Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sligo and into Donegal

We're covering a lot of ground in this little island.  After yet another scrumptious Irish breakfast cooked to order by our host, we drove south west of Sligo town to walk up Knocknarea, described by Lonely Planet as Sligo's ultimate rock pile.  It's popularly believed to be the grave of legendary Queen Maeve and may be similar to the tomb at Newgrange.  It's never been excavated and an entrance has never been found.  It took us about 30 minutes to hike to the top and apart from one man we had the place to ourselves.

First view of the cairn from the trail.
To give you an idea of the size of this cairn, that's Lloyd in the centre.
The 360 degree view from this hilltop was spectacular but our pictures didn't do it justice.

We next went to Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, just a few kilometres away.  This is one of the largest stone age cemeteries in Europe--some 60 monuments have been identified and include stone circles, passage tombs and dolmens (large stones set in a circle with an even larger stone perched on top as a cap).   Some of these monuments are older than Newgrange by about 700 years.
Lloyd is sitting on one of the stones in the circle, and in the middle is a dolmen.  In the
background is Knocknarea.  You can just make out the cairn on top.
We stopped for lunch in Sligo town.  The poet W.B. Yeats loved this town and the surrounding countryside, and he is celebrated all around here.  There's a fascinating statue of him in the town centre.

The lovely texture is words, and I assume these are his poems--someone who knows his
poetry would enjoy giving this statue close scrutiny.  The only line I could remember
is "the lake isle of Innisfree" and try as I might, I could not find this...
We drove north into Donegal, home of Donegal tweed and the only spinning mill in Ireland.  We stopped in the centre of Donegal town--the place was packed with people enjoying a festival in the main square.  I made a beeline for Magee's and enjoyed stroking all the wonderful tweeds.  I was tempted by a beautiful purple tweed, however I am also remembered the beautiful Harris tweeds that I bought on spec in the Hebrides 8 years ago!  So I contented myself with buying a little packet of remnants instead....

We then drove west to the village of Kilcar where I knew the only active spinning mill Studio Donegal in Ireland to be.  We were in luck--we arrived 10 minutes before their posted closing time, and were able to chat with the head hand-weaver.  He also showed us the carding machines and the spinning mule but they weren't operating--this was after all, 4:50 PM on a Saturday!  After some delightful browsing in the shop, I picked up 3 skeins of Donegal tweed yarn, and then had a wonderful chat with the owner at the till who described the spinning mule with great detail--it was clear that he is passionate about it and his company, and it was wonderful to feel his optimism.  He said there are about 170 people in the Kilcar area directly employed in textiles, whether that's at this mill or in their homes.

We then drove even further west and checked into Slieve League Lodge for the night.  After dropping our bags in the room, we drove out a very narrow and twisting road to the cliffs at Slieve League proper--these are spectacular cliffs, 600 metres high and thought to be the highest in Europe.  We were lucky to see them with the western sun glinting on them.
This view was well worth the trip!

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