We have been exploring the Sligo area as well as doing some painting. Yesterday we visited Sligo Abbey, the only monestary in Ireland not destroyed by the British during the disolution of monasteries. It was occupied by monks until the late 19th century. However, it had fallen into disrepair and soon became a ruin and the grounds became a city cemetary. This abbey sits in the middle of downtown Sligo. One interesting feature is the wishing stone that is still used by locals today. I’ve included a picture of the stone with Jean’s hand making a wish.
We tried to visit Carrowkeel, a megalithic tomb site, but got rained out. It is on a mountaintop and involves hiking from one ridge to another. The stone age people built one tomb at the head of each ridge. With rain and wind it just didn’t seem like fun to hike several miles across unknown and poorly marked mountains with only sheep to guide us. Therefore, we descended the mountain to Loch Gill, the site of W.B. Yeats’ famous Isle of Inisfree. Parkes Castle sits at the upper end of the loch and is the gateway for boat rides. Again, rain threatened and the boat rides turned out to be less than regular so we opted to tour the castle. It was a great tour with an archeologist turned tour guide (due to the economy). She gave us a wonderful feeling for what life was like in the castle. She also confided that the boat didn’t stop at Inisfree because it’s a very small island with no buildings or trails.
Today we visited the Niland Gallery in Sligo to see some of their Jack Yeats collection on display. We were somewhat disappointed to learn that we had missed a major Jack Yeats exhibit by 2 weeks. However, about 20 paintings were still on display and made the trip worthwhile. We had wonderful chats with a couple of the docents and one of the gallery staff. In the end we bought 3 Jack Yeats books and had them sent home so we can enjoy them next winter.
Our day ended with a trip to Carrowmore megalithic site. This is one of the oldest domen tomb and stone circle sites in Ireland. The oldest dating so far is about 5000 BC, but most of the site is from 4000 BC. It is astounding to realize that these monuments are 6000 years old. These tombs were heavily looted by Bronze Age, Iron Age, Elizabethan, and Victorian folks seeking riches or building materials. Despite that about 30 tombs remain is differing levels of completeness. It is a large site that requires some hiking. I’ve included a few pictures from the day.
In the evening our landlord, Tom Brown, and his daughter Evelyn took me to the peat bog to show me how the turf is gathered and dried for our stoves. Tom belongs to a coop rather than owning his own bog. He contracts for so much turf and the coop digs it for him, laying it out in long rows. Tom and Evelyn then had to come along and stack the turf “logs” into ricks so the turf will dry. He keeps about a year ahead by keeping a supply in a large shed behind our house. That makes the truf exceptionally dry, burning hot and almost smoke free. Tom also showed me around his property with a nice organic garden and his own private nursery of trees which he is using to reforest the land between us and the shore of the loch. It was an enjoyable and educational evening.