Everyone was making plans for travel for “The Long Weekend” – so I decided to join the exodus and hit for Leitrim for 2 days. Why Leitrim?
A friend suggested that I enter a piece of Felt sculpture for an exhibition in the Leitrim Design Centre.
The two-an-a-half hour drive was too long for return trip in one day. Leitrim is a county I had only driven through and when I googled it, amazingly, it bore similarities to some of my other 2019 travels.
• Like Slovenia it has a very short coastline: it has the shortest coastline of any maritime county in Ireland (2.5 miles of coastline).
• Like Maastricht and the Netherlands, the south of the county is flat although has a hilly and mountainous landscape in its north-west.
• Access to much of the county is provided by The Shannon and Shannon–Erne Waterway provide access to much of the county in somewhat the same way as the canals in Holland.
It’s a county that inspired some of Yeats’ poetry:
Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. (The Stolen Child by W.B. Yyeats)
Probably because of the Bank Holiday weekend it was quite difficult to find accommodation. So when I found Bluebell House B&B in Manorhamilton with a relatively reasonable vacancy I made that my destination.
My first stop was Manorhamilton Castle, Visitors Centre and a truly gorgeous cafe. One of the locals told me the story of the castle as we sipped coffee on the lawn. Sir Frederick Hamilton after whom the town is called, was renowned for his cruelty and brutality. The current owner (and also the tour guide) is a very pleasant gentleman who is delighted to describe the many artifacts and costumes that are on display.
He recommended a drive around Glenade(Glen of Jealousy) Lake for the afternoon. The Dartry Mountains somewhat akin to Table Mountain in Capetown surround the lake which has a reputation for fishing. Perhaps because of the huge perch that have been caught there, the lake has a monster legend, immortalised in poetry which tells the story of the Dobhar Chú which, together with its mate, emerged from the depths of the lake centuries ago to reign tragedy to the local area.
Not far along I also visited Eagle’s Rock (Carraig an Iolair), the highest free-standing natural rock tower on the island of Ireland, standing at 330m tall.
My next port of call, a few miles outside Kiltyclogher was the home of Sean Mac Diarmada. This gorgeous little house is a designated National Monument, owned and maintained by OPW in its original condition. It is of considerable historic importance as it is the only existing home of any of the seven signatories of the proclamation. OPW workers were doing some garden cleaning when I arrived but they were more than happy to give me the key of the cottage and let me ramble around. The three roomed little house A copy of Sean’s early writing for school included some stories about his friends, pages from his sum copy, all in the most beautiful script.
Access to all the sites I visited is via quite narrow and windy roads. However they all have parking facilities as well as story boards in English and as Gaeilge describing the geological features, the history and the lore.
Finally, I hit off for Bluebell House. Kathleen, the owner was a joy. Originally from England she had great stories about the locality as well as advice on where to dine! The Courthouse in Kinlough is dscribed as “every foodies must visit restaurant” and it certainly lived up to its name. Driving restrictions meant that I couldn’t have a glass of wind=e with my meal, but the waitress recommended bringing a bottle back to the B&B – a vegan Pinot Grigio. What a great way to end a day – sitting up in bed watching Corrie and sipping an excellent wine.
After a lovely breakfast prepared by the landlord (herself isn’t great on the eggs!!!) and shared with a Dutch family (who are as enthralled by this county as I am) I hit for home. The sunny weather of yesterday was replaced with threats of rain so I decided to do some scenic driving while there was visibility.
Outside Drunkeeran, I took the road up into the mountains overlooking Lough Allen. I drove up (ear popping high) through a wild landscape, Wind Turbines standing like huge aliens around the mountain until I came to (once again) a signposted car park. Seemingly Scardan means “mist that comes off a waterfall as the water rushes down”. As the rain had decided to bucket down at this stage and the path to the actual Falls was steep and uneven, I decided to give it a miss. But, f or a while, I did have a great view of Lough Allen.
The weather didn’t give any hint that it would improve so I decided to hit for an indoor activity – the Arigna Mining Experience. Again located overlooking Lough Allen this centre is a community inspired initiative that preserves the 400 year coal mining heritage of this area. The mine tours are all conducted by ex-miners: and his real life stories coupled with the experience of being underground, the sound and light effects make the trip so memorable. While you wait for the tour there is a DVD presentation as well as an audio visual of interviews with miners’ wives, the local doctor, a mine owner and of course miners themselves. A cup of coffee and a scone and the purchase of Dermot Laydon’s book A Life’s Catch finished off the visit nicely before I headed for home!