Archive for July 2017

Last Day at Gramarye Cottage…..   Leave a comment

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and incidentally, the last Ireland post (since I blogged earlier about our actual last day.)

And the title’s a little misleading, since we didn’t actually spend the day at the cottage. But there you go. It was still our last full day at our beloved little temporary Irish ‘home’, and a fine day it was.

Not fine in the weather sense, of course. Not as relentlessly rainy as the day before, which was probably the worst weather day of them all, but it still rained, and the sun only put in occasional glimmers.

Slept better than the night before but still not particularly well, and went briskly through our morning routine (amazing how much faster it goes with no inTrawEbZ to distract me) and we were off to Parke’s Castle in County Sligo.

Like Enniskillen, Parke’s is a very nice castle in a very *managed* sort of way. I enjoyed it more, perhaps simply from being better rested. We got in for free, which was nice, because a large part of the castle was shut off for renovations, which was a pity. There was a fairly lengthy video to start with, and a lovely old well in the courtyard, and fine big battlement walls and an overgrown moat, and some nice dioramas and gorgeous woodwork in the castle, and a stormy grey sea billowing in the rain outside.

But Sligo Abbey was a gem. Just magnificent, ruined glory, SO much fun to scramble around. David liked it even better than Boyle, and I get it. Sligo is less fussed-with. Its stones lie where they fall, and there are marvelous obscure creepy subterranean chambers with broken bits of sarcophagi just begging to be tripped over, and dark doorways into dank places that drip, and graves EVERYWHERE. I love Boyle for its many and various and strange and Pagan-esque carvings, but Sligo’s slow decay is mesmerizing, especially set as it is right smack in the middle of a very busy, bustling town. We crawled over every inch of it and took so many pictures I’m afraid my phone will melt down when I try to upload them all.

One of my favorite things to see was James ______’s grave. His last name, his birth and death dates, and even his dear old mum’s name were all ruthlessly expunged, leaving only the mystery as to why this poor fellow had been so badly dissed after his expiration. What did he do to warrant being X-ed out like that although not (presumably) exhumed and evicted? Also the engraving reads ‘Here lies the boby of James….’ giving rise to the supposition that the engraver was illiterate. I myself think he may just have been a poor speller.

When we finally tore ourselves away we decided to lunch in Sligo, and remembered that my brother Richard, who came to Ireland with his wife a couple of years ago, told us that he’d had the best lasagna of his entire life while in Ireland. And since Richard is my much much much older brother, so old and wizened and desiccated and gnarled as to be absolutely fabulous, he may actually have something useful to say about lasagna.

On the other hand he’s a vegan and lasagna is cheesy, so it’s very suspect, but he confesses to indulging in the creamy goodness of cheese when he was there. And he was right- we went to an Italian restaurant where David got a calzone the size of a small baby and I got the best lasagna I may have ever had. Then we wandered briefly, snapping the shot of the pretty bridge at the start of this post, before heading off for our next adventure, the Megalithic Cemetery just outside of Sligo.

Next to ruined abbeys and castles, stone circles and prehistoric grave sites are pretty much my favorite thing in the world. I had no idea that this site was so huge, and so very very very packed full of ancient stoney burial things- dolmens and circles and capstones and one gigantic hollow herm. People brought their dead, and the offerings that went with them, to this place for thousands and thousands of years, going back 5700 years, older than Gilgamesh. We know nothing about the rites they performed, the prayers they sent up, the dances or religious plays they may have enacted, the music they played, the tears they wept. All of the details are lost in the mists of time, and the stones and the eternal grass hold their secrets and do not surrender them, but even across the lost millennia we can hold onto something they passed down to us along with our DNA and our upright posture- the strong call to honor and pay cultus to our beloved dead.

Rising magnificently behind the rolling fields of this cemetery is a hill topped by another burial mound, known as Maeve’s Nipple. Maeve was a legendary queen with tales much like King Arthur’s, with the expectation that she’ll ride out of her barrow with her warriors when Ireland has need of her. I imagine there have been a lot of folks pleading with her to make her grand return in recent centuries.

I felt no ghosts, and heard no whispers. I always hope I will, but I didn’t expect to and that’s good. I can’t honestly say whether it’s because there were a lot of tourists milling about, or that the site is so very ancient that all the spirits have long moved on, or if because my ancestry isn’t very Irish that I couldn’t hear them, or if I would need to be in ritual space, cleansed and prepared, in order to do so. But we were nonetheless moved and entranced and delighted and awed.

Didn’t hurt that there was a riding stable right across the road, and pastures full of beautiful horses and placid cows all around the acres and acres of peaceful dead.

Back in Leitrim County we decided to try and get into a lovely ruined church we’d passed many times near the cottage, but for which there didn’t seem to be a parking lot or any information. We just parked in front of the forbidding iron gates, and were pleased that there was a stile sort of arrangement that let us in. Like Sligo the main purpose of this one, called Fenagh Abbey, is apparently to be a cemetery, but this one is modern. We couldn’t get into the building itself, but through the cast iron gates we could see very neat and well-tended graves, obviously fairly recent, as well as a mix of old and new graves in the yard around the church. We poked about happily for a little while, took a few pictures and headed out. When we exited the gate we saw another car parked just a few feet from ours with a gentleman standing outside it. He didn’t speak or give us a dirty look or anything, but his presence was very clear- ‘Wot are you Americans doing poking around our cemetery? Clear orf, nah!’

And we did.

Back home for a nice tea by the waterfall, and a final early evening walk through the faery gardens. I loved seeing how drawn David was to the deep dark under the trees. He has Druid in his blood, I have no doubt.

David packed when we came in. I tried but wasn’t feeling it, so took my farewell offerings around the gardens in the deep dusk, candies and strawberries and cream. I knew the morning would be busy, so took my time and lingered in the most numinous spots, sending love and thanks.

I will never forget the spirits of this beautiful, beautiful place.

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Posted July 7, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Northern Ireland and Rain   Leave a comment

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Woke up Sunday morning to relentless rain after my first poor night’s sleep in Ireland, not a great combo. I had a cup of coffee which did almost nothing to revive me, but did manage to doze a little more on the couch. By the time we set out for our Northern Ireland day (in the relentless rain) I was still feeling pretty draggy.

Good drive up in spite of the weather, and I drove for a fair bit of it so David could sightsee. We finally drove through some actual mountainous areas, not seaside cliffs or big hills, and if there had been even a smidge of sun I’ll bet we would have stopped to take a zillion pictures and gasp. But as it was we just chugged straight on through to Enniskillen, just over the border (which is still wide open, pending Brexit complications.)

N.I. looks, obviously, like the Republic, since geography don’t care nothin’ about politics and boundary lines. But it’s different too, what with the signs being shown without the Gaelic (which is always listed first in Ireland) and the speeds in MPH, which was somewhat of a relief except that by then I was acclimated to Ks. But the roads are also wider and better paved, and with more visibility. I welcomed this, although the more groomed aspect overall didn’t please my Inner Wild Child as much as Ireland’s overgrown tangled opulence.

We made our way to Enniskillen Castle, our putative raison d’etre for making the drive, but I tell you true, I was just a little underwhelmed (possibly due to the relentless rain and poor sleep.) It’s a very nice castle, mind, but more of a museum, really. Very NICE museum, with interesting info and artifacts about the pre-literate history of the inhabitants of region, and some good dioramas about wars. But I tell you true, for me the highlight was the exquisite tea and cakes we had in the cafe.

I found a stone circle only 20 minutes from the Castle, and a stone circle was very much on my Things I Want To See list, so David obliged and we headed off, in the relentless rain. Enniskillen is a biggish town, but like the rest of Ireland, it ends so abruptly that it seems cut off with a sword, and you’re back out into the countryside again. A few miles of smallish roads (but not the nightmares around the Cottage which we now consider ‘home’) we found our stone circle, which we had all to ourselves due to the relentless rain. It was a fascinating circle, although there was little info on the site about it other than that some neolithic potsherds ┬áhad been found there. The wind was strong and bitter, and the rain relentless, so we walked around briefly and took some photos, but didn’t stay to listen for whispers, or for me to do a nice little EBR the way I was able to in the Lake District of England.

Next on our agenda was the Lough Ryan Castle, right nigh to our Cottage in Mohill, so back home we drove, and were treated on the way to the odd slice of sunshine slanting through the clouds and lighting up a mountainside, which just thrilled us.

You can see why people ask us what we’ve been up to and we just gaze blankly at them. It can’t be quite normal to be that dang tickled about a sunbeam. In our defense, the rain had been relentless.

Lough Ryan Castle promised, according to the handy brochure, a druid altar (spelled alter in the brochure, Gods give me strength) and dolmen. Well, we drove round and round and up and down and found not a friggin’ thing except a huge tarted up trophy resort. We finally flagged down a waiter in a parking lot, who looked blank and then told us where to go to find it, but said it was so overgrown that it was probably impossible to locate. And he was right.

Boo hiss to Lough Ryan Castle for having a druid altar and not bothering to maintain so much as a footpath to it with a wee sign.

This disappointment after a day of relentless rain sent us home slightly despondent, so we built a fire and snuggled in blankets in front of it. Then David fixed a dinner that couldn’t be beat, and when we finished the sun burst through, briefly but miraculously. We cheered and went out for a post dinner walk, for miles, through fields of splendor on lanes paved with magic. Thus the day ended brilliantly, and we tucked ourselves in happily for an early night.

Posted July 6, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized