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.
It’s quite a view. And what’s that in the distance? The Mullaghmore Peninsula.
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.
You can even see the little community of Mullaghmore from the Creevykeel site.
But we were here to see the court tomb.
As we approached, we saw the rag tree.
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.
I’d heard of rag trees but hadn’t seen one until this day.
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.)
Standing at the head of the cairn, with the entrance into the court[yard].
Now standing inside the court, looking at the entrance to the tomb. In the foreground, the smelting kiln.
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.
A closer look at the kiln.
The site was excavated in 1935, and the lintel stone, which once stood upright, was placed on its side, atop the two portal stones.
It is massive, this thing. Impossible to photograph in a way that makes sense.
This is what you see when you enter. The court is on the other side of those pointed rocks in the left of the photo. (Remember you can always click to enlarge.)
More of Creevykeel.
The tomb—what is on the other side of the passageway with the enormous lintel stone—would have been roofed (with stone corbelling).
Looking west, toward the sea.
You can see the highway through the branches in the center. Good-bye, rag tree.
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 has a pretty beach.
A little port (seen here at low tide). Creevykeel would be about a mile on the other side of the beach.
With a magnificent view of Ben Bulben. Don’t these trucks and boats look like toys?
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.
I really wanted another shot at Bel Bulben, and I got it.
And while I was at it—I was just parked on the side of the road—I saw these two horses in the distance.
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).
We stopped at the Market Café. Tea and scones. And it was good.
We had a nice table by the window.
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.