Driving Ireland’s highways and byways is a feast for the eyes, as motorists pass by some magnificent works of art.
I love Ireland’s roadside art displays. Some may disagree with me, considering them a distraction, but for me these motorway masterpieces add a little intrigue to every journey.
Roadside Art in Ireland
Today I thought I’d share some of the shots I’ve taken over the years of Ireland’s roadside art, plus a few beauties I found online.
The “Waiting On Shore” sculpture above stands in Rosses Point and commands a magnificent view of Sligo Bay. A memorial to those who have lost their lives at sea, it also remembers the women who waited onshore for their loved ones to return.
I captured these children playing on stilts in County Monaghan as we drove from Dublin to Donegal.
Irish Budget for Roadside Art
Back when Ireland was expanding its road infrastructure one per cent of the cost of every new road was set aside to fund a piece of art.
Many people may think this was a waste of money, but I commend this decision to support our artists.
Art, Myths and Legends
I love when roadside art tells a story, connecting us to our mythical past. The masterpiece above can be found in Ardee, County Louth and is named “Cúchulain Carrying the Slain Ferdia.”
An old legend of Ireland called the Táin Bó Cúalnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley) tells how Cúchulain killed his friend Ferdia in the most famous fight in the battles between Queen Maeve of Connacht and the Men of Ulster over a magnificent Ulster bull.
Ardee is near the location of this fight between friends that could only end badly.
The Gaelic Chieftain
I took this photo near Lough Key in County Roscommon. This “Gaelic Chieftan” overlooks the site of the battlefield where in 1599 the Irish chieftan Red Hugh O’Donnell fought and routed the English forces led by Sir Conyers Clifford.
Red Hugh sits high upon his horse today gazing down upon the lake and the road. As you drive north with your car climbing the inclines towards the Curlew mountains, it seems as if Red Hugh is bidding you a safe journey through Curlew Pass.
Las Vegas in the Hills of Donegal
Now not all Irish roadside art poignantly retells sad stories from days gone by. This sign welcomes one and all to fabulous Ramelton in County Donegal.
Because did you know?
“We have our own Las Vegas in the Hills of Donegal.”
Well, that’s what the band Goats Don’t Shave love to sing about.
And anywhere you may roam in Ireland, you’ll always find a grand cuppa tea waiting for you, like this one in Ramelton.
It matches the Las Vegas sign, but I dare say there aren’t too many cuppas served in the real Las Vegas.
These two dancers are part of a group of five huge steel sculptures lovingly knows as “The Tinnies” to the locals in Strabane, County Tyrone.
There’s a fiddler, a flautist and a drummer to make music for the dancers. When Tyrone are playing in important GAA matches the Tinnies are dressed in the Tyrone colors of red and white.
My kids love to see the Tinnies on the Lifford roundabout. They signal we are on the last leg of our journey from Dublin to Letterkenny.
And how about this beauty on the Polestar roundabout in Letterkenny.
It reminds me of a leaping salmon, and looks stunning at night.
This piece in Rathmullan, County Donegal commemorates the Flight of the Earls from this very beach in 1607.
Farm Equipment as Roadside Art
Four old farm churns greet those arriving and passing through Kildorrery, County Cork, proving roadside art does not have to be expensive, commissioned sculptures.
Old farm machinery and churns like these are a beautiful way to recognize our rural past.
This beautiful piece, near Castlefreke in County Cork, serves as a functional road sign, but can definitely be classified as a work of art.
It’s called “The Winnowing Place,” aptly named because many years ago these crossroads were a hive of activity at harvest time.
Locals would gather at this spot to winnow their corn. (Winnowing is the process of separating the grain from the straw.)
Animals Featured in Roadside Art
And these birds are about to take flight from their rookery in County Leitrim. Their nest is located beside the roadside picnic area immediately south of Drumkeeran.
Don’t worry your food is safe from these birds, unlike some of the seagulls you may encounter along Ireland’s coast.
This rearing horse can be found near Clydagh Bridge in the Cork and Kerry mountains. What a magnificent sight he is at dusk.
I hope you enjoyed today’s little sampling of Irish roadside art. Let me know if there’s a piece of public Irish artwork you especially love.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on these motorway masterpieces and roadway reliefs in the comment section below.
I hope, as Ireland’s economy strengthens, more roadside art will be commissioned in years to come.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
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