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My "Best of Ireland" Tour Journal

Chapter 6: County Sligo

County Sligo is famous for its archeological sites. The area is riddled with "passage graves". The biggest passage grave is in Newgrange, County Meade, on the banks of the River Boyle. The mound was excavated in 1965. They found a 60' long entrance into a passage grave with three different chambers. Over the doorway there is a lintel, then a gap. During winter solstice, the sun shines through the gap and beams off the back wall, illuminating the chambers. Newgrange limits visitation for the protection of the gravesites. The dead were cremated and buried in passage graves in gold urns. Later, the Vikings plundered the gold and scattered the ashes.

Single burial sites, dolmens, are marked by two large standing stones with large cap stones across the top of the two.

County Sligo is associated with W.B. Yeats. He was born in Dublin but his mother was from Sligo. His father was a minister. He was educated in England. The poetry he wrote while in England tends to be obscure and difficult to understand. When he returned to Ireland he fell in love with a beautiful young radical named Maude Gonne. She married one of the leaders of the Irish uprising of 1916. Her husband was one of the men who were captured and executed. Yeats eventually married Regina George. He died in 1939 in Paris. In 1948 his body was exhumed and buried in Drumcliffe. He had asked to be buried beneath "Bare Benbulben's Head", a mountain near Sligo.

The church at Drumcliffe where Yeats is buried was founded in 1809. The round tower which acted as a place of solitude and safety for the clergy still stands there. Also, in the churchyard is a very good representation of the High Crosses one finds across Ireland.

High Crosses were built around the 10th and 11th centuries at the instruction of the clergy. The crosses are beautifully carved with images depicting various Bible stories. This was to assist in the education of the parishioners since few of them could read or write.

Saint Colmcille (Saint Columba in Scotland) was born around 521 and died in 597. He became the Patron Saint of Donegal. He fought in the Battle of Culgrevna in 561. His mother was Ethna and his father was Fergus.

Classiebawn Castle belonged to Lord Montbatten - Prince Charles' uncle who was murdered by the IRA in 1979.

Coney Island is in the middle of Sligo Bay. "Coneen" is Irish for rabbit. The island was infested with rabbits. The area still teems with many wild rabbits.

In this area evidence has been found of human habitation dating back to 7000 years before Christ.
In terms of area, Donegal is the 3rd largest county behind Cork and Galway. Donegal is Irish meaning "the fort of the strangers" referring to the Vikings. O'Donnell is the prominent name in Donegal County.

Killibegs is the largest fishing harbour in Ireland.

Thomas Nesbitt, the inventor of the harpoon gun for whaling, was born in Donegal County.

The centre area of Donegal Town is called "The Diamond" because of the way it was laid out by Sir Basil Brooks, one of the plantation owners. He also rebuilt the O'Donnell Castle - Donegal Castle. There is a monument here to the "Four Masters" who wrote The Annals of the World which brought history right up to the 17th century.

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