I have been wanting to visit Loughcrew for a long time now, not only are you promised a beautiful magical garden to wander around but nearby there are some of the most stunning megalithic passage graves in all of Ireland. In the gardens there is a zip-line and a climbing tree for those of us who like being suspended a long way above the comfort of terra firma on a rope. I packed my kindle and some crochet as there is also a coffee shop where I could happily dog-sit while the rest of the party could investigate the activities of the adventure centre.
Despite scorn for our choice of music from the little ones in the back seat, getting completely lost twice and meeting a oncoming idiot driver, hurtling murderously down the middle of a twisty country road, we arrived at Loughcrew in very good spirits and were delighted with what we found. Our spirits had been greatly restored by he short drive to Loughcrew from the pretty town of Kells , the car climbing to an elevated plateau, dissecting a glorious panorama of countryside, a vast quilt of green fields and tumbling grey and white dry stone walls. We had asked directions from the happiest lady in the land, cheerfully mowing her immaculate green baize lawn craved out of the side of a rocky mountain and found her mood contagious.
First place to explore was the atmospheric family church of St. Oliver Plunket. Man, there is nothing I like more than wandering around ruined churches and graveyards, I find the atmosphere so calm and peacefully contemplative. I love trying to decipher all the inscriptions and dreaming of all the people who lived once and are now resting here. The rest of the family don't share this attraction and are happy to scamper through and quickly on but I lingered and was delighted to be accompanied by a little wren as I wandered.
The gardens of Loughcrew House are a very atmospheric remnant of a now-lost 16th century house, it is one of those places that I can imagine full of shivery shadows after dusk. To walk in the company of such venerable yews was a privilege and the Alice-in-wonderland sculptures were charming. The highlight of the kids trip though was seeing their Dad ascending the climbing tree and the Hen Party falling in the lake.
I have one teeny criticism though, the promised 4k Lake walk is quite hard to access, the directions are confusing. we did attempt to follow the red arrows but there was a wire fence running through the apparent access points. We could have walked back to the coffee shop to ask the very friendly and accommodating staff but the heavens decided to open and we decided scurry back to the car and make for home. Disappointingly this meant that we did not get to visit the Cairns this time but I'm sure we will be back this way very soon.
On the drive in, as we were leaving Kells, we had passed an intriguing sign for The Spire of Lloyd, pointing to a structure that looked suspiciously like a lighthouse. Given that Kells is fairly inland, Lloyd and his spire seemed fairly extraneous! This seemed like one of those potentially exciting places that all too often is ignored as we drive on to another destination. So weather allowing I was determined to check this place out and having driven away from the rain we called in and well gosh it was worth it. So first we had to stop for a swing at the playground in the community park, then down through the fields to look for the Ring fort and back up to admire the view from the spire.
The spire is indeed a lighthouse and was built by the first Earl of Bective as a memorial to his father, Sir Thomas Taylor. The folly is also said to have been built as a comfortable viewing platform from which the Headfort family could enjoy the course of the hunt. This impressive symbol of 18th century wealth and landownership sits in poignant proximity to a one of the bleakest and most moving features of the Irish landscape, a famine graveyard.
The Great Famine, An Gorta Mor, 1845-1852 was a catastrophic failure of both the potato crop and that of the structural forces present in Irish society that saw over a third of the population, the landless labour class exist in abject poverty dependant on a one crop subsistence farming and the vagrancies and often brutality of the absentee Landlord class. Over a million people died of starvation in these years and a further million emigrated, leaving a scar on the cultural and demographic nature of the country that has yet to fade completely from our psyche. How fleeting our lives can be, potentially we are all migrants from poverty and conflict.
As the clouds darkened and the rain swept over this place, we thought of all those nameless people buried here in a pauper's grave without individual marker.
A contemplative end to a great day out. Thank-you so much for reading and have a great weekend with those you love. xxx
As part of Heritage week, both Loughcrew Gardens and Lloyds Spire are open to the public this weekend and are free of charge. The lighthouse is open for viewings on Sunday 30th August.