The Land of Heart’s Desire

Ben Bulben evening

On 20 Oct 2013 The Sunday Times ran a special section on the best places to live in Dublin and Ireland. Dublin 4 residents were delighted when Sandymount was declared best place to live in Dublin and Sligo won as best place to live in Ireland. I concur with the above 100%.

My family and I have being visiting Sligo for 14 years; it’s like a home from home. As on any Irish holiday, when it rains there have to be things to do and Sligo has loads.
There are golf courses, a horse racing track, swimming and surfing at Strandhill beach, GAA clubs and the Sligo Rovers stadium. For folks who have an artistic bent there’s the Hawk’s Well Theatre, The Factory Performance Space and The Model art gallery.

For all well-heeled Dublin 4 folk, you can shop all week, bring your plastic friend and call into Quayside shopping centre, it is an Aladdin’s cave of shops or for more high-end shopping call into Johnsons Court, a mini Dundrum shopping centre.

Last July, along with our dear friends Martin and Kitty Doyle, we visited Tobernalt Holy Well, which is about three miles from Sligo city. I was astounded when I saw this well in a primeval forest. Tobernalt well has been in existence since 3,000 years BC, when it was used by the first Irish people as a pagan holy place. We walked along many pathways and found the mass rock from pagan times further on. The main altar is hacked out of a stone cliff face. We followed the well water as it ran into Lough Gill, which is arguably the most beautiful lake in Ireland.

We also visited the Ox Mountains in west Sligo which are the oldest mountains in Europe. They were formed in the Precambrian period, nine hundred million years ago. Yes folks, that’s 900,000,000 years, wow! Our own sugarloaf mountain near Dublin is a mere teenager at six hundred million years. Next time I have delusions of grandeur I shall read the above and wake up to reality.

Ireland’s greatest poet WB Yeats, born in Sandymount, like myself fell in love with Sligo and its fine people. His Paean to Sligo ‘The Land of Heart’s Desire’ is now used by the tourist board to promote “Sensational Sligo”. Yeats repeatedly told his wife that when he died she was to bury him under Benbulben’s head, in Sligo. In 1939 he died in Menton, France and he was buried at Roquebrune Cemetery in France from 1939 – 1948.
In 1948 both France and British Navies kindly offered to bring his body home to Ireland but the Irish government instead sent our flag ship L.E Maeve to France. The Yeats family were offered a state funeral and burial in Christ Church, Dublin, but they brought the body to Sligo for burial. Written on Yeats’ tombstone in Drumcliff is his lovely sonnet: “Cast a cold eye On life, on death. Horseman, pass by!”

My own favourite words of Yeats which I am certain is his tribute to the people of Sligo is “There are no Strangers here only friends you haven’t yet met.” So hail and farewell to WB Yeats, sleep easy under Benbulbin’s Head.

Finally may I wish all NewsFour readers a merry Christmas and a super new year.

Above: Evening on Benbulben.
Left: Watersports at Rosses Point
Photos by Eugene Carolan.

By Noel Twamley