Road Trip!

Image from Google Maps

I wrote another article for Ireland Before You Die: Galway to Donegal in 5 Days. Includes:

  • Connemara
  • Doolough Valley
  • Achill Island
  • Yeats Country
  • Donegal


Yo ho ho, and a bottle of poiteen

Photo by P.J. McKenna

The Ireland Before You Die website published my article 6 places in Ireland associated with pirates.

Here you’ll find out about:

  • Kinsale: Home of Anne Bonny
  • Baltimore: The stolen village
  • Dublin: A city founded by raiders
  • Saltee Islands: Treasure caves
  • West Cork coast: A haven for crooks
  • Clew Bay: Home of the Pirate Queen

Hope you enjoy!

Mogh Ruith, the Blind Magician

The blind magician of County Kerry. Reblogged from Ali Issac’s site.


Mogh Ruith the Blind Magician

Without a doubt, one of the most interesting and mysterious figures from Irish mythology is the One known as Mogh Ruith. He’s right up there with Manannán, as far as I’m concerned. His name is said to mean ‘slave of the wheel’, curious in itself, and he was a blind Munster Druid who lived on Valentia Island in Co Kerry, which is now part of the celebrated Wild Atlantic Way.

Mogh Ruith was the father of tragic Goddess, Tlachtga, who left her name in the landscape of Ireland  at a place anglicised as the Hill of Ward, sacred to the festival of Samhain.

He is perhaps most famous for his flying machine, roth rámach, meaning ‘the oared wheel’, or ‘rowing wheel’ (could be a helicopter, don’t you think?), in which night appeared as bright as day. For this reason, it is believed…

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Snapshots into the Past

All photos are in the public domain.

While looking for images for this site, I found some wonderful old photos from the National Library of Ireland. You can see examples in Casement’s Last Stand and Are Ye Right There, Michael? I couldn’t resist sharing some more of their historic photos from along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Oh I do like to walk along the prom

Promenade, Lahinch, Co.Clare

This photo was taken “between 1896 and 1914”. Lahinch opened up for tourism in the 19th century thanks to the West Clare Railway, but it wouldn’t become a prime surfing spot until the late 20th century. No idea if these are visitors or locals out for a stroll; that woman with the pram (mother? nanny?) is probably just trying to get the child to sleep. Hard to tell the weather from this photo; everyone seems well wrapped up, but most people were in Edwardian times.

Grazing on the edge

Achill Island

From “circa 1910”, but if it wasn’t for the woman’s dress, this could have been taken yesterday. Achill Island is still a wild place. It’s the edge of Europe, “next stop America” (or to be specific, Newfoundland). I love the way the woman and the cow on the left are both striking a pose for the camera.

Market day

St. Nicholas’ Church, Galway, taken by Robert French c.1890
St. Nicholas’ Church, Galway, taken by B. Lawlor in 1990

Here are two photos from the same spot — outside St Nicolas’ Church in Galway — taken 100 years apart. The dress and transportation has changed, and the tree has grown significantly, but otherwise there’s a similar energy about the two scenes. The Saturday market is still going strong in the same area, a great place to buy your olives and woolly hats.

Further reference

There are loads more photos on the National Library of Ireland page on Flickr. Be careful: you could lose yourself for a long time in those archives.

Northern Sky

Malin Head, County Donegal

Photo of Banba’s Crown, Malin Head by Greg Clarke, licensed under Creative Commons

But now you’re here
Brighten my northern sky
— Northern Sky, Nick Drake

The Cree Indians saw them as the spirits of their dead ancestors. The Finns thought they were caused by a fox running so fast across the snow that its tail caused sparks. The Japanese thought a child conceived beneath them would be lucky, while the Icelanders believed that a lucky child would be born when they shone — but only if its mother didn’t look directly at them. The Vikings thought their glow came from the shields of the Valkyries. According the Estonians, they were the paths of horse-drawn carriages carrying heavenly guests to a wedding.

I am speaking of course of the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis (there is an equivalent in the Southern Hemisphere, the Aurora Australis, but few human habitations are in that region). We know now that they are caused by electrically charged particles from the sun colliding with gases in the earth’s atmosphere. They are normally seen at latitudes much further north than Ireland, but just occasionally, they come flickering our way.

Increased solar activity, particularly coronal mass ejections (CMEs) improve the likelihood of aurora displaying at lower latitudes. However, clouds can cover up this activity, and as any Irish person can tell you, clear skies are rarer than we’d like. Artificial lights compete with the natural glow, so they can only really be seen away from towns.

Compose in darkness.
Expect aurora borealis
in the long foray
but no cascade of light.
— North, Seamus Heaney

Malin Head, at 55.38ºN, is the northmost tip of the island of Ireland; although it’s in the Republic, it’s farther north than anywhere in Northern Ireland. “From Malin Head to Mizen Head”, signifying the full length of the country, is a familiar phrase from anyone who’s heard the sea area forecast. Far up on the Inishowen peninsula, Malin Head is a popular spot for viewing seabirds, particularly for their migrations in spring and autumn.

And on a rare occasion, on a dark clear night when the sun has thrown its brightest sparks out towards earth, you might catch a glimmer of those dancing lights.