On the Tain Way

A place of myth and wonder on foot and approachable

On Monday, June 9, 2014, cousin John Mills dropped his son, Sean Mills, myself and Pam Wills off at the foot of the western slopes of Slieve Foy on the Tain Way.  Sean, Pam and I walked the way over the mountain and into Carlingford in the footsteps of epic Irish heroes.

Our guide, Sean Mills, proposed the walk and it fell on our last full day in Ireland. Sean’s father and our host for this visit, John Mills, transported the group including my wife Pam to the starting point at the foot of Slieve Foy.

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On the Tain Way– CLICK ME!!!!

Yes, if there is any part of the Tain Way the the mythic Irish heroes trod it is this one over Slieve Foy mountain. The saga, in Irish “Táin Bó Cúailnge” and “The Cattle Raid of Cooley” in English, features this bull, “Donn Cuailnge” “The Brown Bull of Cooley”, here as a statue erected 2011 by the Grange and District Residents Association.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

Donn Cuailnge raged over the very slopes we walked this day. The myths themselves fill a volume and I am unable to do them justice here.

On the way, John stopped at the Old Aghameen School he attended in the late 1930’s early 1940’s 70 years before and we pass through the country soon to grace our views.

Many thanks to the Glenmore Athletic Club, the Cooley Walking Forum and land owners who provide access to the Tain Way.

We had our leave taking with John, who planned to stay near the phone for our call from Carlingford, if all went according to plan. That same year Pam had the first of two total knee replacements. This was our longest hike in Ireland and Pam was not likely to miss it, regardless of any pain. Pam is always ready to smile.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

At start, the Tain Way is broad, green and welcoming.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

The western slopes of Slieve Foy hold views of a valley among the Cooley Mountains with Dundalk Bay of the Irish Sea to the south / southeast. It was not long before the view started to open and, then, opened and opened the entire walk to the top. We were graced with a lovely, cloudy, June day. Mist only, no rain. Plenty of wind, not strong.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

Farms are all about. Here a farmer attends to the flock. They know who he is.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford The lower slopes hold many small stream among granite stones. Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

I will continue with our walk on the Tain Way soon enough.

Click for the next chapter of our time on the Tain Way

Here’s a previous Ireland posting……

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Robin Nest Build

An American Robin prepares a home for her offspring.

Our backyard robins returned this year. Pam, remembering the “miss” they made on her roses, tore down the first bits of nest on our carriage light. They persisted and I implored her to “have a heart,” agreeing to look after their mess. Here she is in the second day, note how she shimmies to form the nest bowl.

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A mini-interview with Michael Wills

This is the first blog in this series.

Lighthouse on Cape Rapier is the next blog in this series.

The contents of this blog are Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills

Hag’s Chair or Mass Rock?

Ancient Tradition

Part of our day in County Meath, Ireland  
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Known as the Hag’s Chair in some contexts, K29 or the Mass Rock, in others, set as a Cairn T, Loughcrew kerbstone thousands of years ago the carved symbols on front, rear and seat are very worn. There is no surviving record to inform us of the stone’s purpose. The upper side appears carved to enhance the form as chair.   Set to the north of Cairn T, not in front of the entrance as with Newgrange, even this is a mystery.  It is the third largest curbstone.

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The popular name refers to the hill itself, “The Hill of the Witch” (In Irish, Sliabh na Caillí).   In lore sites such as this are associated with The Others (“fairies”), living lives parallel to ours.

Tradition holds that, during times of the Penal Laws, Catholics gathers on for Mass using this curbstone as the altar.   By this it is known as the Mass Rock.

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Farmland Southeast of Carlingford

Beauty of the Cooley Peninsula, County Louth, Ireland

I offer here a continuation of descriptions of a 2014 walk on the Tain Way, an appreciation of the lore and beauty of Ireland.

Descending the Tain Way from the ridge of Golyin Pass the sweep of Cooley Peninsula spread before us. Louth is the smallest of the Irish Republic counties, a peninsula which is mountainous where it is not farmland, one exception being Carlingford with the most people, population 1,405 in 2016.

Residential Carlingford continues along the Greenore Road, farmland adjoins then continues southeast along the Cooley Peninsula margin, the Irish Sea beyond. Greenore Town and deep water port on upper left.  These photographs are views from the Tain Way on the slopes of Slieve Foye, the highest mountain of County Louth.

Greenore Town and Deepwater Port
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Wander through the place names: Chapel Hill, Liberties of Carlingford, Moneymore, Leminageh, Crossalaney, Mullatee, Millgrange, Ramparts, Muchgrange, Ballyamony, Mullabane, Petestown, Ballagane, Willville, Whites Town.
There is a deepwater port on Carlingford Lough adjacent to and part of Greenore Town. The port employed Cousin John Mills years ago, supplementing his farm income. Across the lough is Greenecastle, Newry in Northern Ireland.

Greenore Town and Deepwater Port

The Irish Sea opens on the far side of Greenore with the Isle of Man about 52 miles east and a little north.

Visit the opening chapter of our time on the Tain Way
Click link for the next posting of this series, “Leprechaun Rock along the Tain Way”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Spillway Falls with Hemlock

hemlock grace and water

The Dry Creek dam is across the upper, eastern, end of Fillmore Glen. Historical records of the dam construction must exist someplace. My opinion is, somewhere in the federal bureaucracy there is a record proving this dam was constructed by Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. That is when the gorge trails were dramatically improved and it is logical a dam was necessary to control water flow during times of heavy rainfall and the spring thaw, to allow a full appreciation of the gorge beauty. It is a substantial concrete structure with cast iron controls, two spillways: one never, the second always flowing. This day the reservoir is full, frequented by beavers, stocked trout, herons, blue jays, crows, hermit thrush. The reservoir banks are thick with wildflowers of the season. This afternoon I noticed purple flowering raspberries: a past prime bloom or two, ripe fruit growing in the late afternoon shade on the south side of the dam.

Unlike its name, Dry Creek is perennial, fed by a broad drainage of pastures, cornfields and forests. Year round the spillway runs, feeding into the gorge a constant, reliable supply of water for the many waterfalls for which Fillmore Glen State Park is known. The very first waterfall is on the rocks supporting the north side of the dam, formed where water from the spillway flows over these rocks into a deep, east west gorge overhung on the south side by mature hemlock trees.

I first encountered Fillmore Glen in the 1980’s with my young son, Sean. On Sundays he and I walked as far as he tolerated, about half way to the dam site, where the gorge makes a turn to the south, the trail on an unstable clay bank against a crumbling shale cliff. Rediscovering the park in the early 2000’s, along with my interest in photography, I noticed the waterfall just below the dam many times and admired it for how the water caught late afternoon light over the many grace points created by rock crags like a wedding cake. The angle from the dam path is wrong for capturing this effect. Today was a first for me to leave the safety of the dam path to climb into the gorge, on the south gorge wall, for a shot.

Here is a view of the spillway fall on a mid-August afternoon, 2017. My photography kit for this walk with my wife, Pam, was minimal: a Sony Alpha 700 with a variable lens, the flash and a Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod. For this version of the spillway I climbed into the gorge on the south wall, about 40 feet above the creek. A hemlock tree branch fell across the view, incorporated into the composition. These hemlocks are not a biological relative of the Socratic, poisonous, hemlock. The relationship is a similar aroma when the leaves are crushed. The f stop is cranked to 36, ISO set to 100 so slow exposure time to 1.6 second. Post shot processing via Photoshop.

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Spillway Falls and Hemlock Branch -- CLICK ME!!!!

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Overlapping Hepatica and Trillium Blooms

four of a kind

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Four views of purple trillium, three of a grouping and one portrait. Taken in the same session of a rare set of perfect blooms growing wild.

Taken with a Canon 100 mm “macro” lens, a Kodak dslr body, a Manfrotto tripod and ample time and patience.

Enjoy!

Fillmore Glen Purple Trillium

The trillium plant grows from a body of rhizomes, a type of underground stem you can think of as a type of root. There are rhizomes when use to flavor food such as turmeric, though trillium is not one of these.

Fillmore Glen Purple Trillium

The single scape grows straight from the ground to form a whorl of three bracts mirrored by the three green (usually) sepals and, again, by the three flower petals for which it is named.

You can clearly see all of this in my photographs.

Fillmore Glen Purple Trillium
Fillmore Glen Purple Trillium
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Loughan Bay Ruins, County Antrim

Deserted Cottages above the Irish Sea

We pulled off the side of Torr Road for this fine view on the way to Torr Head to take in this view of the Irish Sea.  The steeply rising distant headland is the Mull of Kintyre. Loughan an Lochan, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

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We parked on a turnout above the Loughan Cottages, near this farmer’s sheep pen.  He drove up in a huge tractor and conversed with Pam while I was below shooting the cottages. He made a good impression.

Loughan Bay Farmer – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

Roofless walls of a cottage more substantial than the other deserted ruins above Loughan Bay, with two fireplaces a walled porch with a view. A number of outbuilding foundations lay around. The integrity of the walls, chimneys and gables speaks to the quality of construction. A freighter in the North Channel of the Irish Sea is visible in the distance above the upper ridge. Beyond is the island of Islay, Scotland, about 30 miles distant. Loughan an Lochan, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

I am happy to report a series of thirteen (13) photographs of these ruins were accepted for publication by Getty.  You can click any of the photographs in this posting for my Getty portfolio.

Loughan Cottages Ruins above Crockan Point – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

The land slopes steeply to a rocky beach.

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A thick growth of ferns, grass on the gable was once a home with a view of Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre 13 miles across the North Channel of the Irish Sea.  The Isle of Sanda just visible on the right of the far gable.  A landform named Alisa Crag is just visible in the distance, to the left of the nearest gable. 

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Interested in learning more about this site?  I have a series of postings on Loughan Bay.  Click for the first posting in this series.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills, All Rights Reserved.

Rose of Castlemaine

Beauty and History on the Maine River

A chapter of our day on the Dingle Peninsula. 
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The temperate oceanic climate of Ireland is perfect for roses. On R561 near Castlemaine we stopped to admire these dark red blooms growing on long stems. From the form and deep color I say these are a hybrid of the China Rose, a variety with color that deepens in sunlight.

Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

Castlemaine of County Kerry, is on the southeastern coast. Here prevailing winds from the North Atlantic current moderate temperatures; winters are warmer, summers cooler than elsewhere on the island. Just across the road is a yard aburst with blooms on this June day in 2013. Castlemain is named for a castle built on a bridge over the river Maine. The river flows into Dingle Bay.

Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

This is a small, quiet town, yet due to the river crossing this is a strategic location.  During the Irish War of Independance, the IRA ambushed and killed security forces near Castlemaine.
Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

The ballad of defiance, “The Wild Colonial Boy”, tells the story of a Jack Duggan born and bred in Castlemaine. The tale is based on the life of Jack Donahue, an orphan of Dublin. In his short life Jack was convicted under English law, shipped to Australia where he escaped to the bush and a career as a bush ranger. He escaped a death sentence only to die in a shootout. Jack lived to be about 26.
Attempts to ban “The Wild Colonial Boy” in Australia failed. Generations of Australians have sung and will sing this tale, now a part of folk lore. Here are the lyrics:

There was a wild colonial boy,
Jack Duggan was his name
He was born and raised in Ireland,
in a place called Castlemaine
He was his father’s only son,
his mother’s pride and joy
And dearly did his parents love
the wild colonial boy
At the early age of sixteen years,
he left his native home
And to Australia’s sunny shore,
he was inclined to roam
He robbed the rich, he helped the poor,
he shot James MacEvoy
A terror to Australia was
the wild colonial boy

One morning on the prairie,
as Jack he rode along
A-listening to the mocking bird,
a-singing a cheerful song
Up stepped a band of troopers:
Kelly, Davis and Fitzroy
They all set out to capture him,
the wild colonial boy
Surrender now, Jack Duggan,
for you see we’re three to one.
Surrender in the Queen’s high name,
you are a plundering son
Jack drew two pistols from his belt,
he proudly waved them high.
“I’ll fight, but not surrender,”
said the wild colonial boy

He fired a shot at Kelly,
which brought him to the ground
And turning round to Davis,
he received a fatal wound
A bullet pierced his proud young heart,
from the pistol of Fitzroy
And that was how they captured him,
the wild colonial boy

Click this link for the previous chapter of our day on the Dingle Peninsula

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Wildflowers Late Winter / Early Spring 3

With the thermometer in the 40’s on March 12 these crocus were open, under the same magnolia tree as the buttercups from the 10th. The blooms close during cold snaps much as you see in the first post.

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A tripod held the composition steady and the timer was set to 2 seconds for extra stability. With the leaf body worn away by time, the remaining veining turns the form lacy.

Here is a slideshow today’s and previous wildflowers.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills