Meet the Doolough Spirit in Connemara

Doolough - County Mayo - Thin Places Tour 2012


Connemara has the most amazing light. This region follows the Atlantic coast between Galway and Mayo in the West of Ireland, and is often damp and cloudy. I have never driven through Connemara when it hasn't rained at least once. But the rain, and the dampness it brings, makes for the lush green countryside with its stunning and subtle shades.  The rain brings the rainbows and powerful moments when moving clouds open and let the sun pour through. The shadows shift, sometimes fly across the sides of the mountains and the valleys. The colors in the Connemara landscape seems to be in perpetual motion. Nothing stays the same.

I took the image above with my cell phone camera. The man, dwarfed in the landscape, was one of our guests on the Thin Places tour of 2012. Our bus stopped at the scenic northern side of Doolough pass, and the guests got out to explore and snap pictures. This guest was exploring the hills along the roadside when the sun broke through a previously dismal sky and he turned to face it. It was the perfect moment in a perfect setting, and one of the best moments I've captured with a camera.  The views from where this man is standing are some of the best in Ireland, and some of the most photographed.

Doolough pass - from the Louisburgh - Delphi Road


The Doolough Tragedy - 1849


This area is sadly remembered for those poor, exhausted, starving people who walked this road on a journey from Louisburgh to Delphi lodge in March of 1849 in desperate hope of finding hunger relief.

The actual number of people who made this walk is undetermined, but it is estimated to have been  between 400 and 600. They were the recipients of "outdoor relief," a program that distributed food to people who did not work in the workhouses and owned less than a quarter acre of land. In order to receive the relief, they had to show up for inspections where they would receive food and sometimes clothing or money. At the inspection in Louisburgh, the hungry poor were told they had to report to Delphi Lodge if they wanted to continue to receive their benefits. In harsh weather with little to protect them from the elements, hundreds of weak and hungry families trekked a rocky and soggy 12 mile goat path through the mountain passes, crossing the Glankeen River at flood stage. Many died from exhaustion along the way.

Those who made it to Delphi waited hours outside the gates of Delphi lodge while the Board of Guardians ate an afternoon meal. Then the hungry poor were turned away and told to return to Louisburgh. They were given no explanation, no food or promise of assistance, and no direction on how to get the sustenance they craved. On the return trip the exhausted travelers were caught in a hailstorm that produced so much wind in the mountain pass, that many were blown off cliffs or  drowned while crossing the Glankeen River. More collapsed on the roadsides - including women and children.  They were left along the route like breadcrumbs marking the trail.

The Irish authorities buried hundreds of bodies where they fell  - with no coffins, markers or ceremony.
Famine Memorial Cross at Doolough.  Pilgrims have piled stones at the base.


A Celtic cross was erected to honor the memory of those lives lost and all of the world's hungry.  There is an annual Famine Walk that draws people from many nations who march against hunger and famine.  It traces the same path of those who made this fateful journey in 1849. An inscription on the base of the cross reads:
 How can men feel themselves honored by the humiliation of their fellow human beings.  ~Mahatma Ghandi

My First Visit to Doolough - 1998

Sitting in the backseat of my friends' rental car, I watched the rain falling against the mountains as we drove into a valley on the road from Louisburgh heading toward Delphi.  The mist from the clouds and rain reminded me of thin places.  The mist looked just like a transparent veil  - just like a veil that might separate the present world from the eternal.

We came over a hill ... and there it was - the Doolough pass with the lake at its base.  I didn't know it then, but this is one of the most photographed spots in Ireland.  It was a pity that our view was dominated by the grays and blacks of a rainy day.  There wasn't much color, but the scene was remarkable in its monochrome state.  We saw the famine cross on the roadside and pulled over to take in the views.  The rain had slowed to a drizzle, so I got out and walked down the hill to see what this Celtic cross was marking and take a few pictures.

I was trudging around in a boggy muck when the rain started to get heavier. Wanting to protect my camera I started back up the hill to the car.  When I was about halfway up, I heard shouting.  I could see my friends at the car.  They had gotten out and were waving and yelling at me.  I could also see cars parked behind them.  Everyone was getting out.  I finally made out what my friend was shouting .... "Turn around!"

Lake at Doolough during a respite in the storm


The image above is what I saw.  Two distinct rainbows above the lake.  These weren't like normal rainbows.  They were pulsing, beating .... moving toward me and than back again.  It was raining and dark where I was standing, while a surreal light wove in and out of the mist above the lake.  The light was so strange.  The rainbow faded and then it came back again.  Everyone was out of their cars watching.  I often wonder about all those tourists on the road that day - and my friends ... if they remember Doolough the way I do.

The Spirit of Doolough


Every time I'm in Mayo or Galway, I try to get out to Connemara and drive this pass.  I don't really know why.  Maybe I'm just trying to re-live the 1998 rainbow moment, but this area has a significant draw - a magnetic pull. 

There's a sense about the region especially in this particular spot near the cross.  When the Westport newspaper reported on the famine tragedy here, the article stated that many of the travelers stopped here to rest. Some lay down and fell asleep... and died.  The bodies of men, women and children were found still in sleeping positions and were buried on site.  Later the cross was erected here.

There's a feeling about this part of the trail.  Every time I come through this pass I stop here, by the cross and get out and take in the views. And I'm always filled with an almost palpable sense of place…. as if the earth, sky, hills, stone, and water are all part of one body that is its own separate entity, charged with all energies of the area coming together as one being.

I love that spirit of Doolough. 

Doolough Cross  - 1998












There are Many Thin Places in Dingle

Of all the places in Ireland, the Dingle peninsula is the most mystical to me.  One could spend a month on Dingle and not see a tenth of the thin places.  I suspect the grounds everywhere are littered with nodes where earth energy seeps through.  Every sunrise, every sunset, every rainstorm, the light, the hills, the stones, the Atlantic, the views ... all are charged with a sort of divine presence.

Photo by Patty Green McArdle - Dingle Harbor


The photo above shows boats tied up at the Dingle Harbor. The photo placed 4th in popular vote in the Ireland Photos by You! contest.  59 photographs were entered and over 300 people voted by LIKING their favorite photos on Thin Places Mystical Tour of Ireland Facebook page.

Patty McArdle (the photographer) is a nurse who lives in Frederick, Maryland.  She had this commentary to offer with her photo submission:

The picture was taken at Dingle Harbor on the Dingle Peninsula. While most thin places seem to be on land (or, at least, that is what I've always thought) this place seemed to call to me. Notice that these boats are not pleasure boats, but rather working boats. I felt not only the beauty of the boats but felt the presence of those hard-working Irishmen, past and present, who spent their lives on the water providing for their families and community. I believe that those who lived off of that water who have gone before us remain close in that harbor.

My husband and I were on 2 week adventure in Ireland, taking in the sights all up and down the west coast and more. This was a trip that we had planned for months and months and enjoyed every second of it! We can't wait to go back!


 The Dingle Peninsula is in the southwest of Ireland and far removed from large centers of population.  Dingle town is toward the western end on the south side of the peninsula .  A snug harbor here entering from Dingle Bay is where many of the fishing and tour boats come it.  This was also where pilgrims left in Medieval times to travel to Santiago de Compostela - the pilgrim trail of St. James in Spain.

Dingle has always been a holy place.

Photos of Dingle from the Travel Hag Flickr Site




The North Side of Dingle


On the north side of the peninsula are villages around Tralee Bay and Brandon Bay, and of course Mount Brandon - the holy mountain where St. Brendan is said to have had his vision which inspired him to set out with a fleet of curragh's to find the "promised land."  In the end, Brendan came home to Ireland and founded several monastic communities.  Mount Brandon is the second highest peak in Ireland and dominates the northern landscape which is dappled with villages, monastic ruins and megalithic monuments.... and some of the most beautiful strands (beaches) in all of Ireland.

I had a one of my most remarkable thin place experiences there in the shadow of Mount Brandon

The West and Southern Shore of Dingle


On the west end and the southern shore, the Dingle peninsula has tremendously scenic drives such as the Slea Head loop and Connor Pass (which connects the north and south shores).  Bee hive huts, monastic settlement ruins, oratories, forts, cross slabs, standing stones, ogham stones and famine cottages can all be seen and visited along these roads.

The streets of Dingle town are friendly and chocked full of shops, pubs, galleries and lodging houses.  The convent beside St. Mary's Catholic Church on Green Street has one of the most remarkable collections of Harry Clark stained glass windows in the world.

Art Thrives in Dingle


Art simply thrives in Dingle.  Artists, crafters and galleries are prolific.  Dingle is also one of the most vibrant centers for traditional Irish music.  I interviewed painter, Carol Cronin in her gallery on Green Street and asked her if thin places mattered to artists.  A video of the Carol Cronin interview is on the Travel Hag YouTube channel.  In about 5 minutes, Carol explains how living on the Great Blasket Island transformed her as an artist.

Other posts on Dingle
The Man in the Sand - Dingle in the Shadow of Mount Brandon
Carol Cronin - Dingle Artist on Thin Places Impacting Creativity
Harry Clarke's Stained Glass in Dingle





The Burren - County Clare, Ireland - a Very Thin Place

The Burren, located in the West of Ireland (County Clare) is a stony moonscape full of jagged edges and mile upon mile of gray rock. It has long been viewed as a sacred landscape. Across the Burren are many high crosses, several monastic ruins, portal dolmens and over ninety megalithic tombs.

Photo by Christy Jackson Nicholas - Poulnabrone Dolmen

The photograph above placed 3rd in popular vote in the Ireland Photos by You! contest.  59 photographs were entered and over 300 people voted by LIKING their favorite photos on Thin Places Mystical Tour of Ireland Facebook page.

This view of the Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Burren - County Clare was submitted by Christy Jackson Nicholas, an artist from Morgantown, West Virginia with the caption  Poulnabrone Dolmen, Summer Solstice, 2006.

Christy added this commentary after winning second place.
This was a shot we took near Summer Solstice in 2006. We loved the Burren, and it's alien landscape, and since we all take a pagan path, it was especially magical. We did have to wait around a while until the busload of tourists filtered out, but we wandered and explored the crikes and passed the time. It was a much-needed girls' trip vacation! 
Christy is an accountant and an artist. Her work can be found on her website - Green Dragon Artist.

In places, the Burren has a barren, infertile appearance because of its lack of forests and endless vistas of rock. But because of its temperate climate, the Burren is also one of the most fertile regions in Ireland.  There are lush fields and hundreds of wildflowers and blooming shrubs set against the rocky landscape - some of them growing up through the rock crevices.

The Burren one of the most remarkable and mystical landscapes in Europe.   

It is a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him and yet their cattle are very fat; for the grass growing in turfs of earth, of two or three foot square, that lie between the rocks, which are of limestone, is very sweet and nourishing.   ~Edmund Ludlow,

Corcomroe Abbey


Corcomroe Abbey ruin sits in the center of a lush valley where a monastic community was able to thrive in the twelfth century.  The abbey was most likely founded and financed by Donal Mór O'Brien,  and it went strong for over 400 years  - all the way up until the dissolution of the monasteries.

The Abbey sits just off one of the main roads that wind around the Burren.  It's easy to explore and has a strong sense of solitude. Each time I visit Corcomroe it's the same ... a kind of forgotten relic almost projecting its memory of what once was. It is not a subtle presence.

Imagine that someone destroyed a magnificent gallery and all that was left were some walls and remnants of art clinging to the ruins.  A thousand years after the destruction, you walk through and observe what's been left behind ... the raised arm of a bishop, the bold face of a saint, the curls on the head a warrior, detailed carvings on a column.  You know the place was special ... alive with the collective results of talented artists that toiled for years on these works of art.  But the place died and most of what was in it was lost.  Only scraps are left, leaving hints of the place's former grandeur.

That's what Corcomroe is like. It's a lonely place.

The fishbone pattern on the ribs that support the vaulted roof over the sanctuary, the effigy of a Chieftain king, carved faces and flowers resembling bluebells atop the large columns are amazing.  Corcomroe is a place to walk through slowly... to stop and notice the details.




The Poulnabrone

If the Burren had a brand, it would be the Poulnabrone portal dolmen (shown in the Christy's photo above).  It dominates the landscape.  It stands taller than a man, and dates back to somewhere between 3600 and 3800 BC.  Buried beneath the dolmen are the remains of 22 people, 16 adults and 6 children.  It was most likely a place for communal ritual.  A sacred place.

Kilfenora

The church at Kilfenora was built in the 12th century.  It is located on the edge of the village and is now enclosed with a roof and locked gate.   Inside the church is the High Cross of Kilfenora and some interesting carvings on the walls.  The Doorty high cross is also located there and the views from the church are lovely.

A beautiful post A Visit to Kilfenora Cathedral offers a unique perspective on this region and its history.





Thin Places - Glendalough - a Magical Place

Glendalough in County Wicklow - One of the Most Magical Places on Earth ~ Maya Hanley


The photograph above placed 2nd in popular vote in the Ireland Photos by You! contest.  59 photographs were entered and over 300 people voted by LIKING their favorite photos on Thin Places Mystical Tour of Ireland Facebook page.

This colorful Autumn scene was taken by Maya Hanley of Carlow, Ireland and submitted with the caption - Glendalough - County Wicklow, one of the most magical places on earth.  

Maya added this commentary after winning second place.
It was taken in Glendalough on an October day when I had a friend over from Sweden. It was her first visit and I wanted her to see the magic of Glendalough. I grew up near there, in Roundwood, so Glendalough was sort of my back yard.
When we were small, my mother used to take us out on picnics in the summer and that photo was taken at the exact spot we used to picnic. In those days, we were able to light a fire and my mother would put potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil into the base of the fire and they would roast as the fire grew. She would boil a kettle on the fire and make tea that was smokey and delicious.
Mother would lie on the picnic blanket while we played in the river. After lunch, we would head to the lake, just around the corner and sit and look at the sky and the trees and talk about the history of the place and how there were fairies in the woods and other magical creatures. We all 'knew' there was something magical there, we could feel it in the soles of our bare feet as we ran about the place.
We always went to the wishing rock in the graveyard too. You had to stand with one hand in the groves of one rock and straddle the pathway to reach the other rock where there was always a pool of water, and make your wish.
I go back to Glendalough over and over again and it never fails to intrigue and inspire me. My friend,who was with me that day, was thunderstruck and it opened up a discussion of the 'other world' and what's possible. Since then, her life has taken another turn and has opened up to the idea of magic. I blame Glendalough!

Maya Hanley is a Marketing Consultant who works with small businesses, helping them with marketing strategies and social media practices.  More information about Maya can be found on her website and on her Facebook business page.

A Little More about Glendalough

The name Glendalough means valley between two lakes, which is indeed where the ruins of St. Kevin's monastic city rest - in a valley between two lakes.  In the late sixth century, St. Kevin founded a monastic community on this site and it flourished into the thirteenth century becoming a self sufficient city and center for learning.  The remnants of the grand building that once stood are from the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

The double gateway leading into Glendalough is rare and is actually set at two levels.  The arches still stand - one slightly higher than the other.  Several churches, a cathedral and round towers make up the main complex, which rests on a sea of grave markers remembering the dead of the Glendalough parish.  St. Kevin's High Cross, though not as ornate as many others scattered around Ireland, stands in the center of the complex

Pathways and bridges guide the visitor in and out of ruins that cling to the present time and space, but somehow those old relics seem to connect with the past  ... with a time when they were new and vibrant and the city thrived.

Even with throngs of visitors, one can find a quiet spot in Glendalough and ponder, pray, remember. There's a quietness about the place and a mystical draw that makes everyone want to return.

When I asked Paddy Moloney of the The Chieftains if he could name a thin place in Ireland, he remembered Glendalough.  He said, "Glendalough is my parish. I live near there.  I like to go there when it rains and walk and walk.  Almost nobody goes there when it rains."





Flickr Slide Show comprised of photographs by Mindie Burgoyne - (c) 2012

Grave Marker at Ardmore Winning Entry in Ireland Photos by You Contest

Ardmore - First Christian Settlement in Ireland

Photo by Martha McCartney - Grave Marker, Ardmore Cemetery

The photograph above placed first in popular vote in the Ireland Photos by You! contest.  59 photographs were entered and over 300 people voted by LIKING their favorite photos on Thin Places Mystical Tour of Ireland Facebook page.

This winning photograph depicts a grave marker in the Ardmore Church Cemetery in County Waterford.  It was taken by Martha McCartney.  I asked Martha to share some personal thoughts about the photograph and what her experience was when she took it.

Going to Ireland had been a dream of my father’s that was not realized. Our family has roots deep in Celtic history and my ancestors traveled from Scotland to Ireland before making the trek across the Atlantic in time for the Revolutionary War.

When I explained to my father that I wanted to make the trip and especially wanted to search for grave sites, he was excited but had only one request, this was for a “wee drop of the Irish Whiskey “ which was provided to him upon my return to the West Virginia hills that he called home.

The first place that I searched for ancestral graves was the cemetery at Ardmore. Perched high on a hill overlooking a sweeping view of the Atlantic, it is instilled with a sense of maritime tragedy being filled with the graves of sea captains and mourning widows. This site seeped into my heart and although I visited many other spots in Ireland where I felt a connection, none were as intensely peaceful and calming as Ardmore.

To be able to look from grave to the sea is remarkable, the round tower standing guard over the ancient temple ruins and the amazing statuary seem to make the senses more intact, the colors and scents more vivid, the boundary between antiquity and present seem to melt away making it a truly thin place and the feeling of spirituality is palpable.
Martha lives in the Pacific Northwest and is a photographer, poet and artist.  You can view more of her work at Lillie Savage.

A little more about Ardmore ....

Ardmore is believed to be the first Christian settlement in Ireland, founded by St. Declan - a Welshman who emigrated from Wales to this spot in County Waterford sometime between 350 AD and 420 AD.  This means Declan's settlement would have predated St. Patrick's return to Ireland as a Priest and Bishop.

Ardmore has four unique thin places wrapped into one beautiful setting on the Atlantic Ocean.

The BEACH  The beach or strand is stunning and one of the finest beaches in all of Ireland.  On the shoreline is St. Declan's rock (seen in slideshow below) which is believed to have carried his vestments and bell across the ocean.  Many believe this boulder still carries healing powers.  It has sat in the same spot for centuries, according to the locals.

St. Declan's Holy Well - The south road out of Ardmore town ascends up to St. Declan's Holy Well.  The remains of a hermitage still stand - Temple Dysert - and within the remains is a holy well where the pilgrim can extract or drink water believed to have healing powers.







Slide show of Cobh and Ardmore - Thin Places Tour 2011                            


The Cliff Walk - As the visitor continues up the hill past the Holy Well, the road opens up into a wide mesa-like space with spectacular views of the sea.  The Ardmore Cliff Walk is not to be missed. The sweeping views of the Atlantic, the cliffs, the waterfowl and Ardmore town are breathtaking.

The Monastic Settlement - As the settlement and cemetery come into view, St. Declan's Church with its 9th century carvings and roundtower, overtake the senses.  What must it have been like to come upon this spot when the settlement was thriving?  Today's parallel experience might be a popular city skyline like San Francisco or New York.  The familiar landmarks would remind ship captains that sailed up the Atlantic - "There's Ardmore."  It still has that same stunning sense of place that almost cries out from the landscape.

The monastic area has many graves - in fact, almost every square inch of ground space is marked for a person that sleeps below.  Some grave markers are elaborate like the one in Martha's photograph above.  Many are mere rocks or pieces of slate set as a meager reminder of what the departed's family could afford.  But elaborate or meager, the dotted hallowed ground claims its place in the Ardmore memory. .. and gives the visitor a sense of not walking alone.




Thin Places - Eric Weiner Opens a New Understanding

Iona Abbey - Scotland
I love that Eric Weiner, author of The Geography of Bliss wrote an article on Thin Places.  The niche is so narrow and Eric's high profile and the New York Time's wide distribution has opened up the subject of thin places to a wider audience.  To date most people who write about thin places are academics or clergy.  Eric revealed the concept to the traveling world - to ordinary people.

So what are thin places?  


My one sentence definition has always been "places where the veil between this world and the Otherworld is thin."

I wrote my answer to that question in an article published back in 2001. Over the past eleven years ago since I wrote that article,  Walking Through Thin Places has been translated into many languages and republished in hundreds of journals, magazines, e-zine, documents, sermons and websites.  This one paragraph from the article shows up in my Google alerts at least three times a week, meaning that it appears on some new web page Google has indexed.  Does that mean I'm an authority? No. It means not a lot of people were writing about thin places.  I'm happy that Eric has jumped into the game and elevated the visibility.

Thin Places are ports in the storm of life, where the pilgrims can move closer to the God they seek, where one leaves that which is familiar and journeys into the Divine Presence. They are stopping places where men and women are given pause to wonder about what lies beyond the mundane rituals, the grief, trials and boredom of our day-to-day life. They probe to the core of the human heart and open the pathway that leads to satisfying the familiar hungers and yearnings common to all people on earth, the hunger to be connected, to be a part of something greater, to be loved, to find peace.
Labbacallee Wedge Tomb - aka The Hags Bed, Co. Cork


Eric Weiner weighs the concept of two co-existing worlds - a physical world and an eternal world, in his article Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer.  He describes thin places.  He states "They are locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, as I like to think of it, the Infinite Whatever."

I love the article because Eric is speaking for the common person.  The one who goes into a place and somehow is transformed for having gone there.  The non-scholars and non-academics who sense something special about a particular place are represented in Eric's article, and he has opened up a whole new concept to the average traveler.  Hooray for Eric Weiner!

Understanding of Thin Places Goes Deeper


Eric is a travel writer known for traveling the world.  His great gift is his ability to write about travel in the context of a story.  It makes the reader feel as if he or she is right along with him.  He so casual, so conversational, so real.

But I disagree with Eric on airports and bars being thin places -  and bookstores too, "especially Powells of Portland, Ore." (nothing against Powell's). I think what he was trying to say is that these  places bring out a sense of transformation in us... that's what makes them thin.  Thin places are where we feel good.  He states that Jerusalem is not a thin place because it's now "thick with animosity and weighed under with historical grievances."

Kildavnet Cemetery, Achill Island
It almost seems as if the implication in the article is that we can create these thin places or destroy them at will by our actions.  We can build an atmosphere around the site with a cathedral or church or bar or airport or tear it down with an attitude.   But the main thrust of the article eludes to there being some ephemerality (is that word?) that meets you in certain places and Poof! You're in a thin place.

I didn't invent the concept of thin places.  People in the Celtic traditions have been talking of thin places for centuries.  The Irish language has words to describe and define thin places that we Anglos have translation for.  What I have learned from these humble people and loving teachers of Celtic spirituality is that the place itself is different. 

Thin places do not dictate the behavior of God.  God is everywhere and we don't need to be in a thin place to connect with the Divine presence.   We can feel God's presence anytime, anywhere - at church, at a bar, the airport, Powell's Books, on the beach.  We may sense God at special times of the day - twilight and dawn.  But that simply means we are spiritual people and by the grace of God we can connect at will.

Thin Places Are Inherently"thin"


The concept of a place being thin in and of itself gives religious people angst.  It doesn't fit in their doctrine. I've lost several friends who fear I've been claimed by the dark forces, and become a witch, a new age freak.  One recently said to me, "We fear we've lost you to the other side."  I've been held up to criticism on the Internet on blogs of pastors and religious leaders who negate my beliefs because they're not Bible based - therefore can't be true.

The older I get the less I care about people these people.  I miss those friends who have walked away from me until I'm "healed" or "brought back."  But I'm not walking away from what I know is the truth.


The truth is that some places are special.  I've felt it.  I've seen it. And I've been changed by it.

Kevin's Kitchen - Glendalough - Co. Wicklow

These places were special long before anyone could write about them or read about them.  Call it energy, call it thin, call it mystical.  Some places are so cloaked in the presence of the Divine that the human spirit, if allowed can sense their energy.  People are drawn to these sites,  and then drawn back to them.  They are transformed when they visit them.

 The ancients knew this.  They had a way to understand the concept of thin places.  It was an understanding uncluttered by scholarly knowledge or religious doctrine. The charism of those places was felt long ago and the sites were marked.  This is the reason there are churches, cathedrals, high crosses, stone circles, pyramids, temples and an endless stream of seekers coming to those places.

Shrine at the Well of the Wethers - Co. Kerry
 And I also disagree about thickness of Jerusalem, not because I've been there, but because sadness, grievances, and bad blood do not negate thinness.  I remember visiting Northern Ireland during the Troubles and seeing the razor wire, the militant graffiti, the soldiers stalking the streets and crouching in the alleys in Armagh and Portadown.  I was stopped coming out of Tyrone by a soldier whose machine gun was inches away from my face as he leaned through my car window.  Yet the high crosses and stone circles in the Tyrone landscape was no less sacred.  The Armagh Cathedrals did not lose their draw nor did the area surrounding the Navan fort.  These are thin places with or without the mark of hatred and grief.

Thin places are not places where God arbitrarily chooses to reveal his / her Divine presence in a more powerful way.  God does not change. Ever.

The best quote I ever heard on thin places was by Mark Patrick Hederman, Abbot of Glenstal Abbey in Limerick.  ....
On the summit of Mount Sinai, on the road to Santiago, God does not stand any closer or speak any louder.  But we listen better.

The thin place changes us.  We are transformed. That's why we keep going back and seeking out new places.

More reading -

Harry Clarke's Stained Glass in Dingle

Harry Clarke Window - The Agony in the Garden

The Dingle Peninsula in Ireland's south west corner is a magical place. Everyone knows that. But apart from the well-known sites like Slea Head, Gallarus Oratory, the Blasket Island, bee hive huts, and Mount Brandon there are hidden jewels often undiscovered by the average traveler.

One such place is Chapel of the Sacred Heart located in the center of town in a Gothic style building next to St. Mary's Church. The building was formerly a convent for the Presentation Sisters. It is now part of the in the Díseart of Irish Spirituality and Culture, a place where students of Irish culture and spirituality can learn, grow, study and share.

The chapel is unique because it houses twelve lancet (or six two-glass) stained glass windows by the renowned Irish artist, Harry Clarke. In 1929, the Irish Statesman published an article by Irish Nationalist and mystical writer George Russell (aka AE).  In the article, Russell stated:

Harry Clarke is one of the strangest geniuses of his time ... He might have incarnated from the dark side of the moon.

So many churches in Ireland will claim one Harry Clarke window as an element to attract visitors. (And viewing one window IS worth a visit anywhere). But to have six sets all together in one spot is a feast for both eyes and spirit.

Harry Clarke Window - Gift of the Magi
The windows in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart depict six scenes from the life of Christ - Visit of the Magi, Baptism by John the Baptist, Suffer the Little Children, Sermon on the Mount, Agony in the Garden, and Christ's Appearance to Mary Magdalene.



Visitors can stop in the Visitor Centre's office at St. Mary's Chapel and ask for a guided tour. A young woman conducted a personal tour from me explaining that this was once a convent and the chapel was solely for the nuns. The sisters were the only beneficiaries of this magnificent art except for on rare occasions.

Harry Clarke Window - Let the Little Children Come to Me


A tour takes about and hour, and there are beautiful walled gardens as well as a hidden tunnel that can be explored with a guide. If you're in Dingle, ask about the Clarke windows. Anyone can direct you to St. Mary's Catholic Church. The former convent / An Diseart Visitor Centre is next door.

Calling ahead would be prudent to insure someone will be there to guide a tour.  For more complete information, contact the Díseart Institute of Irish Spirituality and Culture.