems – The Stolen Child.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. 

Onwards then to Drumcliffe, where there is a fine bronze and limestone depiction of one of my favourite Yeats poems: ‘He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’. This is a personal favourite, although the monument is difficult to photograph!

drumcliffe cloths of heaven

He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Under Ben Bulbin

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.

No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!

And here is that very ancient cross


Drumcliffe High Cross possibly dating from 11th Century, in the grounds of a former abbey.

Nearby is the early 19th Century Lissadell House, sitting on the shores of Sligo Bay. Yeats was a regular visitor here, then the home of  Gore-Booth, the 5th Baronet of Sligo. One of his daughters, Constance Gore-Booth, who with her sister etched her initials into the glass of a living-room window with a diamond ring, became the first female elected representative to Parliament at Westminster and later to Dail Eireann. Constance, who later became Countess Markievicz, poet, painter, suffragette, nationalist and patriot is commemorated here.

Her role in the rebellion of 1916 is proudly symbolized by the flying of the Irish tricolour alongside the house ..a fact that would have riled her family who did not use the ‘C’ word! (‘C’ being for Constance)


The Irish Tricolour flying at Lissadell House.

And so to Mullaghmore, that sparkles there on the vast expanse of Donegal Bay. On the evening of my visit there was country and western singing and dancing on the pier between the showers!  In the hinterland behind Mullaghmore is Classiebawn Castle, summer home for many years of Louis Mountbatten, inherited by his wife Edwina.


Classiebawn Castle

Mountbatten was related to Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip. The extended family were regular visitors to the area and were very well liked. On a Monday morning in August 1979, thugs of the Irish Republican Army put a bomb on a small fishing boat that carried Mountbatten, his daughter, grandchildren, extended family and a local boy on a family fishing outing. Two young boys aged 14 and 15 were killed, as was Mountbatten, then aged 79 and a female relative in her 80s. Two elderly people and two children were dead, with others suffering horrible injuries.

I loved this famine memorial at Mullaghmore because of the location with Classiebawn in the background.

Another sunset to end another wonderful day along the Wild Atlantic Way!



Filed under Ireland, Irish Countryside, Irish Heritage

Postcards from Kells, County Meath, Ireland

As we huddle and shiver our way through an Irish winter, it is a perfect time to recall the sunnier warmer lazier days of summer. At the winter solstice here in Ireland, we just about make 7 and a half hours of daylight, but in reality it seems much shorter under our wet leaden skies. Come January we can already see a ‘stretch’ in the evenings and we  can look forward to the heady days of midsummer that stretch out to a magnificent 17 hours of daylight. The longer days of summer are great for taking  day trips to discover unexplored  parts of Ireland. As a native Irish person living in Ireland,the ‘hidden Ireland’ never ceases to amaze me. I am often reminded of an Irish Tourist Board television advertising campaign from some years ago, for the domestic market  that had as a buyline: ‘You haven’t seen the half of it.’ I certainly have not, but I am working on it !

So to brighten these dark cold days, I am looking back at activities and intended posts that never saw the light of day. And where better to start than in the historic and very attractive little town of Kells in County Meath, possibly one of the oldest continuously settled places in Ireland. The name is familiar to many, because one of Ireland’s major cultural treasures and our most visited tourist attraction, The Book of Kells, takes its name from an Abbey in the town where it was kept for hundreds of years.  The Book of Kells is a 9th Century elaborately illuminated manuscript of the 4 Gospels. (This wonderful treasure is on permanent display at Trinity College Library, Dublin, where it has been held since 1661, much to the chagrin of some of the Kells locals.)

There is far more to Kells than the Book it does not have, for it has some of the most striking and unique  features of any town in Ireland, ranging from modern sculpture to Georgian buildings to ancient High Crosses and monastic remains. On the day I visited I was lucky enough to see much of what Kells has to offer.


The sculpture “Angel of the Past” is by a local artist, Patrick Morris, carved from a sycamore tree which stood here when Charles Stewart Parnell addressed the people of Kells about land rights for Irish tenants and Home Rule.

The sculpture “Angel of the Past” is by a local artist, Patrick Morris, carved from a sycamore tree which stood here when Charles Stewart Parnell (1846 – 1891) addressed the people of Kells about land rights for Irish tenants and Home Rule.

Just behind the sculpture, which stands in the Parnell memorial garden, is a symmetrical building which turns out to be a pair of schools – one for boys, one for girls. These were built  in 1840 by the generosity of  Catherine Dempsey, who bequeathed her entire fortune to the education and clothing of  poor children of the area.

Kells has some fine Georgian houses – many of which seem to be in use as private homes. I was particularly taken by some of the lovely door knockers!

Also in the main street is a very ornate drinking fountain, erected to the memory of a beloved spouse.

Kells is an ancient town where St Colmcille (or St Columba) established a monastery  in the 6th century. He was then exiled and he set up a monastery on the Scottish Island of Iona. It is thought that the Book of Kells was begun on Iona, and brought to Kells later when the monks fled Viking invaders. They reestablished the Kells monastery in 807.a.d
The remains of St Colmcille’s Monastery are in the grounds of St Columba’s Church of Ireland parish church.
The square tower is all that remains of the medieval church. There are some interesting carvings of 3 heads above the door.  The spire is an 18th Century addition.
Within the grounds are a round tower and  several High Crosses. The ringed High Cross is one of the most iconic of Celtic symbols and Kells has some fine examples. Dating from about the 9th or 10th Century,they stand up to 12 feet in height and are beautifully carved from blocks of limestone.

Away from the  monastery, and in front of the Heritage Centre stands the Market Cross. Like the others, it is elaborately carved with scenes depicting various biblical themes. This cross was supposedly used as a gallows after the uprising of 1798.

My stop in Kells was a short but enjoyable one, and I am glad to have finally ‘discovered’ such a rich and impressive heritage.  Kells is easily reached from almost any part of Ireland, is only 40 minutes from Dublin and should be a ‘must see’ for anyone interested in our rich heritage.

The Book of Kells can be viewed online here.



Filed under Ireland, Irish Countryside, Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Living in Ireland, My Travels

Irish culture – High Crosses with a local touch!

A lovely post from KnowThyPlace blog –  Irish culture comes in many guises –  look at the beautiful pictures and have a listen !


High Crosses, Craic agus Ceol – A Very Different Archaeo-tourism Experience!.

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Irish Traditional Music