Sunday, May 25, 2014 was a happy day for Pam and I. It was the first full day of an eighteen (18) we filled with Ireland, travelling in a loop of the island following the coast from, naming the counties where we spent time on the ground, Louth, Armagh, Dublin, Meath, Wicklow, Cork, Kerry, Claire, Mayo, Antrim, Down and back to Louth. The counties of Northern Ireland are in italics. Indeed, at this time the politics allowed us to travel freely between the Republic and the North. That day, our morning was spent in Louth attending mass, enjoying our first meeting with the family over a substantial mid-day meal (click the link for my Facebook album of the meeting). We split off that afternoon to visit the home of my cousin, Mary and her husband Joseph McCreash in County Armagh, just over the border. When Joseph offered to drive us over to Slieve Gullion it was totally new to us, we had no conception of the place or what to expect.
It was such a gift, we are grateful to Joseph for this experience. Only in 2018 when, at 64 years of age as a “dislocated worker”, was I able to research the place and spend time developing the photographs for publication. Two of the photographs illustrate this posting, to view the others in my online gallery, click either photograph.
Slieve is the Irish language word for “mountain.” Slieve Gullion is a lone eminence, one remnant of volcanic eruptions about 60 million years ago during the rifting of continents that produced the Atlantic Ocean. Around the mountain is the Ring of Gullion, a string of hills, 26 miles by 11 miles, surrounding the mountain and formed from the ancient collapse of a volcanic caldera. The technical name for it is a Ring Dyke and it was the first of its kind to be recognized and mapped, well before the nature of the formation was understood of be volcanic. The name Gullion is derived, in one formulation, from the name of the metalsmith, Culann. In Irish Myth, Culann’s home and workshop was on the slope of Slieve Gullion. A wealthy and respected personage, Culann invited Conchobhar mac_Neasa, king of Ulster to feast. During his approach to the mountain, passing through the surrounding plain, the king stopped to watch boys play hurling. Among them was the future hero of Ulster, the young Sétanta. Impressed with Sétanta athletic abilities, the king invited him to join in the feasting at Culann and the boy promised to follow after the game. Later, while climbing the mountain to fulfill his promise Sétanta was attacked by the guard dog of Culann. The myth says the dog was killed by Sétanta in self-defense. Never the less, in compensation to Culann, Sétanta committed to rearing a replacement and to act as guard dog in the meantime. In this way he became known as Cu Culann, “the dog of Culann.” Click for more about Cu Culann.
On the summit two cairns north and south of a small lake, tangible proofs of ancient peoples and beliefs. The north cairn is a more ancient passage grave, 90 feet wide, 16 feet high, the opening aligned with the setting sun on the winter solstice. The cairn north of the lake is less ancient containing two cist burials. For our visit Joseph drove us along the 8 mile drive. The following is an image of a viewing platform and the road. Just beyond, on the right, where the ridge meets the road, is the trail to the 1,880 foot summit of Slieve Gullion. Our arrival disturbed sheep resting on the asphalt. I’d have loved to spent a day climbing the summit, but it was not to be this trip.
The way is part of the Slieve Gullion Forest Park. Throughout are turnoffs to admire the view. It was during our frequent stops I pulled out the photography gear to grab the views. Here is one, looking southwest. For the other views, click either photograph to visit my Online Gallery of Ireland.
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