Sligo – Following Yeats’ Poems, 127 Years Later

For my upcoming trip to Ireland, Sligo is higher on my “must visit” list than Dublin, and for one semi-nerdy reason:  I love Yeats’ poem The Stolen Child.

I first heard the poem in high school after stumbling upon Loreena McKennitt’s work.  Several months passed before I realized the words were actually penned by Yeats in 1886, and that each stanza references real sights in an around Sligo.

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Sligo Coastline.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia.

From that moment on, I was entranced.  I chose The Stolen Child for a classroom poetry analysis exercise, and I’d later find inspiration from its refrain for a short story that evolved into my first novel.

When I went to Ireland with my family in 2011, our tour group didn’t stop in Sligo.  It came as a disappointment, but I’d already decided at that point I’d find a way back to Ireland and explore Sligo at my own pace, letting my favorite poem lead me.

Where dips the rocky highland / Of Sleuth Wood in the lake…

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Slish Wood Trail.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia.

Though Yeats called it Sleuth Wood in his poem, the hilly forest along Lough Gill is actually named Slish Wood.  Once entirely an oak forest, the area was cleared during World War II.  Some pockets of 250 year old oaks remain, and the region is regarded as a biodiversity site and is included in Lough Gill Natural Heritage Area.  A strenuous walking trail allows visitors to follow the lake shore and take in the local wildlife, with two paths available.  The shortest loops back to the car park at the trail head and spans 1.86 miles (3 km).

Far off by furthest Rosses / We foot it all the night…

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View at Rosses Point.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia.

Rosses Point is one of Sligo’s two beaches, lining Sligo harbor.  Yeats and his brother spent their summers here, and with views of mountains Benbulben and Knocknarea, it’s no wonder the Point made it into The Stolen Child.  As with Slish Wood, there’s a walking trail that winds around the Point.  This one’s slightly shorter – only 1.8 miles (2.9 km).
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 “Where the wandering water gushes / From the hills above Glen-Car…”

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Glencar Waterfall.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia.

Glencar Lough straddles counties Sligo and Leitrim, and is actually home to several waterfalls, most of which are visible from the road.  But the largest, and the one featured in the poem, requires a bit more walking – around half a mile (less than 1 km) on a paved trail.  This main waterfall descends 50 feet to a pool below, sending white spray into the air as it strikes against rocky earth on the way down.

There’s certainly more I want to see while in Sligo than these three nature trails.  Carrowmore, a megalithic cemetery that rivals Newgrange in size, is one such place – expect more information in Thursday’s blog post!

Additional Links & Resources:

Leitrim Tourism: Glencar Waterfall

Sligo, Ireland homepage

Sligo Walks homepage

Yeats Country Photographs