Sunday, 18 September 2011

River and Stone

The previous blog about Lough Boora Parklands and the next four blogs (including this one) are of places that we visited on the same day.

This is number two.

Moving from the bog lands of the big sky at LBP our route took us across open countryside and along straight, narrow roads that seemed to last forever. We chose to have lunch in Ferbane, the largest, small town in the locality where The Black Boot Restaurant catered for our needs. Mine were simple: a large pot of tea which provided me with several cupfuls, followed by a dish of jelly,custard and cream. It was delicious. My companions made up for my meagreness and had a decent sized lunch each.

Our next destination was the ruins of Clonmacnoise, an ancient monastic settlement that sits on the banks of the River Shannon and where, in my mind, the river becomes a serpent as it twists first one way and then another. From the Shannon Pot in County Cavan through thirteen counties of Ireland the river travels 390km to enter the Atlantic Ocean in the Shannon estuary.

The Shannon Pot, in the shadow of the Cuilcagh Mountains, has a famous legend: A granddaughter of Manannán mac Lír visited the mystical pool to eat fruit from the forbidden tree, or The Tree of Knowledge, which was planted by the Druids. As she began to eat, the waters of the pool sprang up and drowned her. The name of this young woman was Sionainn, Goddess of the River Shannon. Senuna is her earlier name meaning 'the old honoured one'.

On approaching Clonmacnoise, from the Shannonbridge direction, we first saw the toppled ruins of an Anglo-Norman castle built in 1214. It was the second such structure here and replaced a wooden castle destroyed by fire and possibly by Viking marauders.

The primary function of the castle was to enable the Anglo-Normans to gain control over the midlands and guard an adjacent bridge which spanned the Shannon. This castle too was destroyed in the late 13th to early 14th century.

The Anglo-Norman ruins

The pilgrims to Clonmacnoise would mainly have walked or have rode on their small horses.

A sculpture of a pilgrim
(I wonder if he was shocked by the entrance fee!)

Alternatively were he or she a person of means then they may well have travelled here by boat

Moorings for the Clonmacnoise visitors of today

All around Ireland at the ancient monastic sites round towers are to be found, some are very well preserved others are not. As to why they were built there are as many ideas as there are towers.

One proposition is that they were a refuge
from unwanted visitors!

The monastery was founded between 545 & 548 AD and built in wood, these were replaced with stone buildings in the 9th century. Its' greatest period of growth came between the 8th & 12th centuries during which time it was attacked frequently mostly by the Irish (at least 27 times), also by the Vikings (approx. 7 times) and the Anglo-Normans (approx. 6 times).

Well preserved ruins of chapels & churches.

A balluan stone.
Once again ideas abound on what the original use was wether it was for the grinding of grain or for toning. Though certainly not as a wishing well as can be seen here. On a personal level I abhorr the idea of throwing coins into water from which humans or animals might drink from and become poisoned.

The great Shannon flows past the Clonmacnoise lands
and separates the Midlands from the West of Ireland
for on the opposite bank is Co.Galway.

Close to the monastery is what I feel is the 'jewel in the crown' and it is that gem that the next blog will be about.


  1. Margaret said:

    Hi Mel, No Joy with the Blog again. Sorry. Couldn't leave a comment.
    Loved the pictures and the story. That's what I call a brilliant day out.

  2. I love Ireland!! Great photo's Mel. Looks like a great day out. I love your comment on the sculpture of a pilgrim :D

  3. Gorgeous place to visit and so happy I get to see it and feel it through you! thanks so much,Debs

  4. Lovely...I wonder are there any round towers that are sticking out of the ocean not too far offshore that aren't lighthouses? These towers are very familiar to me in dream time for some reason, never been to Ireland.

  5. Dear String,
    The round towers were all built next to or adjacent to monasteries or churches. I do not know of any religious sites that have been inundated by the sea, even if that had occurred they would now have been reduced to rubble by our rough seas.
    May I suggest that you make a trip to Ireland, a flight of 1 hour max from the UK :)

  6. I would love to take a boat along the Shannon, it looks so beautiful. You could come as our very own travel guide! (Perhaps when the barge is built, you never know) x

  7. Fran the last time I was on the Shannon in a ex-ships lifeboat, the owner got sea sick in a bit of a lop, the steering wire broke and I ended up working the throttle with one hand, holding on with the other & steering with one foot on the tiller arm!
    So you won't mind if I check your controls :)

  8. Mel, then you are just the chap to come with us, obviously very useful in an emergency! x

  9. I love the contrast of grey stone against the rich green of the grass

  10. Lizzie said:
    This is what I've been trying to post as a comment, and like many times before it wont let me.

    'I've enjoyed greatly catching up with your travel blog posts, what an interesting time you've been having. That pilgrim looks how I feel, or may be he's just nursing a little hangover, in which case the same applies . . . Thanks for all your good wishes lately. I sure could do with some time out too, but I've just returned from a walk round Hurlestone Point and feel uplifted for now. '

    Blogger tells me 'Your current account ( does not have access to view this page.'
    I try signing out then back in and with an alternative google account. Given up for now!


  11. Lightenings viii - Seamus Heaney

    The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
    Were all at prayers inside the oratory
    A ship appeared above them in the air.

    The anchor dragged along behind so deep
    It hooked itself into the altar rails
    And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,

    A crewman shinned and grappled down the rope
    And struggled to release it. But in vain.
    'This man can't bear our life here and will drown,'

    The abbot said, 'unless we help him.' So
    They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back
    Out of the marvellous as he had known it.

    My favourite poem of all none
    I would love to set my foot down in the ruins of Clonmacnoise.

  12. Such a beautiful place. I would second Heron's recommendation that you go visit, String. An hour is a pittance of time for such beauty.