11 October 2015, Sunday
We’d gotten a great deal at the Lough Eske—three nights for the price of two—and thoroughly enjoyed this wallow in luxury. My chubby middle-class self still is a little intimidated by such indulgences, but I admit I liked it. And I wasn’t too intimidated to mention the appalling behavior of the wedding party to the woman at the desk when we were checking out. (She was, of course, shocked, shocked.)
Today we’d be moving to a base in Galway City, from which we’d explore the Connemara area.
First we retraced the path to Sligo Town on the N15, with an eye out for sites of interest. I hoped to have a look at Ben Bulben again. (Well, OK, how can you miss it? But you know what I mean.)
And, wow, right there, without our looking for it, a brown sign. Creevykeel court tomb.
We’ve always noted that the ancients had a knack for finding the hill with the best view. Because, wow. We’re just a few hundred yards from the sea.
The ancients weren’t the only ones to appreciate this view. That’s Cassiebawn Castle (there’s that word again, for a building designed and built by Victorians) you see in the photo above. The land on which it stands was inherited around 1800 by a young Lord Palmerston, who set about—over a period of decades—
to improve both his lands and the condition of his tenants. He built schools and roads, drained the land, renovated the parish church, and commenced work on Mullaghmore harbour.
On visits to his Irish estate, Palmerston resided in the village of Cliffoney. He drew up plans for a more permanent residence on his estate. … Work then began on the site of the present Castle but Palmerston did not live to see the building completed. He died in 1865 aged 81 years.
The quoted material here is from Mullaghmore Heritage Notes, which has a detailed and very interesting list of the owners of the castle from the time Cassiebawn was built. (It was completed in 1874 by Palmerston’s stepson.) They were all rich British people, including, interestingly, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the very one who was killed by the IRA in August 1979 while boating off the coast from Cassiebawn. Right here.
But we were here to see the court tomb.
Rag trees are sometime called wishing trees or even raggedy bushes, and often they are near a holy well, though I can find no mention of one at the Creevykeel site. Still, it is a burial ground, six thousand years old. The ancients would have chosen this spot because they felt it had a mystical power, and that would be meaningful even today to some folks. Sometimes a fairy tree (different thing altogether) ends up having rags tied in it too. So it can be confusing. 🙂
The custom of hanging rags—in the hope that the illness or problem of the person whose rags are hung will disappear as the fabric rots—is an ancient one in Ireland, and it’s still prevalent among the traveller community.
And then there was the big pile of rocks dating from around 4000 BCE—the neolithic Creevykeel court tomb, or court cairn. (Don’t think “royalty” when you read court tomb; instead, think “courtyard.” I was confused by this for a while.) A cairn, of course, is a pile of rocks atop a gravesite. (Be sure to look at the links to get a sense of just how large this cairn is.)
The courtyard was reused in the Early Christian era for other purposes—specifically by ironworkers, who chose “holy” or sacred sites on which to do their work.
It is massive, this thing. Impossible to photograph in a way that makes sense.
The tomb—what is on the other side of the passageway with the enormous lintel stone—would have been roofed (with stone corbelling).
And we got back on the road, to drive into Mullaghmore. In mid-October, not much is happening in this sleepy little village, so we didn’t linger too long.
It’s a weird, bleak landscape, that drive out to the village and back. We were ready to hop onto the N15 again and get going.
Past Sligo Town we got on the N17, and twenty miles or so and we were ready for a cup of tea. We stopped in Charlestown (pop. 914).
Finally we got into Galway City. Found our way to the hotel, which, we were delighted to see, is written up in the book we’d bought. The Connacht.
That was a little reassuring, because, well, the place was definitely set up for the tourist trade. It’s huge. Impersonal. Not nealy as fancy as what we’d just come from. In fact, we were in what they called a family suite; you enter into a hall, off which there are three doors—a bathroom, a bedroom, and a living room/kitchen. Old style televisions! A view of the parking lot. Still, we got four nights here for half what three nights at Lough Eske cost.
We were worn out, though. We unpacked and then Gerry settled in to watch rugby—two games, including including Ireland beating France in the world cup finals—while I worked. Ordered room service later, then lights out.