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Yeats County Tour, Route 2: From the hills above Glencar to under bare Ben Bulben’s head

From From the hills above Glen-Car to under bare Ben Bulben’s head: What could Yeats’ expect to discover on a contemporary journey through his favourite Sligo haunts?

Join us for Route 2 of our Yeats County Tour with Sligo-based writer Kate Winter to uncover the best places to stop and the best things to do along the route, taking you from his resting place at Drumcliffe, through Lisadell and onwards to Glencar waterfall and Rosses Point. See Route 1 here

This is the second in a series of Yeats2015 stories which will be published weekly in 2015.

Driving out towards Drumcliffe, where Yeats finally found his resting place according to the wishes expressly laid out in his poem ‘Under Ben Bulben’, “Under bare Ben Bulben’s head / In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid”, the mountain in question stands bold and sharp ahead. There is romance in the unrequited love affair between softly rounded Knocknarea and craggy, brooding Benbulben; Maedhbh and Ben forever destined to gaze across the bay at one another, but never to meet. As Yeats beseeched his own unrequited love, Maud Gonne, perhaps Ben calls out to Maedhbh, “Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days! Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways”[1]. Famed for the gravestone that boldly states “Horseman pass by!”, there are many other lovely attractions in the area, from the picturesque cottages lining the country road to Carney, to the art gallery (Teach Bán Nua) and tea shop on site (Drumcliffe Tea House).

Take another turn along the way and visit the imposing beauty of Lissadell House, a stately home where the Yeats brothers whiled away many hours with their friends the Gore-Booth sisters, of whom William later wrote,

“The light of evening, Lissadell,

Great windows open to the south,

Two girls in silk kimonos, both

Beautiful, one a gazelle”[2]

Situated in the most stunning location, beside Lissadell beach, with Benbulben looming protectively in the background, the house has been lovingly restored by current owners Edward Walshe and Constance Cassidy, and houses a wonderful Yeats exhibition, opened by contemporary poet and musician, Leonard Cohen, who played a mesmerising open-air concert on the grounds in 2010. No visit to Yeats Country is complete without taking in the splendour of Lissadell and the painstakingly maintained living history of its great house.

Onwards now to the deep and lush valley of Glencar, steering down endless, skinny grey roads to find a lake where we might encounter some “slumbering trout” or perhaps “ferns that drop their tears” into the gently lapping waters. Fed by the majestic waterfall “Where the wandering water gushes, From the hills above Glen-Car”[3] and surrounded by spectacular cliffs (look up, look up, you might catch sight of a colourful paraglider winding his way in descending loops to the grassy lakeside) this beautifully scenic location is a favourite for Yeats fans and hiking enthusiasts alike. High in the hills, dotted with sheep and crisscrossed with foot-worn pathways, the view over the lake of an evening is absolutely breathtaking.

Rosses Point Beach

Rosses Point Beach

On the return journey, take a brief detour to Rosses Point, where Jack and William Yeats spent several summers at Elsinore House. Drive along the wide swoop into the village; pubs and restaurants pepper the right hand side of the road, with the sparkling bay forever immortalised by Jack’s beautiful painting Memory Harbour on the left. Overlooking Coney Island, picturesque sailboats glide by and the Metal Man sculpture stands proud in the water. The Waiting On Shore monument (a girl with arms outstretched, who could easily embody Yeats’ crazed girl, “improvising her music. Her poetry, dancing upon the shore[4]) guides the way to the three long, sandy beaches of the Point. Thronged with social sun-worshippers in the summer, and gloriously desolate in the winter, perhaps the very end of the third beach, where few meander so far, is the location that inspired the poet to write the words

Where the wave of moonlight glosses

The dim gray sands with light,

Far off by furthest Rosses

We foot it all the night”[5]


More Info: See the route on Google Maps at goo.gl/maps/pUVTx

Wild Atlantic Way: The Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s first long-distance touring route, stretching along the Atlantic coast from Donegal to West Cork. Many of the places listed in this article also feature on the Wild Atlantic Way. See Wild Atlantic Way Interest Points in Sligo on the Wild Atlantic Way website here.

About the Writer: Kate Winter is a novelist and journalist from Strandhill, Sligo. She blogs creatively at winterwritings.wordpress.com and reviews local events at sceneinsligo.wordpress.com Follow her @KatiCut

Image Credits: Colin Gillen at Framelight Studio

Poetry Quote Sources:
[1] From To The Rose Upon The Rood Of Time
[2] From In Memory Of Eva Gore-Booth And Con Markievicz
[3] From The Stolen Child
[4] From The Crazed Girl
[5] From The Stolen Child