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WHERE THE DEVIL FOUGHT O’DONOGHUE

– and the poet might have been inspired!

From the Muckross Arboretum car park, along the southern shore of Dundag Bay, we followed the leafy path to the headland looking down from a height on the whole expanse of Muckross Lake.

Directly west Devil’s Island stands out. It is said His Satanic Majesty on top of Mangerton Mountain (south south east) and the great Chieftain O’Donoghue over in Ross Castle were firing huge rocks at one another. One of the devil’s rocks landed here and is now Devil’s Island in Muckross Lake. He must have been getting tired – look at your map – it is a long way short of Ross!

The devil tore his rocks out of the top of Mangerton mountain, where the rock is red sandstone. But Devil’s island is limestone. Further proof of his great power!!

The hole the Devil left is now filled with a lake – called the Devil’s Punchbowl – which is said to be bottomless. We are told a man once went swimming there – and a fornight later came out in Australia.

By juniper bush, under yew, arbutus and oak we walked by the sandy Dundag shore where we swim in summer time. Along the way nine year old grandson Noah climbed the great cypress at the head of the trail.

Then to Muckross Gardens.

Already occasional rhododendron bushes are covered in white and pink blossoms.

As dramatic as the experience of the poet
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Groups of these first clarions of Spring. Brash in their yellows with enhancing oranges and whites … by the banks of the stream, around the base of trees, through the rockery.

The pink, white and red camelia flowers are beginning to come out in the covered garden – south east of the main Muckross Gardens.

Each blossom is so perfect they look as if they were made of wax.

Here, under the canopy of great oaks and Scots pine, the early flowers are proteced from the burning effect of bright sunshine after frosty nights.

Seeing the photograph of himself peering from a white rhododendron bush Noah was quick to point out “he made me go in!”

Finally through the third garden at Muckross – the extensive arboretum with trees from every continent on earth. “We planted here because we believed that the shelter, humidity and relative mildness would facilitate the growing of trees that would not normally survive out in the open in Ireland,” the father of the arboretum Cormac Foley explained. “We were able to grow trees here that would have died in the National Arboretum in New Ross.”

The endless variety make this an idea place to walk with children. Peppered with the occasional story it is even better.

– Frank Lewis

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