Day Nine: It seemed like we had barely arrived and we were already on the final days of our time in Ireland. (If you like lots of photos of flowers and gorgeous buildings and nature at its best, you can see my other Ireland posts: Day One, and Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, and Here.) (If you actually click on all of these, you will see that I skipped day 7--I messed up when I was labeling them.) I had been very much looking forward to this day--the day we visited the Belleek Pottery factory. I have been a collector of this ethereal, dainty pottery for many years and I had been eschewing the making tempting purchases for over a week in order to buy something special at Belleek.
I had never seen a photo of the building itself and was surprised to learn that it had been a private dwelling at one time. To read more about the history of the house and the company, go HERE. (I had to get a photo of our traveling coach and this seemed a good opportunity.)
Like everywhere else in Ireland, there were plenty of bright flowers to greet us. We enjoyed a brief tour but photographs were not allowed in most of the building. It was a Saturday so there were not many workers about but it was so interesting to observe those who were there; the man who was smoothing unfinished pieces with a wheel and the lady who was hand painting flowers on a piece almost completed. There was a table with pieces that could only be purchased at the factory (or, I surmise, on eBay).
This was also our first foray into Northern Ireland so that was interesting. (Another one of those pics taken through the window of the moving coach.)
On our way to Donegal town we stopped at Killybegs, the biggest fishing port in Ireland. Doesn't it almost look like a painting? So, I gave it the photo-shop treatment. If I took out that lamp post and a few other modern touches (see below) it could almost be an accurate depiction of how it must have looked long ago.
The photo below illustrates what I saw as the main differences between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland--modern street lights and electrical wire. The front yards (or gardens) of the houses in N.I. seemed more like ones you would see in England or America and the neighborhoods visible from the highway consisted of more than two or three houses. I guess the right word for it is "suburban". There is very little of suburbia in the Republic of Ireland--it's cities and country.
I was happy to have a peat bog identified for me (see below). One of my favorite Irish folk songs is "The Kerry Recruit" wherein the turf of a peat bog is central to the action in the first verse: About four years ago I was digging the land With me brogues on me feet and me spade in me hand. Says I to me self, what a pity to see, Such a fine strapping lad footing turf round Tralee."
The mass of white is animal feed done up in plastic. The smaller, scattered white spots are sheep. The turf has been dug out here and there--you can see depressions in the ground that look a bit like a stream winding through. The peat is expertly dug out in rectangular pieces and laid out to dry. They are then burned in place of wood or coal. As I mentioned in a previous post, it smells delicious in spite of the fact that it is basically just earth and vegetation (even the dirt is better in Ireland!). Over time, the peat bogs have been greatly depleted and will one day be gone unless they are somehow protected. And yet, many bogs are owned by individuals who have been warming their homes with peat for centuries. Whether or not they should be allowed to continue is a debate that is currently being aired in Ireland.
We arrived in Donegal in time for lunch. This is one of the few occasions when we actually sat down and ate a meal rather than run around. We had a little more than an hour and there were so many things to see that we decided to give up. We spent a good amount of time looking for a place that wasn't too crowded and then we had to run around to find a cash machine since the place we chose didn't take plastic.
The Blueberry was a delightful place that appeared to be brimming with what we decided were locals (always a good sign) and charming decor. They also had a gluten free sandwich so I was good to go. I think we ate the rocky road first, though. I can't remember if I have mentioned the rocky road before. Every little food shop we went to had their own version. It is made with melted chocolate and marshmallows (some use white, some large, some small, some colored) and whatever kind of nut the baker chooses. We saw some with biscuits or digestives (wafer cookies) which I couldn't have. We ate some that had cut up pieces of Snickers and all sorts of other delights. We ate a lot of rocky road whilst in Ireland and it was one of the first things I made when we got home. Sadly, when not walking miles and miles and miles a day, the Rocky Road tends to stick with you in the form of pounds and pounds and pounds.
One of the architecturally delightful buildings we didn't get a chance to explore.
Our last stop of the day was to visit the cemetery where William Butler Yeats is buried. I suppose I ought to have been thrilled. Poetry is one of my favorite things and an *Irish* poet is all one could wish for. Of course, I know (and knew then) who W.B. Yeats is/was but it isn't as if we were to visit the home of Jane Austen (the opportunity for which I would give my eye teeth). I do love cemeteries and graveyards and so I *did* look forward to it. However, I had no idea what a truly delightful place a cemetery could be. Drumcliff Cemetery is near the base of Ben Bulben (which, as far as I could tell means Mt. Bigmount) (see photo above--and whilst you are there, are those some amazing clouds or what?) a mountain so beautiful that people have come from all over the world to paint it. Yeats wished to be buried in the shadow of the mountain and, after seeing the setting for myself, I can certainly see why.
Drumcliff Cemetery is next to St. Columba's Church (I'm not certain if the cemetery or the church is older but if the burial ground were a part of the church, it would be called a graveyard, not a cemetery, a random factoid that I clearly find interesting enough to share) and is absolutely chock full of visual delights. Some of these photos look as if they were painted but they are just as they were straight from my camera. In the picture above one can spot the slope to Ben Bulben in the upper left corner.
I am so enamored of tombstones. I think that they are achingly beautiful.
And I love Irish crosses. It is difficult to make out, but the one second from the right has the symbol of the Claddagh on it (two hands holding a crowned heart).
The above photo is one of my all time favorites, not just of Ireland, but of any I have ever taken anywhere. It captures almost everything that makes Ireland what it is: a stone wall, a wrought iron fence, tombstones, ivy, bright flowers, sloping hills, and "forty shades of green" (as written and sung by Johnny Cash though I prefer the Daniel O'Donnell version--and not just because the youtube video of Daniel singing it depicts turf being expertly spaded).
Another beauty of a photo. Ben Bulben looks like someone painted it against the sky. Amazing!
These photos of my daughter drinking it all in is proof that this is a real place and not something I created with the computer. It's the kind of place that invites you to linger and we were fortunate that we were able to do so. I wasn't in the least sorry to have rushed through Donegal in exchange for time at Drumcliff. It truly felt like a heaven on earth.
I mean, seriously! You couldn't come up with anything as picture perfect as the scenes at Drumcliff Cemetery if you were the most gifted of artists.
As I have mentioned before, in Ireland, all tombstones face east. In order to get a photo of Yeats' grave in the same shot as Ben Bulben, I had to take it from behind. (It's the plain rectangular one in the foreground.) Sadly, Ben Bulben doesn't appear in this photo anyway.
Yeats' grave (as lifted from the internet). It certainly all looks far less romantic from this angle.
The cement placard at the end of the site (filled with rock--most of the more modern grave sites in Ireland are--I suppose it is necessary or one would be required to mow the lawn far too often) marks the burial of Yeats' wife, George, a fascinating woman in her own right.
One of the few round towers we saw in Ireland--most of them are square, like the one pictured below. The round ones are so beautiful that when I spotted a round tower vase, complete with climbing shamrocks, at the Belleek factory, I bought it on the spot.
St. Columba's Church, a very beautiful one, inside and out.
A baptisimal font? Not sure, but it so lovely with its carving and Connemara marble.
There has been a church on this site since the 600s A.D. but this building went up in 1809. This tickles me since my books all take place in the regency era, the early 1800's, otherwise known as the Jane Austen period/Napoleonic War era.
I wasn't able to make out what all of this said but I did spot the date of 1819, just a few years after that which my current work in progress takes place.
Next time: Carmel by the Sea, California--or, perhaps, another day spent in Ireland.