I should have finished all my posts about Ireland by now. I prefer my posts to be chronological, but I can’t get Ireland out of my head. It’s as if, when the writing is all done, I am afraid that I will be done with Ireland, and I’m not. I doubt I ever will be. I’ll be heading back there at every opportunity that presents itself.
In the meantime, here is, more or less, a photo essay from Co Sligo, which is the place I most want to go back to, the place where I felt utterly at home…..at least in the Fall weather. If I’m totally honest, not sure I could hack winters there after living in the Canaries’ climate for so long, but I’m putting it high on my list of places I may want to settle down again – one day.
These are some of the memories imprinted on my mind and heart, which didn’t fit into previous posts:
Strictly speaking, this striking sculpture stands over the Boyle Bypass, so I presume that we were in Roscommon and not Co Silgo at this point. It’s entitled Gaelic Chieften, and is the work of artist Maurice Harron. It fascinated me. It’s one of those works of art that the longer you look, the more you see, an image that your imagination seizes, and begins to weave stories around. When Ireland was on a roll, during the years of the Celtic Tiger, a substantial amount of money was set aside to improve roadsides aesthetically as well as maintenance-wise. Sadly, that’s ended for the moment, but, for me, it says a lot for a government that cares about the quality of life.
I love stories, myths, snippets of history, tales to chill or to cheer, and it seemed that everywhere we went there were stories. The first night we stayed in the imposing Clarion Hotel in Sligo, which was built as a lunatic asylum in 1847. Back then, in Ireland, as in Britain, and no doubt many other parts of the world, inconvenient family members (especially women – as in unwed mothers, for instance) were committed to places like this, and effectively disappeared from everyday life forever. St. Columba’s Asylum, as it was christened, was, apparently, a much more kind and modern establishment than most. In is unique in having two chapels, one Roman Catholic and one protestant, for instance. I have no doubt that the walls echo with stories, but our overnight stay wasn’t enough to learn about them.
Today’s hotel is as warm and friendly as I learned to expect from Irish hospitality, and I slept like a log in my comfy bed. It’s certainly on my list of places to which I want to return. I can’t help but wonder if ghosts roam those immaculate corridors.
Living in Tenerife I’d become accustomed over the years to a certain sense of being watched, not in a spooky way, but in the sense of having a guardian. You can’t live inTenerife without being uber-aware of the presence of El Teide, the volcano which you can see from almost every part of the island. In Sligo I had a similar feeling. In this case it was the brooding presence of Benbulben, enduring witness to so much Irish history and myth. Given the mists and that mysterious light you get when sunlight tries to penetrate the clouds, Benbulben’s presence was sentinel-like and dominant, shapeshifting as the light changed.
I did mention the church in Drumcliffe in my previous post, but here are some photos which didn’t fit into that – the beautiful doors of the church, a weathered Celtic cross in the graveyard, and a closer of the Yeats memorial….. which only his own words can really describe, those carved into the ground there:
Had I the Heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with gold 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.
And, finally, the place that really grabbed me, which seemed to combine the old and the new, creativity and relaxation, beauty and energy, Strandhill. Perhaps it was the mellow light, the sun about to set on a long, wild stretch of beach, but when we went back the next day in harsher light, with a chill breeze it still made my heart skip a beat.
I was lucky in my hotel room that night at the Strandhill Lodge. It had a skylight window, facing that setting sun, as it dipped over the landscape, and it was close enough to the ocean to breath in the atmosphere as I tucked myself into another comfy bed. It has long been a fantasy of mine to have a bedroom with a skylight, to have one with such a view from the skylight was beyond my dreams. Do you wonder I fell in love with Co Sligo?
I shall be eternally grateful to FáilteIreland, not to mention TBEX for the opportunity to explore the Wild Atlantic Way It was a whirlwind of a trip, and I could probably have spent at least a week at each stop to take it all in, but had I been wandering around on my own I doubt that I would have learned so much about Ireland.