Lough Gur – A Magical Lake In County Limerick

Lough Gur is a mystical lake in County Limerick, reported by locals to hide a magical realm beneath its glistening surface.  Lough Gur may not feature on most tourist’s lists of places to see when visiting the Emerald Isle, but believe it or not, it is one of Ireland’s most important historical sites.

Scenic Lough Gur

Lough Gur boasts rich evidence of ancient Irish life, Neolithic dwellings, man made islands (crannógs), pillar stones, ruined castles, a large Bronze Age stone circle, and a wedge tomb.

Visiting Lough Gur is always on my “to do” list when I spend time in Ireland. One of my favorite childhood haunts, it lies less than twenty miles from our family farm. Here my imagination runs wild. I love to recount old legends to my children.  Faeries, enchantresses and wild knights inhabit these shores and waters.

Today I thought I would finally share some of last summer’s photos of this glorious spot.

A Swan By Lough Gur

Lough Gur’s current shape is very different to its circular outline of ancient times.  Today, meandering shores kiss the feet of surrounding hills. Before the 1840′s the lake’s water levels rose much higher.

The Hill of Knockadoon lies on its eastern side, but once formed a large island in the middle of the lough. Drainage schemes in the 1840′s lowered lake waters, revealing many of its archaeological treasures.

Visitor's Center at Lough Gur

The Interpretative Center, built in a thatched replica of a Neolithic hut, offers audiovisual overviews of the area, bringing to life over 6,000 years of archaeology and history.

“The Giants Grave” is a wedge shaped tomb dating back to around 2,500 B.C..

Grange Stone Circle is composed of 113 standing stones. Dating back to 2,200 B.C., it is the largest stone circle in Ireland.

Crannogs at Lough Gur

On the summit of the surrounding hill, Knockfennel, there is a ring-cairn of stones. Upon archaeological excavation pockets of burnt human bones were found.  Yikes!!!! Our ancient ancestors were a crazy bunch.

Island in Lough Gur

Bolin Island – a man made island.

Over one thousand years ago the local inhabitants built Bolin island as a defense against their enemies. This artificial island is called a ‘crannóg’, from “crann” the Irish word for tree. When under attack the farmers of Lough Gur retreated to their island by an underwater causeway, lifting the bridge to deny admission to their attackers.

Lough Gur, County Limerick

During excavation of one of Lough Gur’s ring forts a hoard of Danish silver was discovered suggesting the presence of Vikings.

Castle at Lough Gur

Bouchier’s Castle is a typical tower house with defensive balconies and a causeway guarding its approach. It is currently listed for restoration, so hopefully government budgets will soon allow work to begin.

Informational Sign at Lough Gur

An Informative Shield Sign Recounting An Ancient Mythical Tale Of The Lake

Stories of a mystical past abound. One folk tale of the lake recounts the enchanted fate of Gerald Fitzgerald, 3rd Earl of Desmond  (1338 to 1398), a Chief Justice of Ireland and a poet in both Irish and French.  Supposedly he never died, but now lives beneath the waters.

Lough Gur in Ireland

Every seven years this lost Fitzgerald emerges from the lake, riding his white steed, shod with glistening silver shoes. He gallops around the shore and across the lake before returning to his watery home. The legend foretells he will regain his mortal form when he finally wears away his horse’s silver shoes. If I ever bump into him, I must remind him to stick to the hard shores for his midnight rides. He’ll never wear out those shoes riding across the water. When he returns for good he will restore the glory of the Desmonds.

Lakeside Walk at Lough Gur

Another famous Fitzgerald with connections to this area is Honey Fitz, Mayor of Boston and grandfather of the 35th President of the United States. The family of John Francis Fitzgerald (1863 – 1950) emigrated to Boston from this area.  He was known as “Honey Fitz” because of his beautiful singing voice.

View of Lough Gur from top of the scenic walk

Many other folk tales exist recounting tales of the goddess Áine known to sit by the lake combing her golden tresses.

I found a wonderful website, Voices From The Dawn, which dedicates a full post to the history and folklore of Lough Gur.  Here you will find short videos of the late Tom McNamera, the storyteller of Lough Gur, recounting the mythical tales of these waters.

For anyone interested in visiting this beautiful lake, the Lough Gur website includes plenty of helpful and informative information.

If you’re the type of tourist who enjoys getting off the beaten path and visiting the treasures of hidden Ireland, then a trip to Lough Gur should feature on your list of places to see.

Wishing visitors to Ireland, this summer and always, happy, educational and exciting adventures.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

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Glencar Waterfall And Lake

There was no shortage of rain during my quick trip to Ireland this month. Glencar Waterfall in County Leitrim was  particularly impressive after so much precipitation. Plenty of water cascaded over the falls, even if the foggy light was less than optimal for photos.

Glencar Lake

On the drive to the waterfall I stopped by Glencar Lough to snap these gray shots of the lovely lake.

Reeds On Glencar Lake

Just 8 miles north of Sligo town, the drive to the waterfall takes you through beautiful scenery along the foot of Ben Bulben and the shores of Glencar Lough.

Boat By Glencar Lake

Despite being overcast and wet, the lake rippled romantically in the gloom.

Sheep On Road To Glencar Waterfall

 The car park greeter wore a wet, woolly coat.

Sheep By Glencar Lake

Sheep grazed on the soggy shores of the lake. The car park opposite the falls overlooks the lake where I took this shot of the flock.

The River From Glencar Waterfall

The waterfall is just a short walk from the car park. The sound of rushing water fills your ears. As I crossed the road I felt my heart quicken in expectation. Waterfalls are beautiful, and no matter how many waterfalls you ever see in a lifetime, the prospect of another veil of cascading water always makes the heart sing.

And as I worked my way along the wooded path, my heart galloped in sync with the thundering water.

I remembered the words of Yeats’ poem, The Stolen Child, which immortalized this mystical place.

Glencar Waterfall

“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.”

 Side View Of Glencar Waterfall, Co. Leitrim

“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.”

 

Plunge pool of Glencar Waterfall

I stood at the top of the wet steps, leaning on the fence watching the lacy froth of the glorious plunge pool.  Glencar is magical, just as Yeats proclaimed. Wandering along the looping paths, breathing the finely misted air you can’t help but imagine the faeries dancing here at night.

Stone Bridge At Glencar Waterfall

The previous time I visited Glencar I was probably only ten years old. Back then the path to the waterfall was muddy and treacherous. The new decking, bridges, and beautifully maintained paths make this wonderful place accessible to those who are not so nimble of foot.

Some purists may believe the natural beauty of the waterfall is somewhat eclipsed by all the levels of decking, but I thought it was very tastefully done.

Goodbye Sign At Glencar Waterfall

As you say goodbye to the waterfall don’t forget there are some wonderful hiking trails for the more adventurous.  Wooded trails wind through the trees, meandering in loops up the steep incline along the flanks of Ben Bulben, and finally emerging over the waterfall.

This trip I had no time to take the rocky path to the top, but next time….. Yes, next time I hope to scale those mysterious heights.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

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Foggy Ben Bulben

On my recent trip to Sligo I hoped to take some nice photos of Ben Bulben, the county’s spectacular tabletop mountain. William Butler Yeats is buried at its foot in the graveyard at Drumcliffe.

Ben Bulben

Ben Bulben

Image Credit

This lovely photo is a sample of what I dreamed of shooting.

Foggy Ben Bulben

This is my best effort.

Alack and alas the weather did not cooperate.

Perhaps I shouldn’t blame the weather, only my own misguided optimism after a glorious sunny few hours on the first day of my trip.

Lough Gill, Co. Sligo

Lough Gill, Co. Sligo

I spent my first afternoon on the banks of Lough Gill taking sunny lake photos. On the way back to Sligo I drove around a bend to behold a magnificent view of a sunlit Ben Bulben.

The sharp bend of the road made me think twice about stopping, so I drove on a little until I found a spot to park my car.  Out I popped and snapped a few shots of Sligo town with the mountain of Knocknarea in the distance.

IMG_0856

Delighted with my photos, I considered driving towards Ben Bulben to find a spot to go snap happy. Looking at the beautiful blue skies I grew optimistic about the infamous Irish weather.  Instead of pressing on with my photo shoot plans, I made the decision to explore further the next day.

View Of Knocknarea From The Glasshouse Hotel

View Of Knocknarea From The Glasshouse Hotel

Wrong choice!!

 

Bad decision!!

 

The next day dawned gray and cloudy. The wind didn’t “bundle up the clouds, high over Knocknarea”. Instead Atlantic mists blanketed the bay, the mountains and the town.

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Fat rolls of fog furled and curled and rolled down the steep slopes of Sligo’s lovely mountains.

And the moral of my story is ….

…. never bank on two sunny days in a row in Ireland. If the

sun is shining then keep taking photos, until the sun sets

and says goodnight. The sun calls it quits, not you.

 

In Ireland, you can never be assured of mother nature’s cooperation.  It could take her days or even weeks before letting the sun peep out, to once again illuminate Ireland’s spectacular scenery.

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

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When I Think Of Ireland …..

“When I think of Ireland….”  What comes to mind as you attempt to finish this sentence?

Last month, as part of our giveaway for My Ireland Box, entrants were asked what crafts come to mind when thinking of Ireland, or simply to tell us what they love about Ireland.  The answers posted by readers were beautiful, awe inspiring, and lyrically poetic.

I thought I might share some readers’ words today, because they captured so much of what is good about Ireland. 

When you search online for reasons to love Ireland, lists of the usual suspects like pubs, Guinness, shamrocks and leprechauns appear. While these are all valid reasons, I think all of you captured something more spiritual in your answers. So much so, I believe they are deserving of a blog post all of their own.

And so without further ado, here is a selection of your beautiful words:

 Ireland Collage

“When I think of Ireland, I think of comfort food, great

scenery, awesome music, pride, and warm people. I think of a

homeland that I haven’t stepped foot on, but know my heart is

always there.”

- Christina

 

“I love how friendly the people are

and how beautiful the country is.”

- Beth

 

 

“When I think of Ireland, I think of the beautiful green

countryside and the wild sea, cozy pubs full of laughter

and smoke, foamy stouts, mouth-watering fish and chips,

creamy potato soup, and rustic breads.”

- Erin

Colcannon

“I studied abroad in Ireland last year, and cherish my

memories of walking around Galway enjoying the booths filled

with everything from jewelry to knitted garments to fresh

food. Now, each time I see an Irish-made good, it fills me with

comfort and happiness.”

- Emily

 

 

“I literally love everything about Ireland. I love

the green hills, I love the accents, I love the food,

I love the cozy atmosphere of the homes people

get to grow up in. I just love it.”

- Elizabeth

 

 

“When I think of Irish crafts, I think of wooden boats,

knitted sweaters, and musical instruments.

When I think of Ireland, I think of the beauty

of the land and the sea and the people.”

- Kari

Photos Of Ireland In Collage

“Since discovering Celtic Thunder 2 years ago my love for the

Irish and Ireland has grown. I have many Irish friends now

and the way they talk of Ireland makes me long for it too. 

Everything seems magical and beautiful there – the feel of the

nature surrounding you! They are a very warm and friendly

people. They put a lot of care and love into what they do.”

- Elaine

 

“When I think of Ireland or any craft that may come from

there, I think of the purest happiness I have ever found, I

found on those shores. The most genuine people, the most

precious land and where my heart feels at its most real home.”

- Chrissy

 

“… My heart is Irish and I dream in GREEN!!!!”

- Marie

Six Photos Of Ireland

“…. We haven’t found an unpleasant person in Ireland.

They have all been very helpful, funny and just so nice.”

- Mary

 

“The beauty of Dingle and the whole peninsula is tough to

match. From the Sleeping Giant, Connor’s Pass, Beehive Huts,

Inch Beach and further inland the lakes of Killarney, they all

take you to a magical place. So much history, kindness that is

matched by none, and a richness in heritage, all shape this

area. Great products from the sea, brown bread, cheeses, Celtic

Cross jewelry, beautiful paintings, pottery, they abound.

An isle full of wealth, not necessarily always monetarily,

but a sincere pureness.”

- Catherine

 

“I am very proud of my heritage. I come from a line of

survivors. Passed down through generations was the love of

baking, cooking, writing, reading, crocheting…..all Irish.”

- Betty

Irish Photos

“When I think of Ireland, I think of my Nana

and the stories she told me about the stories

and love woven into the items that were knitted.

I also wear her cross that has stones from Connemara.”

- Carol

 

I always think of wonderful handknitted sweaters, Irish

tweeds, and all shades of green when Ireland is mentioned.

I think also of hot scones and strong tea with a splash of milk.

Hope that one day I can visit.

- Wendy

 

“I think of beautiful scenery, emerald green fields,

a brisk wind weaving the grasses, the kiss of dew on leaves. 

The food, the peat fires, the simple life.”

- Maile

 

Thanks to everyone for their lovely comments, and above all for your love of Ireland.  And a big thanks to Katharine from My Ireland Box who sponsored our giveaway.  Tomorrow I will reveal the lovely surprise contents of the April craft box.  Subscribers received it by mail a few days ago, so hopefully I won’t need any spoiler alerts.

Feel free to continue this conversation in the comments section below.  I love to hear what stands out about Ireland, what makes it different, and special for you.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

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The Celtic Cross by SS Hampton, Sr.

Today I am pleased to share a guest post from SS Hampton, Sr. a full blooded Choctaw Indian from Oklahoma.  While researching the links between his tribe and the Irish he came across my blog and a post I wrote about the Choctaw Nation’s link to the people of Ireland at the time of the Great Hunger. 

He wrote this guest post about his heartfelt connection to the Celtic Cross, a well loved symbol of Ireland.  I am honored to share his story with you today, to celebrate the connection so many people all over the world feel with Ireland.

 Celtic Cross

I am a Choctaw Indian from Oklahoma. Aside from the historical connection between my tribe and the Irish as a result of the 19th century famine known as “The Great Hunger,” I have always appreciated many things Irish, to include the music, dancing, and mythology. A friend and I even went to see Riverdance when they performed in Denver, Colorado many years ago.

Among the many things Irish that I appreciate is the Celtic Cross. I have no explanation why, I just do.

The Celtic Cross, carved from stone or wood, consists of a cross superimposed over a ring, and both are often decorated with Celtic-styled artwork. According to legend the cross was introduced by Saint Patrick during his conversion of the Irish, though Saint Declan is sometimes credited with its creation (he “preceded Saint Patrick in bringing Christianity to Ireland” and founded Ardmore Monastery). There are various theories regarding the origin of the cross design, such as the supremacy of the Christian Church over paganism as symbolized by the ring (sun worship). Regardless of purpose the cross is beautiful in design and stylized artwork.

As my biography mentions, I serve in the Army National Guard (my initial enlistment took place when I was 50 years old). I deployed to Iraq with a SECFOR battalion, security force, in 2006-2007; we were stationed at a convoy support center in northern Kuwait a mile south of the Iraqi border. Every day our Soldiers went north escorting supply convoys to various destinations throughout Iraq. Those first 30 days were rough—the battalion we were replacing lost a Soldier to an IED. The first two weeks on our own there were more casualties from IEDs, including the first death in our battalion.

Such a beginning was enough to make anyone cautious.

During our deployment I was a Human Resources NCO in the company HQ, so I didn’t have to go north. I went north three times. I had served with these Soldiers for years—how could I sit in camp in safety every day without going north, without sharing the danger my comrades faced? Fortunately, when I went north nothing happened.

Was I lucky? Was it simply that it wasn’t my time to experience the danger of combat? I don’t know.

After I volunteered for the upcoming SECFOR mission I had an urge to hunt for something special. Not specifically a good luck charm but something that would give me a feeling of comfort…and maybe safety and strength. I immediately knew when I found what I was looking for—a Celtic Cross.

Every Soldier is issued a set of rectangular metal “dog tags” that contain important information such as blood type and religious preference; they are attached to a thin chain worn around the neck. I put the Celtic Cross on the chain with my dog tags. I wore these through pre-deployment training, and when we boarded the aircraft to deploy overseas. I wore my dog tags and Celtic Cross throughout my tour. When I was on a convoy mission it was a comfort to reach within my uniform shirt under my body armor, and grasp the dog tags and Celtic Cross. Every movement triggered a tiny “clink” of those small objects on a chain that I wore around my neck.

I removed the dog tags and Celtic Cross upon our return to the States and arrival at the demobilization center.

Because I still serve in the Guard, though I may soon retire, I keep uniforms and personal equipment close at hand, ready for immediate packing. My dog tags and Celtic Cross are close by—they are the first things I will pick up if I ever receive orders again.

So, although I enjoy Saint Patrick’s Day as celebrated, and I enjoy many things Irish, there is something wonderfully Irish that I will always appreciate above all: the Celtic Cross.

You know, I really hope to one day visit Ireland before I die. Maybe I can place my hand upon a real stone-carved Celtic Cross.

 

SS Hampton Sr.

SS Hampton Sr.

SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, a published photographer and photojournalist, and a member of the Military Writers Society of America. He is a serving member of the Army National Guard with the rank of staff sergeant. He served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Army National Guard in October 2004; he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years after his enlistment. He is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, Ruthie’s Club, Lucrezia Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. His books are available from Amazon.com.  He is an aspiring painter and is studying for a degree in photography and anthropology—hopefully to someday work in underwater archaeology. After 12 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters. As of December 2011, in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hampton officially became a homeless Iraq War veteran.

 

 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig

(St. Patrick’s Day Blessings)

Irish American Mom

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