More sun as we head out to drive around our big lake. Lough Corrib isn’t just the biggest lake in Ireland, it has to be one of the prettiest. Today it’s like a mirror, shining and still, and as we round it, all those marvelous islands come into view–more, I’m told than there are days in the year. There’s one, sloping up to a flat rise. Jason comments it would be a hell of a spot for a house. Imagine it, Living on the lake, surrounded by those views–the garden you could have! Isolated, sure, but wow.
Lough Corrib. Photo by BW.
There are a couple inhabited, but for land conservation, no more houses can be built. It’s wise, as there’s a purity here that could be too easily spoiled.
Hills and fields–sheep who’ve escaped the fence and have their colorful butts right out in the road. And the mountains rise up, green and rocky, worn smooth by time and weather. Horses on hillsides, cows cropping.
Lots of coaches out today, and it’s a little wild having those big buses coming at us on the winding roads, with hedgerows hard on the other side.
We’re bound for Oughterand and Aughnamure Castle just outside it. The ride takes us around the north side of Corrib, through the mountains, in and out of villages where we skirt Joyce Country.
I admire some of his work, but has anyone every read Ulysses all the way through?
Oughterand is big and bustling, and there we stop for diesel before driving on.
The car park for the castle is beside a field bordered by a stone fence. A Connemara pony crops there, busily. He–and it IS a he as he’s considerably well hung–never raises his head as we park, gather what we want and set out on the path. There’s a big black cow doing the same in an adjoining field, and the river on the other side. It’s lovely, streaming over rocks, snaking around, dotted here and there with lily pads with trees climbing up the far bank.
The path climbs, too, gives us views of the big keep, winds around to show off the single ancient yew remaining. They’d harvested all the rest, it seems, for wagon wheels, bows.
The castle dates back to about 1490, and they’ve preserved and restored much of the walls, the keep, a central watch tower.
Two dogs lay in the sun at the entrance, as disinterested as the cow and pony.
Here is a good spot for fortification, with the river on three sides. It’s a large green space, bordered by the stone walls. What had been a banquet hall is a field now as the structure was taken by the river. At one time it held a trap door where unwelcome guests were dropped down.
I like the watch tower, and think it reminds me of a dovecote, and indeed when I go in, read the history, it was used as one after the corner towers were built. I like the squat shape and domed roof.
Into the keep, read up on the history–long and colorful. Up the tight winding stairs to study the murder hole and imagine archers standing there, picking off invaders below who’d gotten that far inside. Look through arrow slits, and clearly see how they’d held off invaders for so long.
Up again, decide I wouldn’t have enjoyed using the garderobe–or being anywhere on watch below. Up, tight, skinny stairs with a rope for a banister.
There’s a secret prison, a claustrophobic space behind a wall where it’s believed prisoners were tossed to slowly starve to death. Maybe the quick death out the trap door would’ve been preferred.
You can see how they lived, always preparing for war, raising cattle, making weapons, spinning wool, holding banquets. Even in such a lovely spot, it had to be a very hard life.
We’re WAY up, it’s been deceptive stopping on every floor–and the height gives me that flutter in the belly. So down I go again.
We start back, and I want to see these plants across the road. A flowering vine that leaves something like mutant rose hips. Huge, they look like cherry tomatoes from a distance.And I notice one of the cottages has a sprinkler going. Seriously? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sprinkler running in Ireland, and though it’s been wonderfully clear, we’ve had a bit of rain every day.
In any case, the gardens are pretty.
We travel back, detour into a pretty little community to follow the signs for a candlemaker. Kat and I go in the little cottage–and honestly, I wanted to get my hands on the shopkeeper’s dooryard. It’s the first I’ve seen so overgrown, more weeds than flowers and flowers needing deadheading and tending. Still I find a couple things in the little shop–and if my mother were still here, I’d have bought more as there were many she’d have loved, painted with flowers or butterflies.
On back to Oughterand, and when I spy a shop selling footballer jerseys BW pulls over to let me and Jason out while he and Kat find a place to park.
The shop has everything. A fun, cluttered place. More grandkid gifts, a little this, a little that–a new hat for BW, some bits and bobs. Some wandering to other shops while BW scouts out a place for lunch.
It’s a nice big pub, and a good time for a glass of wine, some soup for me. A lovely little hour while Kat looks up our birth trees in a little book she bought. I’m an ivy tree, which I like quite a bit.
Then it’s the pretty ride back, the mountains going to hills, the hills to fields, and the lake shining.
We’re going to rest up, and I should organize things, but I want a walk. It’s too blue and clear to sit inside.
Where Nora went in. Photo by NR.
Out I go, choose a direction at random, and go by the Carpet Garden, up the steps, down the wide path. And into the woods. The path is too pretty to resist, and I think I won’t go far as my sense of direction is decent but not stellar. But it’s go gorgeous and green and full of quiet and soft, soft light.
Toll barrier. Photo by NR
I have to be careful to keep myself oriented, but follow a path, come to a big tree with a long branch across the road like a toll barrier. I think about it, and as I’ve brought a glass of wine, pour a few drops for the toll, then duck under.
It’s wonderful here, a lovely place to wander. I hear doves cooing madly and the wind surfing through the trees, and nothing else. I consider going back, but go on instead. There may not be such a perfect day left for a walk like this.
There’s magic here. For those who don’t believe, that’s a shame, but for me it’s clear and strong, as true as the scent of the pines and earth. Carpets of moss, tangled brambles, glorious trees and that silken-soft light.
Carpets of moss. Photo by NR.
The moss and time has put faces on some of the trees. You almost expect them to speak as you pass by. The pictures I take along the way won’t be wonderful, but they’ll remind me of my walk.
I’ve seen no one, heard no one the whole time I’ve wandered through. Just the doves and the wind.
Tree with a face. Photo by NR
When I come out I spook a man walking his little girl on the wide path outside the woods. I hear him tell her, laughing, his accent American, that it freaked him out. I can imagine it, hearing something coming out of the deep woods on a quiet evening.
Back in, and onto dinner. A light one at what’s become our table in The Dungeon. We go out the back door after the meal, walk around.
The lake is a silver platter, smooth and shining. The castle a magnificent silhouette against the sky, lights glowing in the windows.
Magic. Photo by NR
Another blue day this morning. The gang may hire bikes and take a ride. I may work, may take another walk. It’s nice to have these last couple of days to do whatever strikes.