Row, row, row your boat

Before we made it to the tree, we saw and experienced one of the more prominent features of the Lough Key forest park, the island with the castle on. I believe it is usually called Castle Island, distinguishing it from the islands with the church on (Church Island?).

Castle Island, seen from Lough Key

It being an island, the only way to get in and have a good look around was to use a boat, or pay for one of the boat tours. We hired two rowboats and immediately learned who had ever rowed a boat before in their lives and who hadn’t. I was in the latter category, but I still had a great time rowing us slowly across the lake for the second half of our outward journey.

Transportation

Despite the presence of someone who clearly knew what she was doing, our boat was very egalitarian and all four of us rowed across half the lake at some point. No one fell out, I don’t think anyone got whacked by oars, and we did make it to and from the castle without major incident despite some interesting rocking when a motorboat whizzed by and gave us a wake to bob over.

I like castles, even overgrown ones. I especially like castles I’m allowed to explore and climb on, where the only barriers to exploration are my own ability to spot paths and stairs and ways up and around. This one offered all that. I’m not sure how old it really was; even though there were apparently people living here a very long time ago, there was evidence of recent work done to support the structure and I think this particular castle might have been built in the past couple hundred years on the site of an older castle.

Broken Castle

There hasn’t been anyone living here for a while though.

Broken castle

A couple of us climbed up for a better view, and poked around some of the smaller tower bits. I’m pretty sure there are good names for everything, but I don’t know any of them so I’ll just show you the picture.

Broken castle with a view

I love that more times than not, when I venture out of Dublin I get a surprise castle sighting. (As it happens, I see a lot of a particular castle when I’m in Dublin, but it’s not that much of a surprise since I live practically next door to Dublin Castle.) I also love that most of the time when I see these things, I’m with friends who like climbing around as much as I do.

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Roscommon Lamb Festival, part 1

The shop received an invitation a few months ago to participate in this year’s Roscommon Lamb Festival, the first to feature a Wool Craft Village. Kheldara (Rav link) and I volunteered to staff our table, so it came to pass that the weekend before last I drove out Wesht and discovered all the delights the Wool Lamb Festival has to offer.

Since the Village didn’t officially open until 2-ish, we got a late start and hit the road with a carfull of stuff around 10:15. We set up as soon as we arrived:

Ready to sell...

I had my Irish radio debut while we put the finishing touches on the table. One of the presenters, Eugene from Shannonside, was set up in the station’s truck outside and asked a few of the vendors if they’d like to chat. I balked at first, fearing my telltale accent would mark me as a carpetbagger, but Eugene assured me it was exactly what they wanted. We chatted about the festival, about knitting, and about how the downturn in the economy was focusing people’s attention more on creative endeavours.

The Wool Village itself ended up being several straight hours of fun — we chatted with visitors, spotted a few shop customers who were delighted at being able to see us without having to make the trek to Dublin, and met some of the other vendors. I didn’t get a chance to talk to everyone, but I did snag a picture of one of the weaver’s tapestries in progress:

Woven tapestry in progress

She uses natural dyes in her work, and had a demonstration of the dye process at her booth. It threw me for a moment when I saw the dye pots — I’d thought they were vats of the fabled lamb stew. (We never did get any lamb stew. It was in a different location.)

There were a few yarn vendors at the Village, and a few people selling finished objects. We had a felter on one side of us who sold beautiful and practical felted pieces including purses, scrapbooks, fingerless gloves, and wraps. I couldn’t get good pictures of her stuff, but it was amazing. She confessed it was hard to sell some of her finished goods sometimes, and I can definitely relate. On the other side of us, a crocheter sold finished items, mostly baby blankets and clothes:

Crocheter selling her wares

Clearly, the fibre crafts are alive and well in Ireland.