We explored the coast of Sligo on the kind summer’s evening that was typical in Ireland this year: heavy rain and high winds. We took the coast road under the Ox Mountains and passed into the Irra peninsula. There are many ancient sites around Sligo Bay and the Irra has some of the most significant sites in Ireland.
High on the slopes Knocknarea (the Hill of the Kings) stands the huge and ancient grave of Queen Maeve, provocateur in the ancient legend Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley).
At Rosses Point there is a beautiful and very moving sculpture called ‘Waiting On The Shore’. The plaque reads:
Lost at sea, lost at sea Or in the evening tideWe loved you, we miss youMay God with you abide
We hadn’t much light left as we reached the western slopes of Ben Bulben. We turned right into the Magherow peninsula and drove to the western edge to see last light but the horizon was grey and the rain clouds above us were dark and heavy. There were great views here of Knocknarea on one side and Ben Bulben on the other and there was a fine Atlantic ‘summer breeze’ so it was a good thing we were suitably dressed 🙉.
But for Ben Bulben and Knocknarea,Many a poor sailor’d be cast away
Many of Sligo’s natural landmarks have been endowed with mythical and spiritual significance in Irish literature and mythology. North of Sligo town rises the distinctive slopes of Ben Bulben which is the setting of many tales in Irish mythology and is said to be the final resting place of the mythical lovers Diarmaid and Grainne. I have always wanted to see Ben Bulben; it is so unlike the low and softly rounded hills that are more typical of Ireland’s mountain ranges. It seems like a natural choice for the settings of ancient drama. This evening it’s high plateaus were covered by low mists and it made it all the more mysterious.
Under bare Ben Bulben’s headIn Drumcliff chuchyard Yeats is laid
– from Yeats’s last poem, ‘Under Ben Bulben’
This part of Ireland has strong associations with the famous Irish poet W. B. Yeats. So much so that this part of Ireland is also called Yeats country. The natural beauty and ancient mysteries of the area greatly inspired and influenced Yeats’s poetry. East of Sligo town in the lake of Lough Gill is the setting of his famous poem ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’.
Our last stop before dark was to visit Yeats’s grave in Drumcliff churchyard. His poem, ‘He Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven’ is inscribed on the ground of Drumcliff churchyard. It is one of Yeats’s most well known and well loved poems.
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,Enwrought with golden and silver light,The blue and the dim and the dark clothsOf night and light and the half light,I would spread the cloths under your feet:But I, being poor, have only my dreams;I have spread my dreams under your feet;Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.