Today was my best day so far in Ireland. For one, it didn’t rain. Well, it didn’t rain significantly. It was windy and cold and a few drops fell from the sky, but I can’t have everything, can I? The other reason is that I finally fulfilled a long-time dream of mine — to travel to Breifne, where the O’Rourke clan originated.
After spending for days in Dingle, I was off by bus to Sligo in northwest Ireland. I woke up Sunday morning in Dingle and it was pouring — really coming down. Since Sunday was a travel day, I wasn’t too disappointed. I got completely soaked walking to the bus stop because I was too cheap to take a taxi (it was only three or four blocks away). The wind was howling so hard it turned my umbrella inside out and it broke. I deposited in the trash at the SuperValu (that’s how it’s spelled) in Dingle. I can buy another one. There’s no umbrella shortage in Ireland.
The trip on Bus Eireann took 10 hours and I changed buses three times. I had two layovers of 90 minutes — one in Tralee and another in Galway. By the time I got to Galway, it had stopped raining. The last leg — from Galway to Sligo took two and a half hours and we stopped at every one-horse (or one sheep) town along the way. When I arrived in Sligo at 8:20 pm, my hotel was right next door to the bus station.
My journey to O’Rourke country or Breifne
This morning, I finally decided to rent a car, even though I was a little nervous about driving on the wrong side of the road. I’ve decided it’s not such a big deal. What is a big deal is the narrow roads in Ireland — think Highway 275 from Hopland to Kelseyville — only worse. I stopped at Creevelea Abbey, an abandoned abbey once used my the Franciscans. It was founded by Owen O’Rourke. It’s now used as a graveyard for the neighboring town of Dromahair. I had the place completely to myself. I spent an hour looking around, taking some photos and then walked down a foot path to the River Boyle. It was so peaceful there, I could have spent hours looking around.
After leaving the Abbey, I drove to the town of Dromahair, seat of the O’Rourkes, lords of Breifne. Dromahair was a sleepy little town about four or five blocks square. Not much was happening there, but I heard there was an actual O’Rourke stone seat. I finally found it, and of course, I sat in it. I couldn’t help myself and I started shouting, “Here it is. Here it is.” It just came out, I was so excited.
After lunch, I headed to Parke’s Castle, a few miles from Dromahair on Lough Gill. Parke’s Castle was originally O’Rourke’s castle, until Brian O’Rourke was hung for treason for giving refuge to a sea captain from the Spanish Armada. King Henry the VIII gave the castle to the Parkes. Again I had the place practically to myself. There were a few French tourists, but they soon left. It really is refreshing not having to fight tourist crowds.
Finally, I went on a walk to visit the Giant’s Grave, also known as Magheraghanrush Court Tomb or Deerpark Court Tomb. It is a megalithic
tomb site off of a country road, near Parke’s Castle. I’m fascinated by these prehistoric sites and there’s hundreds of them in Ireland alone. Giant’s Grave is like a mini- Stonehenge in the middle of nowhere. It was good exercise too, as it was probably a two-mile walk from the car park (parking lot) off the road.
Tomorrow I’m off to County Down, where I will meet with an O’Rourke cousin. I’m looking forward to it.