It has been unusually warm here in the West of Ireland and one day last week we found ourselves close to the shores of Lough Key. We remembered a magical day a few years back when all six of us rented two rowing boats for a couple of hours and went for a picnic on a very special island, so we decided to recapture some of the magic of that day.
It was only the two of us, no teenagers with us this time, but we think you agree; sometimes a couple needs some time on their own. So we set out on the very still water of the lake from the pier by the Lough Key Forest Park visitors centre.
There is an old ruin on the first island you encounter on the lake but because it has become unstable you are no longer permitted to go ashore. So we enjoyed the views of the castle on the island, which truth to tell and despite looking quite impressive, only is a folly castle built in early 19th century. Many other more substantial structures have been built on the Island over the centuries. There are a further thirty-one islands on the Lough and our little rowing trip brought us around four of them. The shores of the lake and nearby lands have been inhabited for thousands of years and it is a tranquil place, full of wildlife and plants.
The only sounds around, as our oars were cutting through the water were the birds singing in the trees on the nearby islands. A much loved poem by W. B. Yeats came to mind;
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
It was as if we could glimpse Yeats glade through the trees on the shore and it looked so peaceful and untouched.
Reluctantly we rowed on and as we headed back towards the shore, got a few close up shots of Castle island.
After an hours rowing, it was time to regain our strength and we headed to the café in the visitors centre for some salad and coffee.
The Forest park has many more offerings and if you take a turn in the woods for the Bog garden you soon come across the fairy bridge, a fantastic, whimsical structure where it is easy to believe.
We were a little late for the full on colour show of rhododendron and azaleas that takes place in the bog garden each May but we were just in time for the most magical spectacle of all where you can find the bed of the Fairy Queen herself, on droves of petals under gnarled and twisted branches. It is easy to imagine her sleeping here, with beetles in iridescent inky armour standing guard all around.
If you are ever in the vicinity of Boyle in County Roscommon, do call into the Lough Key Forest park and experience the magic for yourself. We preferred it as it was years ago, before the commercial new visitors centre was built, but you can still experience the stillness and tranquillity of the woods and the lake, despite the modern amenities.