The Hill of Slane is famous for its role as the place from which St Patrick first defied the pagan Kings. The story goes that one day in AD433, possibly in spring around the time of the festival of Bealtaine, as darkness fell across the land, King Laoighaire prepared his Druids to light the sacred bonfires at the royal site of Tara.

However, before they could do so, a golden bud of flame burst forth on the distant hill of Slane. Furious that such a sacred rite could be so flagrantly disregarded, the King sent his warriors and a number of Druids to extinguish the fire and bring the culprit to him. Read More

My post on the Hill of Tara a couple of weeks back somehow managed to really offended someone, much to my surprise, who proceeded to respond in rather unpleasant troll-like tones on Facebook. Well, I thought to myself, all the more reason to do it again.

Not with the intention of causing offence, but because my blog is my own little patch where I can have freedom of speech; where I can express my thoughts and feelings on the ancient places of Ireland, their stories and characters that I love and admire and respect so much, and hopefully share it all with like-minded folk. Read More

The Sacred Stones of the Hill of Tara

These lumps and bumps in the ground as you emerge from the churchyard onto the Hill of Tara belong to the Mound of the Synods.

I went to the Hill of Tara yesterday. I haven’t been in quite a while; the sun was shining, and I’d been cooped up in the house for a couple of days, and I just felt drawn, so off I went.

Going anywhere on my own these days is such a treat. And as I got nearer to my destination, I could feel the excitement mounting, until by the time I arrived, I was giddy as a schoolgirl!

In some ways, visiting Tara on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of July was a bit of a mistake; the Hill was packed. Not crowded, its much too big and open for that. But there was too much noise, human noise, and it was impossible to take a photo without it being invaded by unwanted guests.

Looking through the churchyard gate towards the Mound of Hostages.

Looking through the churchyard gate towards the Mound of Hostages. You can see how busy it is.

Don’t get me wrong; we all have an equal right to be there. But somehow, I had mixed feelings over the way this ancient monument and symbol of our heritage was being used. Mostly, people were sunbathing, or kids were running gleefully up and down the bankings, climbing over all the ancient monuments.

Harmless, and yet I’ll admit that a part of me was appalled; they can do that anywhere, why come to somewhere special and fragile like Tara to do it? It seemed so disrespectful. On the other hand, it was good to see so many people congregating there, and enjoying the site. Tara has not been forgotten. It still draws people, and is still being used today.

I had a really good wander, and discovered parts of the site I had never been to before. But what I really came to see was these two fellows… Read More

We finished our hike through the Burren at Corcomroe Abbey. It was wonderful to get our boots off, then wander round this peaceful ancient monastic site located in such a lush green valley with the evening sun gleaming on the bald limestone tops of the hills we had descended from.

The Abbey takes its name from an ancient tribe whom once ruled the Burren, known as Corcamruadh, from the Irish Cor, a ‘district’, Cam, a ‘quarrel’, and Ruaidh, meaning ‘red’. They sound pleasant, don’t they? Not.

Corcomroe Abbey, The Wild Atlantic Way.

The Red Book of Kilkenny states that in 1194, Domhnall Mór O’Brien, King of Munster and great-great-great grandson of Brian Boru, founded the monastery for Cistercian monks, and dedicated it to the Virgin Mary. Read More

Towards the end of our first day’s hiking in Co Clare, we came down off the tops and walked along a quiet country lane into Ballyvaughan, and came across this strange looking building…

newt2aNewtown Castle is a C16th tower house. There are many tower houses in Ireland, approximately 3000, but this one is quite unique because it is round, not square like the majority of the others, yet it rises from a square, pyramidal base. Read More

I love holy wells. There is something magical about them. For me, the best holy wells are the ones which time has forgotten; the undeveloped ones, which still retain a sense of their origins.

These days, most holy wells are built up and named after various Christian saints, bedecked with statues with bland faces, rosary beads and mementos. I like that they are remembered and regularly visited, but I don’t like the trappings which surround them.


For me, the isolated well on a barren rugged hillside that took effort and determination to reach, that’s the one which fascinates me. Getting there is part of the devotion; it feels like you have earned the right to be there, and the healing which may come of being there. Read More

Last weekend, I hiked part of the Burren Trail with my friend, walking buddy and guide, Jenni. The Burren is an expanse of karst landscape located in Co Clare, stretching some 250 km between the villages of Ballyvaghan, Kinvara, Tubber, Corofin and Lisdoonvarna. Its name derives from the Irish Boireann, meaning ‘great rock’, or ‘stony place’.

The unique rocky lunar-like appearance of the Burren is due to it being composed of huge limestone pavements gouged by the last ice age. Over time, fissures and cracks have formed along lines of weakness, and these are called ‘grikes’. The slabs between grikes are known as ‘clints’.

Read More

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

When I moved to Ireland, I was surprised at how low key the celebrations over here are. Whilst many towns and villages hold a parade of sorts, generally composed of a few floats and tractors, with a bit of face-painting and waving of flags for the kids, Paddy’s Day seems more of a holiday from work to spend drinking and eating with family and friends. I think it’s seen more as a bit of a reprieve from the deprivations of Lent, rather than a celebration of the Saint’s holy day.

He’s not even a saint. You do know that, right? At least, he was never officially recognised as one by the Pope. A little detail like that never stopped the Irish from making him their patron saint, however, or building a huge multi-million euro tourist industry around him, based on a bunch of  lies  imaginative stories.

St patrick and the Cult of Crom Cruach. How St patrick ended human sacrifice in ancient Ireland.

He never used a shamrock to preach Christianity to the pagans. It’s more likely that he was a slave trader, rather than a poor unfortunate slave. He hung around with rich widows, convincing them to enter the nunnery whilst donating their wealth to funding his empire building more churches. Read More

Hugh’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Week 16 – “Calm”

Hugh’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Week 16 – “Calm”

Hugh’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Week 16 – “Calm”

This is the first time I have taken part in Hugh’s Photo Challenge, but as soon as I read his post on this week’s challenge, this image popped into my head.

Lough Ramor is a huge lake just five minutes drive from where I live. I used to go there often for a walk with Indi, my dog. In my early years of writing, being there always solved my writer’s block, and it’s so serene, it always calms me, whatever turmoil has gripped me. Walking beside water, or even floating on it, be it river, lake or ocean is always so relaxing.

I took this picture quite some years ago on my first ever Samsung Galaxy-S phone, and was amazed at how it turned out. Since then, I have always had a Samsung Galaxy, and the camera has got better and better.

Lough Ramor (in Irish, Loch Ramhar) is a large natural lake of 741 hectares situated near Virginia, County Cavan.  In 2011, it was designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) by the EC under the Natura 2000 wildlife habitat conservation programme.

According to mythology, Lough Ramor was named after an ancient chieftain called Cenal Muinreamhair, which means ‘fat neck’; although this sounds somewhat insulting, it actually refers to his bulk of muscle and great strength!

Here are some more images of Lough Ramor, all of them suggesting ‘calm’.

Want to join the fun? Here’s what you need to do.

1. Take or choose a photo that you’ve taken that for you denotes, calm.
2. Create a new post on your blog entitled “Hugh’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Week 16 – “Calm”
3. Add the photo(s) you have taken to the post and tell us a little about what you are showing.
4. Create a pingback to Hugh’s post or leave a link to your post in the comments section of his post (not mine!) so that other participants can view your post.

My father was not known for his kindliness; the Black Baron, they called him, and with good reason. He couldn’t abide lawlessness, demanded obedience, and ruled with an iron hand.

That grim, grey castle was not the place for a young girl to grow up in. For the most part, I was left alone, save for my poor governess. I was always tricking her with false errands, that I might escape her sharp eyes and those unforgiving walls.

Wandering the shores of my beloved Lough Sheelin, its crystal water bestowing kind kisses upon my toes, the land folding its soft green hills around me like a cloak, the trees bending in obeisance beneath that vast blue arch of sky, whispering their fluttering prayers as I passed by, it was impossible to see the danger. Read More

tlachtga’s story

My name is Tlachtga, daughter of Mog Ruith. This hill is my place, my heart’s home. Only a few bones remain of what once stood here, for mankind has wrought his destruction upon it, as he did also upon my flesh.

In those days, I rode the skies with my father in the great wheel of light, a rare magic known only to few, and folk would watch and fall to their knees in fearful prayer, claiming we commanded the sun.

For long years after my suffering, great fires were lit in my honour. But time eroded understanding, and the people forgot why. The priests of the new religion came and wrote me out of history, for they were not fond of powerful women, and my name drifted like a lost whisper on the breeze.

I have been grievously wronged, but should you come to me, I will receive you gladly. You will not feel my pain. You will see what I saw when I walked this earth, Eire’s green and fertile beauty. You will feel my power throb beneath your feet, for it is my heart still beating.

And you will feel my peace, despite what happened here, for I am at rest now in my hollow hill piled with stones.”

When I go somewhere I know violence has taken place in the dim and distant past, I always expect to get some sense of darkness, or brooding, as if the memory of such awfulness remains etched into the very fabric of place, the stones, the earth, the grass, the trees, all these are witnesses of what once occurred.

At Tlachtga, I felt a great sense of peace. I know you will say it’s because it all happened so long ago, in fact, probably never happened at all, because these are just ancient stories. But I think forgiveness washes a place clean, floods it with peacefulness and makes it wholesome again. Read More

Enniskillen is a town which lies just an hour’s drive from where I live, over the border in Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. In Irish, its name is Inis Cethlin, meaning ‘Cethlenn’s Island’. On this particular day, I was so struck by the darkness and brooding, sombre atmosphere of the view as I drove over the bridge, that I had to find a place to park and go back to take some pictures. You wouldn’t think it was taken at mid-day, would you?

Located on the Lough Erne Lower, Enniskillen was named after Cethlenn of the Crooked Teeth, who was the wife of Balor of the Fomori. Cethlenn is the Irish version of the girl’s name Kathleen, popularised by the anglicised Caitlin.

The story goes that Cethlenn was out raiding with her husband when they were attacked by an enemy. Balor was killed, but Cethlenn managed to escape, although she sustained grievous injuries.  She plunged into the river, hoping to swim to safety, but made it onto a small island, where she died. Thus the island was named after her, and in time, the city grew upon the very site of her death.

Balor was said to have been killed in the Second Battle of Moytura by the leader of the Tuatha de Danann warriors, Lugh Lamfadha. Lugh was also his grandson. Thus I suspect the skirmish the local legend has her involved in and which leads to her death was most probably the great battle.

According to legend, Cethlenn was a Seer who foretold her husband’s death and defeat at the hands of the Danann, but he refused to accept her warning. She was obviously a female warrior, too, for in the battle, she succeeded in wounding the mighty Dagda.

Although he survived, and went on to become High King, the wound never properly healed, and forty years later he was to succumb and die as a result of this injury. It is told that, being a sorceress, she may have known how to use poisons, and could have treated her weapons with such a substance.

This little island has a derelict house on it. Whether this is the actual location of Cethlenn’s Island, or it is buried beneath the bricks and concrete of the town nearby, I don’t know. It is a beautiful and atmospheric spot, though, an oasis of calm in a busy bustling city, and represents the story perfectly.

Lough Ramor (Ramhar in Irish) is only five minutes down the road in Co Cavan, and boasts several islands and crannogs.  Its ancient name is Muinreamhair, which means literally, ‘fat neck’. According to legend, it was named after a chieftain who ruled the area around the lake, and referred to his great strength.

Ancient texts claim that Lough Ramor first ‘burst forth’ nine years after Nemed came to Ireland, a few hundred years after ‘the Great Flood’. There are said to be 32 islands on the lake, the two largest of them are known as the Great Island, and Woodward’s Island, although an earlier name for the latter is said by locals to be  Tighe’s Island, and could possibly be a crannog.

During the C3rd, the territory was given to a fierce warrior tribe called the Luigni of Sliabh Guire, in return for defending the frontiers of the Kingdom of Tara. This they did, but seems in later years, they took their role to the extreme, and began to plunder churches.

During the C5th, an early Christian church was founded on Tighe’s Island, possibly by the saints Brandubh and Coluin, whose festival day on the 6th Feb was celebrated in the area. Being surrounded by water, it was isolated and defensible.

In 845, the Luigni attacked Tighe’s island and established a stronghold there. At this point, the High King, Maelseachlainn mac Maelruanaidh had had enough of their savage ways, and led an army against them,  demolishing the island in the process.

The unassuming little village of Lavey (from the Irish laimhaígh or leamhán, meaning ‘elm’ tree) lies along the N3 on the way to Cavan. It seems to have been the site of a vibrant community in ancient times, and its small lake boasts a perfect example of a crannog. You can clearly see the line of rushes leading to the shore delineating the route of a submerged path, although whether it was submerged intentionally as a means of protection at the time of construction, or simply subject to fluctuating water levels, is debatable.

Lavey is associated with the tragic story of St Dymphna, who was the daughter of a pagan chieftain and devout Christian mother. You may notice a bit of pagan-bashing going on in this story!

Dymphna was reared by her mother in the ways of the catholic church. Sadly, her mother died when Dymphna was only fourteen. Her grief-stricken father became quite mentally unstable in his grief. When persuaded by his advisers to remarry, he insisted on marrying the woman who looked most like his departed wife. This happened to by Dymphna.

She fled to safety, accompanied by her priest, Gerebernus, and a couple of servants. She sought refuge in Lavey for a while, before continuing on her journey across the sea and into Belgium. Meanwhile, her enraged father gave chase and caught up with her in the Belgian town of Gheel. Gerebernus was killed as he tried to protect Dymphna, and when she resisted him, her father raised his sword in fury and struck off her head. She was only fifteen.

The local townspeople buried her remains in a cave, and later moved them to a church for safekeeping, where, it was said, many miraculous healings of the mentally ill occurred at her graveside.

In Lavey, a chapel was built in her honour over a burial mound said to represent her grave in Gheel. Nothing of it remains now, but a new church was built and named in her honour. Nearby, there is a holy well dedicated to saint Dymphna, which is said to bring healing to those suffering from mental illness.