Sligo Abbey, County Sligo

At what altar did you pray
Before it came to crumble
Before what god did you kneel
Hoping for reprieve
How heavy was your purse
The gold you hoped would save you
Yet you still lie beneath this earth
Sinking into dust
— Claire Loader

Sligo - the town has her secrets, tucked in lane and alley, nestled in foothill and valley, but at her heart is her jewel, her crown laid at her altar, the only sculptured altar in fact to survive to this day in Ireland. Indeed, few places survive at all with the treasures that live at Sligo Abbey. Founded in the mid-13th century, her enchantment has seen out fire, her alcoves resisted plunder - she stands today perhaps prouder than ever, to which she certainly has every right.

You can find the location of this fabulous abbey and the many other places I’ve visited here. Come explore with me…

Copyright © 2019 Claire Loader. All Rights Reserved.

Lough Coolin Famine Village, County Galway

Did you run or were you driven
From the beds you made of stone
The lake up in the clouds
The valley you called home
And did you dream then of its shores
The hawthorn’s springtime snow
The heather swaying gently
On the edges of the sky
— Claire Loader

Lough Coolin - we came upon her shores as the evening stretched the sky a thin shade of blue, as pairs of young birds played upon the rocks, flitted above the heather. Tucked into the back heights of Mount Gable in Clonbur, it was a strange feeling to be up so high, enclosed by commanding hills with peaks even higher. Rumour has it famine never reached the valley, rather merely the disdain of poverty, the carriage track of the Guinness family veering too close to a settlement not fit for viewing. But my, now what a view - the stones of the little cottages so perfectly placed, the water of the lake a striking cobalt blue. Standing amidst the remains, it’s hard not to wonder who it was that had lived there, who it was that had been driven from it, for whatever reason. And yet despite the soft sadness that sits upon the walls, there is a sense of magic too, the lonely hawthorn trees on the hills almost sparkling in their springtime snow.

You can find the location of this haunting site and the many other places I’ve visited here. Come explore with me…

Copyright © 2019 Claire Loader. All Rights Reserved.

Adare Franciscan Friary, County Limerick

Arrested in the light of you
I stood and looked in awe
The skies a sharpened shade of blue
Your skirts of striking pink
That rose to kiss the summer sun
That reached up to the skies
That danced amidst the falling stone
That bloomed before my eyes
— Claire Loader

The Keeper of the Friary - so often it falls to the bull, the quiet solitude of crumbling walls protected by ring and horn. Not so in Adare. Nestled instead behind a gauntlet of golf balls, the Franciscan monastery rises from the 14th hole like the blooming towers of Elysium - swaying pink flowers scrambling, filling every nook, every alcove of the sun-kissed stone. The occasional chatter of golfers the only thing that pulls you back to reality, that breaks the spell that perhaps you had indeed stepped inside the halls of beyond.

You can find the location of this magical site and the many other places I’ve visited here. Come explore with me…

Copyright © 2019 Claire Loader. All Rights Reserved.