The Road Less Travelled in the Hazelwood………

When we take the dogs for walk, we tend to try for places where they won’t annoy other people. That may sound a bit strange, but we like to let them run free where possible, and there are a lot of people who are wary of dogs.

We can’t guarantee that Missie won’t jump on the next child she sees or that Alfie won’t disappear like a rocket up the track to herd up the family ahead of us ( no matter how much training we have done). We’re very aware that every dog owner has a responsibility to be in control of their animals at all times, so in an attempt to preempt any issues, we keep them on leads where there are loads of people round and then let them loose off track through the woods or sand-hills.

One of our current walks is through the Hazelwood Demesne, about 5km outside Sligo. There are a series of walks here starting at Half-moon Bay, and stretching along the shores of Lough Gill.

Hazelwood was the seat of the Wynne family who owned the house and most of the surrounding lands for 300 years.  The Wynnes were a very important Sligo family and included members of parliament and High Sherrifs within their ranks. However in recent years the house has lain empty.
A factory was built on the grounds of Hazelwood House in the early 1970s for the Italian nylon manufacturer Snia. This factory closed down in 1982 and the premises were sold to Korean company Saehan Media which made video tapes at the plant for 15 years until 2006. Recently the entire site has been bought by Dublin entrepreneur David Raethorne and a new future secured as a tourist attraction and whiskey distillery!
Val has written a piece on the house in her blog Magnumlady.

We tend to head through the forest instead of along the waters edge.

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Halfway through the forest we cut through the woods to the edge of the factory grounds. We never go through the grounds as it is clearly sign-posted as private property. There is no path as such, but it is walkable.

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The dogs love it as they just play chase through the trees. No need for fancy obstacles courses here! And we obviously are not the first to come this way as we found the Sligo version of the sword in the stone: the knife in the tree!

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And when finally get through the woods, the view along the Garavogue River towards Dooney Rock and Benbulben are stunning.

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Heading in the direction of Sligo  brings you to a very strange little building. It’s at the back gate to the old factory and I’ve been told that it was a pump house. I presume that the pump house was used to pump pressurised water into the factory as a source of energy. If anyone knows the hos and whys I would love to hear.

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You can continue on, but it leads to the side entrance of the House. There is a barbed wire fence across the end of the lane so we don’t go there. We come back along the shoreline part of the way, before cutting onto the track we started on. It’s a lovely walk at anytime of the day, but on Saturdays you might get to spot the local rowing club at play.
There used to be a collection of wooden art here when I first came to Sligo in 1991. Sadly the toadstools are the only remaining piece that I can find

*Sections of this route cross Coillte property, for up to date information on diversions/closures due to tree felling, please visit www.coillteoutdoors.ie

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Buddleia and Butterflies.

When I was growing up, there was a bush that grew below my bedroom window. I had no idea about proper botanical names; in our garden many of the plants where called by the town they came from, the person that gave it to us or what it was used for.
Anyway, this bush was known in our house (and in many others) as the butterfly bush. I since discovered that it’s called Buddleia Davidii.

Buddleia - Menai Straits in the backgroundIn some areas Buddleia is considered an invasive plant. It often self-sows on waste ground or old masonry, where it grows into a dense thicket. It is frequently seen beside railway lines, on derelict sites and, in the aftermath of World War II, on urban bomb sites. This earned it the popular nickname of ‘the bombsite plant’ among the war-time generation.

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When we were coming back through Wales we stopped in Caernarvon for a couple of nights. To get to the town itself, we walked along the Lon Eifion pathway which runs alongside the Menai Straits. There were loads of Buddleia along the path, and true to the bush’s name, there were loads of butterflies.

It took me a few goes to photo some of these guys, but I spotted at least four different types. I have to admit that we had to go and buy a Butterfly book so we could check the names of these, so if we have called then incorrectly please let me know. We did have a rather pleasant afternoon in a pub in Caernarvon reading the book though………

There was a Large Tortoiseshell butterfly that stopped to feed.

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Another that I spotted was a Red Admiral.

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There was a Large White Butterfly as well.

Large White on Buddleia flowersAnd the one that really caught my eye was the Peacock Butterfly. He was pretty hard to photo as he kept flying off as I pressed the button! I loved the eyes on the wings.

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I have to say it was so peaceful there watching them feed; another escape from the maddening crowd.

When I got home I discovered that my own Buddleias had flowered as well. However I was in for a surprise though. One of them flowered yellow! After a bit of investigating I discovered that it is  hybrid variety called Buddleia x Weyeriana or Golden Glow. The bees  in our garden seem to really like it.

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Glynllifon Estate; a hidden gem in North Wales.

On one of our visits to Wales, we stayed near Caernarvon, and having a bit of time to spare, we decided we would visit Glynllifon.

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Glynllifon is an old estate that once belonged to Lord Newborough and can be found near the village of Llandwrog. As you drive from Caernarvon to Pwhelli on the A499, it lies on your left; you can’t miss the gateway….
The original Regency style mansion is now privately owned and run as a Country House Hotel and wedding venue. According to legend there have been settlements here for over 1000 years.

There are walks through the gardens, and there are wonderful buildings, ponds and even Redwood and Giant Red Cedar trees. It’s a photographer’s paradise. Every twist and turn in the path throws something new at you, it’s no wonder we took so long to get around it.

The first thing we came across was a lovely little waterfall and iron bridge.

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Just beyond it was an old boathouse and pond. It was so quiet and peaceful there.

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The water had wonderful reflections of the trees, bushes and buildings……..

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Thee pathway led through the woods and as we turned the corner we spotted the mansion itself, and the series of bridges in the lawns in front of it.

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Then it was back to the woodland walk; there are loads of interconnected pathways that weave their way through the woodlands. There are derelict buildings, covered in moss, and surrounded by ferns. I love the way the sunlight filtered through the overhead canopy…..

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The paths twist and turn; there are hidden caves and wonderful little streams that you cross back and forth over.

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Towards the end of the path is an amphitheater set into the hillside. I wonder what was staged there and who sat in the stone seats clapping?

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So we turned and headed back and passed this beautiful fountain; hard to spot where the water ended and the lawns began.

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And then we found the best wood carvings; it was a mother otter and her cub carved from a fallen tree. It was simply beautiful work!

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On the way out we stopped at the craft shop for a quick cuppa and a browse around; there’s lot’s of pieces made by local craft workers.

Another great place to visit.

Dooney Rock, Sligo – another hidden gem!

Another of the hidden gems I’ve found in Ireland is Dooney Rock, located on the R287 from Sligo to Dromahaire.
Dooney Rock was  made famous by W.B. Yeats in his poem ‘The Fiddler of Dooney’. In the poem Yeats tells the story of an Irish fiddler who expresses himself though his music. The townland of ‘Kilvarnet’ which is referred to in the poem is a small parish near Collooney.

When you find it, there is a car park with a picnic area, and leading from there is a nature trail that loops around this wooded wonderland. The path initially leads to the edge of Lough Gill, before heading towards the top of Dooney Rock.

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The trail leads through the woods and along the water edge; no matter which way you go there is always a beauty to be seen. As you walk along the shoreline there are views across Lough Gill. These photos were taken in February, and I love the starkness of the winter trees against the water and the distant mountains. It was also a wonderfully calm day, so the reflections in the water were great to capture.

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At regular intervals along the path, there benches that give the chance to sit and relax and there are also information posts giving details on the various trees and plants located in the area.

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The path actually follows a figure eight loop; I returned to the edge of Lough Gill by the path through the forest. There were loads of old tree  stumps which to me resembled strange creatures frozen in wood.

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There are little gems around each corner; I loved the little stream that trickles into the lough, and the moss covered boulders along the edge of Lough Gill.

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When you reach the top of Dooney Rock itself there are views of the two mountains which dominate the Sligo landscape;  Benbulben and Knocknarea.

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Benbulben is probably the mountain most associated with Sligo, and is part of the Dartry range of mountains.
The name is an Anglicization  of the Irish name “Binn Ghulbain”. “Binn” means peak or mountain, while “Ghulbain” refers to Conall Gulban, a son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Another translation is jaw-shaped peak.

Knocknarea is reputed to be the burial site of Queen Maeve of Connaught. You might just be able to make out the cairn on the top of the mountain.
The name is also anglicized from “Cnoc na Riabh” (meaning “hill of the stripes”). However, another interpretation is “Cnoc na Riaghadh” (“hill of the executions”).

This was another great chill out place to visit; it’s quite close to Sligo town, but to me it gives that feeling of quiet stillness. If you’re in the area have a look!

Information for Knocknarea and Benbulben  taken from Wikipedia.