Welcome to a new feature on Aliisaacstoryteller. Are you planning a visit to Ireland? Over the coming weeks, I’ll be featuring places in Ireland that I love, and which are, I think, well worth a visit. Some will be familiar to you, others will get you off that beaten tourist track, and make your visit to Ireland a more memorable and unique one.
Sligo is a county rich in history and legend, with ancient sites leaping out at you on almost every bend and twist of the road. So it comes as no surprise to suddenly come across this…
It’s known as the Split Rock of Easkey. Easkey is a small village on the Atlantic coast, and its name is derived from the old Irish word Iascaigh, meaning ‘abounding in fish’. It can be found on the driving route which comprises the Wild Atlantic Way.
The Wild Atlantic Way (Slí an Atlantaigh Fhiáin in Irish) is a 2500km tourist trail along the west coast of Ireland which passes through nine counties and three provinces.
The Split Rock, or An Carraig Scoilteadh, as it’s known in Irish, is a boulder about 6m long by 2.5m high, and is thought to have been carried north from the Ox Mountains (Sliabh Gamh in Irish) and dumped by a glacier during the last Ice Age. It is made from a huge lump of gneiss, which is rock with a course structure and a kind of striped banding, which glitters in the light.
Of course you wouldn’t find such an iconic boulder as this in an Irish landscape without there being some mythology attached to it, and the Split Rock does not disappoint.
Local folklore claims that one day, Fionn mac Cumhail and his Fianna were camped in the Ox Mountains, when Fionn decided to challenge his men to a rock throwing contest. The idea was to throw a stone all the way from the Ox mountains into the sea.
This was something Fionn was good at; there are huge boulders like this scattered all over Ireland from similar competitions he had taken part in. But on this occasion, for some unknown reason, his aim fell short of its mark, and the stone dropped into its current position.
Furious, Fionn leaped down the mountainside after it, and struck it with his sword, whereupon with a thunderous resounding roar, it cracked into two pieces.
It is said that if you’re brave enough, you can safely pass between the two halves of the stone once… maybe even twice, but if you dare to try it a third time, the two halves will snap tightly shut like a clam shell, trapping you within the stone forever.
I’ve not yet met anyone foolhardy enough to try…
You can find the Split Rock in a field just off the R297 near Easkey.