Getting there

Getting there

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mystical Inchagoill

There are words in our lexicon that have been bandied about so much that they've lost their power. The overuse of these words often means that it's difficult to convey what you mean about something because when you describe it  using those words it sounds trite. The problem, of course, is that these words still often remain the best possible ones to use, but you do so at some risk of having your thoughts ignored simply due to the words you use to present them. One of these words is "mystical".

Mystical is a word we hear a lot in North America. I've heard it refer to ideas, places, television shows, and people. I think it has lost it's meaning in many ways, and I truly didn't understand it until I went to Ireland. There are so many places in Ireland that stop you short because they are, quite simply, the most mystical places you've ever experienced. It feels like there is something in the very air and soil of these places, something far deeper and far older than you'll ever understand. One of these places is, undoubtedly, Inchagoill.

Inchagoill is an island located on Lough Corrib in County Galway. I came to Inchagoill on a boat on New Year's Day 2011, and must admit that initially there were places I'd rather be, like back in bed nursing my champagne-induced hangover. Once we'd arrived, though, I was so happy I'd left my bed and embarked on a journey to the mystical island of Inchagoill.

When the boat docked we disembarked with the other 80-some passengers, and I noticed some were either continuing their drinking from the night before or had started again. I didn't think this would bode well for a quiet tour of the island, but I underestimated the power of this place. The group may have set out noisily but very quickly became quiet as the island worked it's magic on them.

As you walk on the path to the churches and graveyard that remain on the island you marvel at how green it is. Even in January the island is astonishingly lush. It's the sort of place where you expect to see strange creatures lurking, and strange things did once lurk here - the Druids.

There are many different variations of the history of Inchagoill, but my favourite says that in the 5th century (the 5th!) St. Patrick was banished to this island, along with his nephew and navigator, by the pagan Druids. While building a church on the island St. Patrick's nephew, Lugnad, died and was buried here. The island was christened "Inchagoill" (translated as "island of the stranger") because that is where the "stranger", St. Patrick, was kept to prevent him from spreading Christianity in Ireland. Lugnad's headstone remains there today, with an inscription still decipherable. Surrounding the headstone are several others in various states of decay - it is clearly an ancient place. There are two very old churches on the island as well, and while they are not restored are in a  rather lovely state somewhere between preservation and decay. The beauty and magic of Inchagoill is really best shared in pictures, so rather than try to describe it I hope you'll enjoy the photos below.

So, that's a bit of the island of Inchagoill. The one thing the photos can't do, though, is give you the wonderful feel of this place. I've said it before, friends, and I'll say it again. Go to Ireland. It's a decision you'll never regret, and you might just come back to Canada with a renewed appreciation for the word "mystical".

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