European Literary Trails: Study  Abroad  Program
Director: Professor Jolanta W. Wawrzycka

Coole Park

Back to Sligo  Yeats Tour Day 1  Yeats Tour Day 2

One of the great literary attractions in the West of Ireland is County Sligo, with Sligo town at its heart.  This page offers an overview of the Yeats' sites that my students visit every year--be sure to explore the "Yeats Tour Day 2" as well.

 

Our Yeats Tour "Day 1" begins with a visit to the Yeats Building,
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the home of the Yeats Society and Art Gallery. It houses the Yeats' exhibit full of photographs, letters, manuscripts, historical editions of works by all members of the Irish Revival, and other documents that pertain to not only Yeats' family, but also to the Gore-Booths, Maud Gonne, Lady Gregory & J. M. Synge. To students who are new to Yeats studies, the exhibit offers an excellent, in-depth historical and cultural introduction to Yeats' life and times. It is also a great overview of the next two days, as we begin to tour some of the greatest sites in this part of the world that inspired some of the greatest early poems of W. B. Yeats.
 

103_0348_r1The sculpture of Yeats' head and  103_0346  103_0345
  photo displays
that capture various stages of Yeats' life, work and associations.


  103_0353_r1103_0349Across the bridge from the Yeats' Building there is a Yeats' statue covered with words from his poems. We pause at the statue to try to decipher words and identify some of the lines.

Outside Sligo, on the first Yeats' Day, we travel around Lough Gill and make numerous stops in places that have literary and cultural relevance, such as a great spot with the view on the famous lake isle of Innisfree, Tobernalt Holy Well, Slish Wood ForestDooney Rock, Parkes Castle, and Hazelwood. Sometimes we also take a cruise around the lake--a relaxing hour of spectacular views and uniquely Irish tales & commentary on the sites we pass.

When the SKY clears, it can offer a fabulous view of the tiny Innisfree and an opportunity to hang out a bit longer...
103_0372  103_0371 (2)103_0375then "...arise and go..."

The Tobernalt Holy Well 103_0358is a pre-Christian spiritual site. Legend has it that later St. Patrick "used the well to baptize new Christian converts" (Discover Sligo Brochure). Persecuted Catholics held mass here during penal times.  

In spite of the undertones of kitschiness, the site is quite spectacular in its layout and tranquility.
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Click to look closer at this picture: 103_0360some people hang small items on the branches (chains, pieces of cloth, etc.) to solicit supernatural protection. I left a shoe string there and, after hearing from Debbie that leaning against the ancient stone altar cures ailments, I faithfully applied my back to the stone (with Bliss by my side, leaning on her newly operated-on shoulder). If Debbie chuckled, Bliss and I are healed, thank you very much.

Among my favourite places on Lough Gill is Slish Wood Forest 103_0363
(the  Sleuth Wood of  "The Stolen Child"), where the mid-May foliage offers great insights into young Yeats' fascination with the dimness and glimmering and shimmering of light and the half-light...

A brief climb leads to a great spot 103_0368  103_0365from which to view Lough Gill--the Rock of Dooney.  During our 2003 visit, a passing shower didn't invite gracious posing but still, the Lake Isle of Innisfree is visible on the left and Ben Bulben in the distance. My 2004 group was luckier with the weather: we only had "one season" that day rather than three...
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2004 Students (see also Lough Gill view above).

103_0392 Parke's Castle on the Lough Gill--we saw a great program about the Castle and the region's history and took a guided tour of this beautifully restored site--look right !
103_0389     103_0391   Our guide was informative and very funny, though his witticisms were bound to the content--the more you know about Irish history and culture, the more you appreciate the cutting wit of many Irish guides.

In Parke's Castle we also caught a glimpse of the 17th-Century family room--
 
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these wax figures behind the glass wall were surprisingly life-like.

 

Other than Coole Park and Glenalough, this is my other most beloved spot in all of Ireland: Hazelwood--with its majestic trees, calming greenery, and the swans...

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