I followed the soft path uphill through the forestry in the direction of the cliff face of Sliabh Iarainn. I feel drawn to following these ancient pathways that have been worn into the countryside by our ancestors. The Apache Indians were in tune with their surroundings and a trail was often seen as a link with the past. A path trodden by their ancestors, but largely invisible to the living, is littered with traces of memories of those who went before. We too have a rich tapestry here in this country, of traces in place names and in ancient sites and monuments of our past.
I’ve been thinking about this little hike for quite a while, having read about it some years ago in Christopher Sommerville’s delightful book “Walking in Ireland’. Here is the beautiful colour illustration of the route from his website.
I wanted to see the mass rock and today’s NFL game in Carrick on Shannon afforded me the opportunity. A 7.30am start had me at the start point for 10am. It’s only a short walk and it was easy fit it in before heading back down to Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada.
The approach is a gentle climb of just 2kms, though wet underfoot where it crosses squelchy bogland. As it approaches the cliff face it becomes a bit of a scramble. I’ve been trying out hiking poles and today was a good test. They worked well, apart from when I tried to video and had a good tumble!
Mass Rocks were rocks used as altars during the Penal Laws in the 1700s and were usually located in out of the way locations. This one is perfectly hidden from view behind a tall pinnacle and is difficult to find. Once you turn at the pinnacle there is a short little section of roughly cut steps that take you to this unique mass rock. It’s perfectly secluded and with watch outs on duty the priest and his flock could safely celebrate mass without fear of the redcoats or peelers surprising them.
Sliabh an Iarainn derives its name from the iron deposits found in the rock here and they say the iron ore used to make the Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin was mined here on Sliabh Iarainn. It’s a place steeped in ancient history. and it features in The Book of Invasions as the landing place for the ancient race of the Tuatha De Danaan, the people of the gods of Danu. They came in a mist out of the heavens – our alien race?!
I’m smitten with Leitrim. It’s a lovely unspoiled county with some real gems to see. Would like to have had a bit more time to explore further but had to get to the match!