Hillwalking is one of my favorite things to do in Ireland. I have trudged through misty rain and gray skies savoring fresh, mountain air. But sometimes, the weather cooperates, the sun adds its splendor, and each step through the springy peat of Ireland’s mountainous terrain reveals the splendor of her spectacular scenery.
Last month my husband visited Ireland on a quick five-day trip to see his uncle who is visiting Ireland from Australia. Before he left I put in a special request. As I packed his camera I pleaded:
“If the weather cooperates, if the sun shines, and if you have a spare moment, please try to catch a few good shots of Ireland and your favorite place on earth, Co. Donegal.”
And believe it or not, after one of the worst summers on record in my homeland, the sun actually cooperated and shone for one whole day during his trip.
Once the first ray of sunshine peeped through his bedroom window, he packed a picnic, stuffed his feet into his climbing boots, and took to the hills of Donegal. Here are some photos he snapped as he wandered through the Poison Glen.
“The Poison Glen” is such an unfortunate name for this spectacular place. It truly seems like a slice of heaven on earth. It turns out in Irish this beautiful place is really called “The Heavenly Glen” or “Gleann Neaimhe”.
The Irish word for heaven is “neamh” and the word for poison is “neimhe”. However, the pronunciation of the word “neamh” changes slightly when it is associated with the word glen in the genitive case. Hence, some poor English translator in years gone by mixed up the word for heaven and poison when naming the glen.
The views of this valley from the surrounding Derryveagh mountains really do confirm it is a heavenly glen.
The large summit in the photo above is Donegal’s highest peak, Mount Errigal.
Errigal is one of the largest of “the seven sisters”, a mystical mountain chain looking over the Poison Glen and Lough Dunlewey.
The views are breathtaking from above the valley…..
….. and from below looking upwards to the imposing mountains.
A wild deer watched my husband and his best friend on their happy trails, as the sun began to set.
An old church ruins stands in the center of the valley. Clannad, the famous Donegal band, known for their fusion of traditional Celtic sounds with a New Age rhythm, sing of this valley in their song “The Poison Glen.”
“Way up there in the poison glen
The sun’s going down on the misty mountain
And I’m watching
Feeling something from long ago.”
“Haunted echo that surrounds the glen
The heather creeping through
The burned out ruins
And I’m watching
Feeling spirits of long ago”
If you like the thin air of mountain peaks, the glorious windswept freedom of heavenly summits, and the ability to leave humanity for just a few short hours, then Ireland, and especially County Donegal, is your kind of place.
Just keep praying for the sun to peep out from behind the clouds!
Slán agus beannacht leat!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom