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2003-01-22 Why Lough Gill inspired W B Yeats

Lough Gill, literally Bright Lake, is five miles long and two miles wide, and Yeats poetry is littered with references to this idyllic spot.

 

A trip on the Wild Rose Waterbus leaving from Doorly Park shows the highlights of glorious Gill, or you can drive around the shores.

If theres a fire in your head, probably the most popular spot because of its proximity to the town is Hazelwood.

Sit and admire the mute swans sailing around Half-Moon Bay, or take the deciduous nature trail around past the old shellhouse, moss house and rock house left by the Wynne Family who owned most of the land on the lakeshore.

Hazelwood House dates from 1724 and was designed by Cassels, also famous for Leinster House and Powerscourt. Your walk can last anything up to two miles round via Nut Point, and make up your own mind about the wooden sculptures.

A drive through Calry leads to the Deer Park which boasts a dazzling display of rhododendrons in the summer. A variety of walks here can take you to view the Neolithic Central Court Tomb, or can offer breathtaking views across Lough Gill.

As with all the forestry around the lake, the face of Sligo woodland is in a state of constant flux. If your drive takes you round the Lough Gill Loop past St. Angelas College, you will have a choice of scenic detours both ending up in Corwillick.

The road hugs the lakeshore round by OHaras Bay to Parkes Castle. This beautifully restored early 17th century manor house boasts an enviable position on the lakeshore, and is of increased fascination due to the discovery of an ORourke tower house underneath the present building.

Just past Parkes Castle on the left is The Glen, sadly once again impassible, having been for me one of the most pleasing walks in the county. Can the Forestry make this once again accessible? The road meets the lake again at Sriff at the far end of Lough Gill. I remember on several occasions scaling Banada Hill overlooking Sriff Bay.

A couple of miles later takes you to the quaint village of Dromahair, seat of the ORourkes, the Kings of Breifne. Right after the village and right again to Friarstown takes you to Creevylea Franciscan Friary dating from the early 16th century, another ORourke establishment but with a tragically short life-span, and now sadly a ruin.

This single-track road leads into the townland of Killery. We visited Killery a lot in my youth, my Dad being very good friends with many of the very welcoming local families - the Travers, Davises, Hartes, Connors, Gaffneys and Hoppers.

I remember the long winding walk down what once was a road to Paddy Travers totally isolated three-roomed house on the bog. Paddys lifestyle was unique, to say the least, a sort of lifestyle which is sadly unrealistic in our day.

He was an extremely knowledgeable, wise and content man who had devoted his life to his mother, but when I knew him he lived alone with his faithful sheepdog Major.

Despite endless promises, Paddy never had his road fixed! The road in Killery ends at the lake beside the Lake Isle of Innisfree, where peace comes dropping slow.

Returning to Crossboy, a right turn and a few miles later takes you to where dips the rocky highland of Sleuth Wood to the lake, or Slish Wood as it is better known. Several lengthy woodland or lakeside walks are possible here, and I think I have done them all with the dogs over the last 30 years or so.

Though the Nature Trail in Dooney needs a bit of an overhaul, a variety of walks are possible here, some steeper than others. I swam from here out to Beezies island in my youth. Beezie was an affable old lady who rowed into Sligo weekly, and tragically died in the 1950s in a house fire on her island home.

The road follows the lake around to Tobernalt or the Holy Well, a popular and peaceful place of pilgrimage, and an ideal place to end your trip around our scenic lake.

Return to Sligo via the Scenic Drive detour at Cairns Hill and you will be left in no doubt why this mass of water on our doorstep inspired one of our finest poets!