A raised walkway leads from the car park across the boggy valley floor to the Priory. Across the road lies St Feichin’s Church, and beyond, a short steep climb brings you to the sixteenth-century Anchorite’s Tower, and the nineteenth-century mausoleum of the Nugent family.
There was no way I was not going in. The mouth of the cave gaped at me, and I watched in trepidation as it swallowed first Treasa, then two more of my companions, and then I plunged in. Now or never.
The old festivals seem to me to fit perfectly into the cycle of seasons and the passing of the year. And also with the ebb and flow of my blood, or the beating of my heart, or my body clock, whatever you want to call that natural instinctual internal part of oneself. You may try and suppress it, but it’s always still there. If you feel the same, here are some places in Ireland that are associated with Samhain which you might like to visit: Tlachtga, the Mound of Hostages at Tara; Magh Slecht, and Oweynagat.
Teltown is a vast and complex ancient site of some significance dating to the Iron Age. Features include the remnants of mounds, ring forts, earthen ramparts, artificial lakes, and an ancient roadway, but much of these have been erased from the landscape through the actions of farming over the years.
Clochafarmore, or Cloch an Fhir Mhóir in Irish means ‘the stone of the big man’, and is located in the townland of Rathiddy, at Knockbridge, in County Louth. You might be thinking GIANT, and in a way, you’d be right… this particular man was a giant in reputation, if not in physicality. You probably know him as Cuchulainn, legendary hero of Ulster.
Wherever there is a Christian church, there was once a pagan sacred site before it, and Slane is no exception. In amongst the trees to the west of the hill lies a motte of Norman origin upon which once stood a castle. Beneath this motte there is a burial mound believed to be that of Sláine, a king of the FirBolg.
Being a small island, peoples lives have been dominated by the sea. In mythology, the Danann, the Milesians, and various other races came to Ireland from the sea. According to legend, Ireland had two sea deities: Lir, and Manannán mac Lir, which means ‘son of Lir’, or ‘son of the sea’.
According to legend, Cormac mac Art was the High King of Ireland at the same time as Fionn mac Cumhall was the leader of the Fianna, c. the third century AD. He ruled from Tara for forty years, and during his reign, all of Ireland flourished.
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. St Colman’s Holy Well is exactly one such place.
The Hill of Uisneach stands 183 metres tall, and is located between the villages of Ballymore and Loughanavally in County Westmeath, not far from Mullingar. Twenty counties can be seen from the summit on a clear day. Historically and mythologically, it was regarded as the centre point, or ‘naval’ of Ireland, symbolised by the presence of a great stone called the Ail na Mirean, or Stone of Divisions.