Many people are drawn to Ireland to focus on the literary history of this fascinating land. Were you aware that Ireland has produced four Nobel prizewinners in Samuel Beckett, Séamus Heaney, Bernard Shaw, and William Butler Yeats? When you consider the fact that the Irish literary tradition is split along lines of rural and urban, Gaelic and English, and Catholic and Protestant, it becomes even more astounding.
Add to this mix, Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Richard Sheridan, Maria Edgeworth, Oscar Wilde, Sean O’Casey, and James Joyce and you have an army of wordsmiths hailing from Ireland. There are many contemporary writers, poets and playwrights keeping Ireland on the map today, Roddy Doyle is just one of them.
William Butler Yeats is considered one of the three literary giants of Ireland, even though he spent half of his life outside of Ireland. He is forever linked with the rural communities in the west and his wistful poetry helped people to develop a new cultural identity. He spend his childhood near Sligo and the pastoral scenery around Lough Gill, the place that inspired him to write The Lake Isle Of Innisfree:
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
Yeats is buried in a small monastic cemetery at Drumcliff within sight of the unusual towering Benbulben, a strikingly flat limestone plateau with sheer vertical sides eroded with deep ribs. He died in France in 1939 and his wish that he be interred in the Drumcliff cemetery was not honoured for another nine years. His great-grandfather had once been the rector there.
Kapoors On The Road
When I read that we were entering ‘Yeats Country’, and that his grave was in a small cemetery right near the highway, I encouraged Anil to stop for a quick break. We noticed a small tea shop near the entrance and decided to have some tea and scones. In the short time that it took us both to use the toilets, the place was invaded by a huge group of tourists who had arrived by bus. The charm of the place was completely destroyed by the long line of elderly people waiting for the toilets themselves. The line stretched right through the café from the washrooms in the back, past the service counter all the way to the front door.
We made our escape, walked to Yeats’ grave, took a few photos and admired Benbulben from under the shade of the large trees in the cemetery. As we walked back to our car, we passed a dramatic High Cross covered in scenes from the Bible, carved in the 11th century. We had missed the opportunity to have a light meal in comfort, but seeing the High Cross helped to dispel our disappointment.
The map we were using indicated that the rural road that runs around Loch Gill is considered a scenic route and as it didn’t look too very long, I twisted Anil’s arm to detour around it. I wanted to look across the water and see the Lake Isle of Innisfree for myself. Big mistake. The route might be attractive during the heat of the summer when the foliage is at its peak, but it was just a long, winding drive with little to see so late in the season. The tiny isle is barely visible from the shore where we stopped to get a glimpse of it.
We had a long drive ahead of us and it was a delay we didn’t need. We planned to drive most of the day, all the way from Donegal to the Cliffs of Moher, northeast of Limerick, where we would launch ourselves into the dramatic scenery of Killarney and the Beara Peninsula beyond. We were beginning to feel that we would run out of time to see the southern half of Ireland at the pace we were making.
We had pre-booked our flight to Portugal, allowing not quite three weeks in Ireland. It had been a good move because we found a direct flight and wouldn’t have to pass through London, but it meant we wouldn’t be able to see everything, and I mean everything of interest. Who knew that it would take weeks and weeks to see this tiny part of the world properly. If we run out of world to see on our travels, Ireland is definitely one place I’d come back to see more of.