Here are 5 - not-so-well-known thin places in Ireland to include in your travel itinerary.
1. The Hill of Uisneach - County Westmeath
Believed to be at the geographic center of Ireland, the hill of Uisneach doesn't look much different from the other hills in Ireland. One could easily miss it save for the signage that now identifies the hill and shows the traveler where to park. From the crest of the Hill of Uisneach the views are magnificent. Some say you can see 20 of the 32 counties on a clear day. Ritual fires were lit on Uisneach that could be seen from all the neighboring counties in the Irish midlands - and those fires signaled other fires to be lit in the farther reaches until ritual fires were burning all across the island from sea to sea. According to Cary Meehan, there is a well on the southern slope that is the source of twelve rivers. All the energy lay lines of Ireland meet at Uisneach. The hill is said to be the burial site of the goddess, Eriu from which Eire - or Ireland - draws its name. She is buried beneath a capstone on the southwestern slope.
2. Boa Island - Caldragh Cemetery - County Fermanagh
In the scenic county known for its lakes (Fermanagh) lies an ancient cemetery on Boa Island. The cemetery is surrounded by hazelwood trees and well preserved. The lumpy ground covering graves dating back centuries takes the pilgrim back in time, but not so much as the two stone figures that dominate the cemetery, and seem to follow the visitor into every corner. The large statue stands about 3 feet tall and has a face and torso carved on both sides. Commonly referred to as the Janus figure - Janus being the "all seeing" two-faced god who saw all things from the rising to the setting of the sun - the stone figure has a mystical quality. It watches you. There is no point in the cemetery that one cannot look over and see the Janus figure "watching." A smaller figure known as the Lusty Man (because it was brought from Lusty Beg) isn't quite so imposing. A friend of mine told me that if you bring a pendulum and hold it above each of these figures, the Janus figure will cause the pendulum to rotate clockwise while the lusty man causes the pendulum to rotate counter-clockwise. Much history here. Read more about Caldragh Cemetery in Five Keys to Learning from Thin Places.
3. Coole Park - Home of Lady Gregory - County Galway
Though this 1000 acres which was formerly the estate of Lady Gregory is not associated with rituals, sacred rites or holy wells; it holds a mystical quality and a sense of time standing still. Lady Gregory was an Anglo-Irish born woman who was known for her significant contributions to the Irish Literary Revival. Her home here at Coole Park and the grounds were a magnet for writers, and they visited her often. It was here that William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge and Sean O'Casey - and many others carved their initials on the famous "autograph tree." The tree still stands surrounded by acres of woodland and gardens. The traveler becomes an image in that artistic, literary landscape. It makes me wonder if the landscape itself and its mystical quality fostered the creativity that grew here - or if the creative people consecrated the land leaving an imprint behind that still affirms, fosters and draws out the artistic talent of visitors. Don't miss the museum. It lays a great foundation of the story behind the park.
4. Glencolumbkille - County Donegal
Glencolumbkille is a beautiful valley consecrated by St. Columcille (Columba) himself after he drove demons from this glen into the ocean. St. Columba (aka as Columcille) was born near this area. He began his holy ministry in Donegal and this valley, now known as Glencolumbkille is marked by spots of devotion known as "turas" where the pilgrim pauses, reflects and prays. For centuries, pilgrims have traveled to Glencolumbkille and through acts of devotion, prayer and fasting have continued to consecrate this already sacred land. An old poet wrote of Glencolumbkille...
"... echoes of the centuries' feet
That moved along the penitential stones
In all thy winds are sweet.
Here came my fathers in their life's high day
In barefoot sorrow, but God knows the whole:
Not for themselves they fasted, but to lay
Up riches for my soul."
5. The Stone Circles along the Beara Way - County Cork
The southwest of Ireland is littered with megalithic and neolithic reminders of sacred spaces. While many visitors take in the beauty of the Ring of Kerry and visit the Dingle Peninsula, few investigate the wonder of the Beara Peninsula. There is an ancient road - known as the Green Road or the Beara Way that follows the peninsula. It runs over mountains, through pastures and rocky fields and along the way are several stone circles - each set in a high clearing. My favorite of these is Cashelkeelty Stone Circle. Also along the way is Uragh stone circle and Ardgroom circle. The peacefulness of the setting and timelessness of each visit are things the pilgrim never forgets. Take a day and visit the stones along the Beara Way.
NOTE: The Stone Circles of Beara are on the Thin Places Mystical Tour to Ireland scheduled for May 15 - 24, 2011. Book your spot now.