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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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.

Glencar Waterfall; to the waters and the wild….

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‘Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand‘.

W. B. Yeats (excerpt from ‘The Stolen Child’).

Sometimes when I feel the need to escape, I take a drive to the Glencar mentioned in W.B. Yeats poem. It’s just north of Sligo town on the way to Manorhamilton.

Yeats often used references to Irish myths and legends in his early poetry; The Stolen Child’ was written in 1886 and is one of Yeats’ early poems.
Personally, I have always loved the poem. The full version tells of a human child beguiled away by the fairies. There is a line in the poem that reads ‘to the waters and the wild’ which has always captivated me. To me it represents an escape from the maddening crowded world I sometimes find myself in. The real Glencar offers no less an escape.
The Waterboys included the poem in their recording ‘The Stolen Child’ on their album ‘Fishermans Blues’. The words of the poem are spoken in it and it never fails to move me.

When you get there, Glencar is a pleasant, peaceful place.
As you park in the nearby car park you can look out across Glencar Lake towards the beauty that is Ben Bulben, and hear the roar of the waterfall in the background.

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The path to the main waterfall crosses a little bridge, and there are a series of smaller waterfalls on the way the main one. The area is lightly wooded, but there are well maintained paths that you can follow.

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As you walk along the path, you pass an old style lamp post which always reminds of Narnia; I often wondered if the path to that magical land lay behind the waterfall and if Aslan will one day roar at me as I walk past (who needs a wardrobe?)!

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The ferns that drop their tears Over the young streams’ grow all around, especially at the main waterfall itself. They glisten gently from the spray of the waterfall.

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Glencar is beautiful all year round. These photos were taken in February after there had been quite a lot of rain and the waterfall is always more impressive after sustained rainfall.
It is a place well worth a visit anytime you happen to be in the Sligo/Leitrim area, and you feel the need to escape to the waters and the wild.

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