First visit to the Yeats country

Ten days were spent in Ireland in late May on an initial exploration of the Yeats country. The trip began in County Sligo, the part of Ireland where Yeats spent much of his childhood and with which he is most associated. My first stop was the Yeats museum in Sligo –  a very modest affair compared to the Seamus Heaney Homeplace in County Londonderry, but a source of useful information. My exploration then continued via Drumcliff, where Yeats is buried beneath Ben Bulben, the mountain which dominates this part of County Sligo.


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Then on to Lissadell, Hazelwood, the waterfall at Glencar, Lough Gill and the lake island of Innisfree. All these places are referenced in Yeats’ verse.

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“Where the wandering water gushes/ From the hills above Glen-Car…”
The lake isle of Innisfree


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“The light of evening, Lissadell,/ Great windows open to the south.”


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Lissadell: the walled garden and shoreline below

After Sligo, I travelled south to County Galway in order to visit, in particular, Thoor Ballylee, the Anglo-Norman stone keep purchased by Yeats in 1917 and subsequently restored by him as a summer home. Thoor Ballylee provided the crucible and inspiration for much of Yeats’ later poetic creativity and is directly referenced in the titles of two volumes of his verse, “The Tower” (1928) and “The Winding Stair” (1933). Coole House (now demolished), the residence of Yeats’ patroness, Lady Gregory, and its surrounding park is close to Thoor Ballylee as is Kiltartan cross, the place symbolising the Irish poor in the poem “An Irish Airman Foresees his Death”.

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Thoor Ballylee


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Thoor Ballylee: “the winding stair”


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Thoor Ballylee: the view from the battlements


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Coole Park: the lake


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The “wild swans”

I then made two visits (at high and low tides) to the Flaggy Shore in County Clare on the south side of Galway bay, a place of significance in both the Yeats and Heaney canons.


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The Flaggy Shore


Unusually for Ireland, the sun shone almost without break during my time in Ireland – a pleasant surprise, but not providing the softer Irish light which I had hoped for and perhaps best suits my photographic style. I will be returning in the Autumn.

As a landscape photographer, I was struck by the following words on an information board at Downpatrick Head:

“Landscape is not an objective area of land or bounded space; it is perceived individually through the lens of personal memory and depends upon accepted beliefs by which it is interpreted”.