– surrounded by mountain, lake, woodland and story
Ross Island’s constantly varied experiences of woodland, lake, mountain and story is special all year. It is at it’s splendid best these weeks.
In front of the 15th century Norman tower house that is Ross Castle on the shore of Lough Leane one might wonder about the land under the water where, legend says, there is eternal spring and nobody ever grows old. Is Lough Leane the lake of youth?
Across the water Innisfallen Island with its extensive remains of a monastery. The monks wrote part of the island’s annals and there was a major university. Perhaps Lough Leane translates to the lake of learning.
Imagine out in front the fleet of flat-bottomed Cromwellian boats that blockaded the castle in 1652. Ross Castle was the last fortress in Ireland to be captured by the invading army. And thus began the darkest period in Irish history. During those Penal days there was no such person in law as an Irish catholic. The ambition was to obliterate Irish identity.
In complete contrast in August 1861 the huge crowd and great ceremony of Queen Victoria arriving here by carriage to spend a day on the lake. An elaborate etching in the Illustrated London News captured the scene.
Now along the course of the road developed here in the 18th century for the wagons drawing the loads of copper ore for smelting in Wales. The shattered stone and flooded mine shafts further along on the shores of the lake are ample evidence of the 18th and 19th century activity.
Legend tells of a blacksmith Len Línfíaclach (Len of the White Teeth) who worked his craft here. Perhaps the lake bears his name. Mining here goes back 4,500 years making it the oldest copper mine in north western Europe. If you search you might come across a shattered piece of a glacial-rounded sandstone that was part of a prehistoric axehead. Look out for the grooves cut in the stone to hold a binding.
A little further on Governor’s Rock was the first Irish nature reserve. The headland offers a great high panorama over the whole extent of Lough Leane with its dominant mountain backdrop.
The demesne road goes on to the Library Point but we didn’t get there because we were anxious to see ‘that’ match. But on the return we stopped long enough for three year old Sarah to throw colourful maple leaves in the air.
And all of that is only five miles from Gallan Eile.
– Frank Lewis