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Special Places in Ireland: Part One

November 14, 2008

Special Places in Ireland: Part One
There are some special places in Ireland that “speak to me”. No matter how many times I visit, these places have a “magical” hold that brings me back repeatedly. They are places to dream about long after my trip is over. Everyone has their own special places and memories. These are some of mine.

Loop Head Co. Clare: This is the end of the earth. The edge of the world. Man’s only intrusion is the old lighthouse guarding the cliffs. Flower-studded sea stacks seem close enough to touch. Seabirds wheel overhead and the ocean crashes below your feet. Walk around the headland breathing the heady salt-scented air. Picnic on the springy grass. Gaze through the distant sea haze toward the place where the sky and ocean meet. Or do they meet? Is it all just an illusion and a great void? Loop Head is peaceful and dramatic and overwhelming all at the same time.

Sligo: Yeats’ called it “The Land of Heart’s Desire” and requested he be buried under the majestic mountain Ben Bulben. If it inspired one of Ireland’s greatest poets there has to be something special there. Ancient monuments inbue the air with their mysteries where the mountains meet the sea. Little islands float dreamily on mirrored lakes laced with waterfalls. Strangely shaped mountains brood over hidden valleys where legendary lovers hid in caves from the king’s men. Few tourists venture this far north or take the time to feel the primeval mystique.

Glendalough Co. Wicklow: This place has it all. Lakes, mountains, woods and waterfalls. An ancient saint chose the heavenly valley for his hermitage and attracted a great following to his little hideaway. Which legend to believe? St. Kevin drowned a woman in the lake for bothering him? Or he gently fed an orphaned baby by milking a white deer? The lake is still there – deep and mysterious – shadowed by green mountains. The megalithic Deer’s Stone remains where Kevin caught the milk in rounded depressions. There is a holy well and rag tree along with the famous round tower and Christian remains. Will you find the ancient auras if you visit the interpretative center and take the tour? Not likely. Can you imagine the legends on a weekend in July when the whole population of Ireland is trampling the venerable site? Don’t think so. Glendalough is a place of solitude chosen by a hermit monk. Go very early in the morning or in the evening before or after the tourists disrupt the atmosphere.

Inch Strand Co. Kerry: Ocean and sand, dunes and sky. Children with ice cream cones running and squealing with delight, lovers strolling hand-in-hand, the local gliding club landing and taking off, fishermen in waders with long lines disappearing into the sea. It can be a carnival near the entrance to the strand. But the dune-backed beach extends four miles into the channel, almost meeting another finger of sand on the other side. Stroll away from the crowds and find the solitude of land’s end. Watch the churning tide rush between the peninsulas that seem to be straining to touch. Did they meet long ago? Feel the sand crunching under your feet. Hear the roar of the ocean. See the lapping waves and the gulls soaring through the sky. Smell the briny sea. Inch Strand is a feast for the senses.

Cong Woods Co. Mayo: There has to be a reason John Ford chose the tiny village of Cong for his epic Irish fairy tale of a movie “The Quiet Man”. The scenery, ah the scenery! The little village is picturesque, the abbey charming and Ashford Castle is grand. But wander out in back of the abbey to Cong Woods. Cross over the river by way of the old stone bridge. Enter into the enchanted glade through a pointed archway benignly watched over by the carved head of a monk. Fallen leaves carpet the pathway. A green, mossy smell permeates the still air. Is it a Monet painting? No just the trees reflected in the still waters. Is that glimpse from the corner of your eye one of the little people? If they are to be found…perhaps here?

© 2008 Michele Erdvig

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 14, 2008 4:26 AM

    Wonderful writing, Michele. It made me even more “home” sick! For those of us who return often, it does seem that we have those places which draw us back time & again. It is in slowing down and absorbing that we make that special connection.

    Of those that you mentioned, Glendalough & the Cong Woods are on my list, as well. I always get the feeling that time stops when you pass under the Monk’s gaze or step on to on eof Glendalough’s pathes.

    Slan agus Barrogs, Bit

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