Rathmore (Co. Kerry / East)
Rathmore (An Rath Mhor), (pop. 1600) formerly called Shinnagh, is a small town at the heart of the Sliabh Luachra area famed for its traditional Irish music and culture.
The town’s principal employer is a large Cadbury’s factory for the manufacture of chocolate crumb.
Rathmore is scenically connected via Ballydaly with Millstreet on Route 4.
The Paps in the Derrynasaggart Mountains are two breast-like mounds, each with a nipple-like cairn or ancient stone burial tomb. Their full name in Irish is Dá Chich Anann – “the two breasts of Anu”, the Celtic goddess reponsible for the fertility of Munster. The East Pap at 694m is 4m higher than its twin. (Photo by kman999)
Shrone Lake is a very special place, revealed only unto a few hardy souls (i.e. quite hard to each).
The City of Shrone / Cathair Crobh Dearg
The City of Shrone / Cathair Crobh Dearg / Chraobhdheargh (“Fort of the Red Claw”) is an ancient stone fort at the northern foot of the Paps, said to be the site of a shrine to Anu / Dana. Some overentusiastic sources claim this as the oldest place of worship in the Western World.
A Holy Well (with delicious water!) is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, with rosaries traditionally said in a clockwise direction around the fort on Mayday, nowadays the nearest Sunday to 1st May, including prayers for a good crops and herds – obviously a Christianisation of the Earth Mother cult. Within living memory, ill cattle used to be left here overnight on May Eve to be cured.
A walk combining the City, the Lake and the Paps used to be like a pilgrimage back in time to the ancient religion, bur the site is now marred by a well-meaning interpretative billboard.
Anu’s Breasts / The Paps of Shrone, a poem by Francis Duggan, can be read here.
Barraduff // Clonkeen (Co. Kerry / East)
Barraduff, a crossroads village named for the nearby mountain of Cnoc Bharr Dubh (400m), has undergone massive redevelopment in recent years and is now effectively a satellite dormitory of Killarney.
The community has an attractive church (RC), built in 1908.
Kilquane graveyard is a lonely and rather inspiring place with a wonderful view. (Photo by MobileBurn)
Headford was the scene of a notorious War of Independence engagement on 21st March 1921, when an IRA “Flying Column” ambushed the Kenmare – Killarney train at Headford Junction railway station to capture weapons, including a valuable Vickers machine gun, destined for the Black & Tans. The death score was 25 – 2, another glorious victory for Ireland. At least two of the IRA volunteers involved subsequently became Free State officers and were murdered by Republican irregulars during the Civil War.
Glenflesk (Glean Fleisce) is a dispersed rural community centred on a crossing point of the River Flesk.
Killaha Castle, a C15th Tower House on an eminence near the northwestern extremity of the valley, was the legendarily hospitable stronghold of the O’Donaghues of the Glen, whose support for King James II in the Williamite War led to their lands being confiscated. Every May Day the first Donaghue is said to rise from the depths of the river on a white stallion, wielding a crooked knife as the symbol of his authority.
(Captain Geoffrey Charles Patrick Randal, The O’Donoghue of the Glens, Lord of Glenflesk, Chief of his Name and Arms, struck a mighty blow for Irish nationalism on St. Patrick’s Day 1925 by flying the Irish tricolour over the British Military camp at Multan in the Punjab, India, in a somewhat belated show of support for the Connaught Rangers Mutiny in Jullundur five years earlier. The Empire quaked.)
Barraduff & Glenflesk are both linked by main roads to Killarney.
Clonkeen / Cloonkeen is situated in a very scenic part of the Derrynasaggart Mountains.
Drivers approaching along the winding N22 from Couny Cork are greeted by a rather magnificent hillside statue of a rearing unicorn.
Clonkeen is within easy reach of Ballyvourney (Co. Cork) on ByRoute 4.
Loo Bridge is where the Rivers Loo and Clydagh join to become the River Flesk.
The Loo Bridge Inn is a highly rated traditional local hostelry; although long-established, its claim to be Ireland’s oldest pub is not well founded. (Photo by irek L)
Rossacroo-na-loo Woods (from Ros a chro – the wood of the cro / cattle hut) and its smaller Millenium Forest annex are Coillte recreation amenities in the Loo River valley, where the old Kenmare – Headford railway line (1891 – 1959) running parallel to the river makes for an exceptionally pleasant walk through oak, birch and hazel scrub, with a luxuriant carpet of mosses, lichens, heather and ferns reflecting the wet local climate. 15 km of forest trails provide great views from the slopes and extend as far as Crohane Lake (a tough walk, not for the faint-hearted). The fauna of the area includes Sika deer, red deer, foxes, badgers, hares, rabbits, wood mice and horseshoe bats along with jays, treecreepers, long-tailed tits, cuckoos, barn owls and sparrowhawks.
Morley’s Bridge / Droichead Ui Mhora is near a modest mountainside stone plaque honouring Michael Lehane (1908 – 1943), a veteran of the International Brigade’s Connolly Column in the Spanish Civil War, who later joined the Norwegian Merchant Navy and was a member of the crew of the Brant Country, torpedoed in the North Atlantic by a German submarine during WWII.
Sillahertane Lodge was built c.1870 as a hunting lodge for Francis W Lowe, the English distiller of Wyse Whiskey, who lived in Bansha, Co. Tipperary.
Having bought 1700 acres from the notoriously unpopular landlord John Burluce Warren, he constructed a very luxurious holiday home to entertain large parties from England and Tipperary during the shooting season, for which gamekeepers bred grouse and woodcock. Locally recruited domestic servants, gardeners and labourers kept the place in good order all year round.
A story is told about a local employee who, when told in an English accent to “kennel the dogs“, immediately proceeded to the duckhouse and began to kill all the ducks.
Sillahertane was extensively pillaged during the Civil War. Over a period of weeks, the house was stripped of its fittings, furnishings and roof. It is said that three hundred loads of loot were removed during this period.
The Lowes understandably decided not to reinstate the property and they reluctantly held on as owners for another fifteen years. Mary Louisa Lowe went on to publish a book entitled Happy Days In The Kingdom Of Kerry recounting her memories of life in Sillahertane.
All that remained was the bare shell of the house and the overgrown remnants of extensive gardens, an annual riot of colour emanating from the many different varieties of rhododendron that flourish there. These include several very rare hybrids that are almost impossible to propagate elsewhere.
Former jockey turned songwriter Jimmy McCarthy was inspired by the view to write his popular song As I Leave Behind Nedeen, which has since been recorded by Mary Black and become a standard.
The Sillahertane estate is now run as an eco-commercial enterprise involving farming, forestry, fishing, game shooting and wildlife management, with Sillahertane House available for holiday rental.
(Photos – www.landedestates.nuigalway.ie)