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Celebrating WB Yeats In Sligo

June 13, 2014

This is the first of two or three posts I’m looking forward to sharing with you about my recent short trip to County Sligo, one of many destinations here in Ireland that are perfect for Eco tourists looking to take a more natural, responsible approach to holidays. With images and poetry, this post may help to give you an idea for a destination to visit that apart from offering the usual festival, fun, celebrates the life of a celebrated Nobel Laureate, William Butler Yeats.

WB Yeats Statue, Sligo

William Butler Yeats ~ Statue in Sligo Town

Yeats Day

June 13th is Yeats Day, a celebration of a time in 1865 when WB Yeats was born in Ireland. I’ve always been attracted to the poetry of WB Yeats and the evocative and accessible way he weaves our language, helping us to smell the apple blossom, or picture an island full of growth and wildlife that he longs to be close to. It was a delight therefore, to find Yeats celebrated in so many places in and around Sligo, the county he spent his formative years.

Painting by Jack Yeats

Painting by Jack Yeats

There are several ongoing exhibitions in Sligo of Yeats’ life, family and poetry. Amongst others, the Sligo Museum houses a small exhibition about Yeats which includes his Nobel Prize Medal and The Model Gallery is hosting an art exhibition of his brother Jack’s work.

From statues and museums, to recitals and trails there are lots to keep Yeats fans happy indoors and out.

Rumour has it that during 2015 everyone in Ireland will be able to share a national celebration of Yeats life, with festivals and events being arranged around the country.

The Yeats Experience

The Yeats Experience

In the meantime however, if you’re planning to visit Sligo or even if you live there and are looking for an evening or lunch with a difference, I’d highly recommend a visit to the home of Damian and Paula of The Yeats Experience, located near Carraroe, where you can wine, dine, listen to the history and poems of Yeats in a casual environment of mixed and friendly company.

Good conversation at The Yeats Experience

Good Company at The Yeats Experience

This is a unique experience where dinner parties take place in the couple’s private dinning room, overlooking breathtaking views that those familiar with Yeats work will recognise.

Catering for around twenty-five on the evening we arrived at Broc house (but can cater from 10 to 50 people), Damien talked us through Yeats lifetime, which took place in some very turbulent times of Irish history, transfixing us with tales and love poems he recited to us between dinner courses.

SorbetAs a rural vegetable grower who’s new to bee keeping, this is a particular favourite Yeats poem…

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by WB Yeats

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.

A spellbound Guest at The Yeats Experience

A spellbound Guest

If you’re even remotely interested in poetry, film, art, music, good food or history, the 11th to the 15th June for the Só Sligo Food & Cultural Festival is the place to be as they celebrate with a packed and varied programme catering for all tastes and ages (see Vibrant Ireland’s blog for more details).

However, if you’ve missed the festival or have never been to Sligo and are thinking of doing so, you won’t be disappointed… Within a very short space of time, we fell in love with this beautiful county that has more than it’s fair share of unspoiled beaches and hill climbs, lakes, cliffs and forests. There’s so much to do I can’t wait to return with Mr G and spend longer exploring it.

Tourist Tip: Do pack midge/mosquito repellent as the lake water attracts these irritating little pests. I’ve found Dr Vogel’s Herbal Insect Repellent to be very effective once I remember to pack it!

Over the coming days I’ll be sharing our bloggers tasty seaweed experience as well giving some tips on how you might like to spend a couple of days as an eco/responsible tourist in Sligo.

With thanks to Connacht Gold and the organisers of the  Sligo Food Cultural & Food Festival that’s taking place in Sligo right now, some fellow Irish bloggers and I were able to experience a snippet of some of the cultural, food, sporting and natural attractions that Sligo has to offer this week and beyond. Keep an eye out for posts from Vibrant Ireland, The Burlesque Chef, Irish Food Guide, Isle Magazine, Magnum Lady and Oonagh Eats, bloggers covering several areas of interest, for more information about the Festival.


Ten Christmas Gift Ideas Made in Ireland

November 23, 2013
Irish Garden Magazine December 2012

Irish Garden Magazine – December 2012

Selling is harder than we think!

A couple of years ago I launched a limited edition Greenside Up seed gift range that was not only available in various outlets and online shops. The support and encouragement I received from so many of you, not only in terms of promotion and publicity, but also from feedback and sales was tremendously heart lifting. I was thrilled that they were so successful and that so many of you bought the seed gifts for friends, family as well as yourselves and not least that the seeds grew and produced so much produce!

Selling a product as opposed to a service was a valuable learning curve and gave me a much greater appreciation and insight into the retail business. Like so many small craft business’, I designed, developed, printed and made up the products myself. That was the easy part. As the two community garden groups I was working with found, getting out there and marketing, promoting and selling our wares takes a whole new set of skills as well as a tremendous amount of time!

Irish Made Christmas Gift Ideas

We are however, blessed in Ireland to be surrounded by hardworking people who continually create wonderful products and crafts that can enrich our lives – we just need to support them. Guaranteed Irish undertook some research in 2013 and found that if families spent €4 a week more on Irish products, the country would be able to create over 6,000 jobs. Imagine the change in people’s lives!

With that in mind, if you’re looking for ideas to help you find Irish made Christmas gifts for friends and loved ones over the coming weeks, here’s my own favourite Top Ten Irish made items, any one of which I’d love to see under my Christmas tree, and all fairly local to me.

In no particular order of preference:

Christmas Gift Ideas Made in Ireland

Purity Belle Antique Candle

1. Purity Belle Candles

I’m loving the ethos behind the Purity Bell range of candles available from their website. The candles are made from non GM soy wax, no palm oil is used and Cliona specialises in making them in recycled containers. Just look at these beautiful tea-cup candles. As a result of spotting these I’m constantly on the lookout in charity shops for china tea cups to drink my tea out of but I think Cliona has beaten me to them all!

Christmas Gift Ideas Made in Ireland

Zwartbles Rug

2. Zwartbles Rugs & Yarn 

I’m currently knitting away, making Christmas gifts with wool from the adorable black Zwartbles sheep that graze in close by Bennettsbridge, County Kilkenny.

If you don’t like your presents in kit form, how about becoming the owner of one of the 100% pure wool rugs designed by Suzanna Crampton, take a look at the website here for more information.

3. Foxglove Lane Photography

Christmas Gift Ideas Made in Ireland

Foxglove Lane Photography

I’ve watched Catherine’s photographic skills develop through her blog over the past couple of years and was delighted when she began to sell her prints and cards online as it meant I could see them on my walls! Here’s the link to the Foxglove Lane website where you might find it difficult to choose just one image!

Christmas Gift Ideas Made in Ireland

Roisin Markham Art

4. Roisin Markham Art

I was aware that Roisin Markham from Wexford makes, among other things, exquisite textile art but it wasn’t until I saw her stunning display at the Wexford Heritage Park that I realised how beautiful textiles can be when highlighted in frames. This image is my personal favourite but there are several more. If you’re interested in purchasing one of Roisin’s pieces or finding more of her art, contact her directly for details.

Christmas Gift Ideas Made in Ireland

Martin Marley Ceramics

5. Martin Marley Ceramics

I blogged about the moment I was prompted to buy an exquisite ceramic bowl made by Martin Marley at a pop up shop in Carlow last year. I haven’t tired of holding it or running my finger around its soft surface. If you’d like to see more of Martins work, contact him at Kilgraney House for details of stockists.

Christmas Gift Ideas Made in Ireland

Klaus Hartmann Pottery

6. Klaus Hartmann Pottery

Klaus’ pottery is designed and fired in both modern and traditional kilns from his home.  He has several pieces in his range, including cane toppers and plant markers for the garden, but for indoors I’m especially fond of his candle centre pieces.

Klaus and Heike (see below) will be exhibiting their wares at the National Craft Fare at the RDS on the 4th to the 8th December.

Christmas Gift Ideas Made in Ireland

Baunafea Willoworks


7. Basketry from Baunafea Willow Works

Heike Kahle’s willow work is well-known in the south-east and her basketwork is grown and handmade just two miles from my home. I’d be hard pressed to choose between any of her products as they are all extraordinarily beautiful and I’ve seen first hand the love and care that goes into making each and every piece.

Klaus & Heike are regulars at Kilkenny Farmers market on Thursdays if you’d like to see more of their work.

Christmas Gift Ideas Made in Ireland

Siobhan Jordan Art

8. Siobhan Jordan Art

The walls in our home are for hanging pictures and art and it’s just as well as Siobhan Jordan is another favourite artist of mine! I’m entranced by her quirky and fun yet unusual and detailed prints.

Check out her range at if you’d like to see more.

Christmas Gift Ideas Made in Ireland

Bramble Cottage Metalworks



9. Ironwork from Bramble Cottage

Bramble Cottage Forge create bespoke pieces forged from iron and steel in nearby Castlecomer. I’m loving this bottle opener available from their Etsy Store – one item that’s a must in every household at Christmas!

Christmas Gift Ideas Made in Ireland

Jane Donald Sacred Messages Book

10. Sacred Ireland Book

Finally, no home is complete without a coffee table book and Jane Donald’s Sacred Ireland, Sacred messages would be a special one to buy or be given.

Printed in 2011 Jane’s book hasn’t lost it’s edge. Insightful messages coupled with beautiful  imagery of this ancient isle we live on would make this book top on my wish list.

It was difficult to choose just ten items for this post, there are so many beautiful products out there. I haven’t been sponsored or paid to recommend them to you but chose them for my own love of the products and that they all come from local friends, neighbours or business’ I’ve come across over the past couple of years.

Will you be making an extra effort to support and shop Irish this Christmas?


Mount Congreve ~ Fabulous Autumn Inspiration

September 27, 2013

Mount Congreve, described as one of the great gardens of the world, is only 45 minutes from our home yet it’s taken until now for me to spend more than twenty minutes there.

Mount ConvgreveWhy? It was a privately owned garden that until recently has only been open to the public on Thursdays and occasional weekends which has made it quite tricky to get to.

Since the owner of this magnificent estate, the late Mr Ambrose Congreve, passed away there has been a fear that the gardens would close. In July Irish Daily Mail journalist, Tom Doorley described the difficulties the Estate has been under while trying to hand the gardens over to the Office of Public Works as Mr Congreve wished.

Thankfully the glitch has been resolved and the gardens have been open from springtime 2014, but do check the website for more information.


September at Mount CongreveI wont ramble on about the history of the gardens or how Mr Congreve worked on them for almost his entire life until they grew to include over 16 kilometers of pathways and woodland containing “over three thousand different trees and shrubs, more than two thousand Rhododendrons, six hundred Camellias, three hundred Acer cultivars, six hundred conifers, two hundred and fifty climbers and fifteen hundred herbaceous plants” – the Mount Congreve website can do that for you.

Mr Congreve was a passionate gardener who lived for over 104 years before passing away at Chelsea Flower Show in 2011. The remains of both he and Mrs Congreve are buried at the Temple in the Estate.

September at Mount Congreve

For now I’ll leave you with a few images that I took in the walled garden that might give you some idea of the colour you could be experiencing in your gardens during late September if you so wish.

Most of the plants in the gardens are labelled and there’s a free downloadable PDF available on the website giving a synopsis of the plants growing there. I for one will be adding dahlias and asters to my shopping trolley next time I visit our local garden centre.

Blooming Flowers at Mount Congreve during Late September

Salvia Bartolinii, a semi hardy salvia

There hasn’t been any vegetables growing in the walled garden this year unlike a couple of years ago when I paid my earlier brief visit there. It was explained that as the kitchen is no longer operating as it was in the Congreve’s day when they held dinner parties and balls, the House has no need for them. For now the beds have been laid down to green manures until a decision is made about their future.

I’m so looking forward to going back and plans are afoot to return soon with my two community garden groups for their social get together.

Blooming Flowers at Mount Congreve during Late SeptemberThese really are gardens worth visiting if you have a smidgen of interest in nature and the outdoor world. What better way to spend an autumnal day. I’m feeling inspired, are you?


Rivers and Wildflowers

September 4, 2013

Vibrant Ireland is one of my favourite travel blogs that shares tips and tales of what to see, do, eat and special places to visit in Ireland, London, Norway and beyond. I was really pleased to write a guest post for Susan, author of Vibrant Ireland about an overnight stay Mr G and I spent at The Waterside Guesthouse in Graigenamanagh, Co Kilkenny which can be found here if you’d like to find out more. The post is more than just a diary of a night away in a riverside village. It’s a reflection on how rural villages are surviving under changing economic and social conditions. Do check it out if you have a minute please. One of the unexpected highlights of our weekend was the walk along the tow path of the River Barrow which was full of beautiful wildflowers. I’ve shared some of the images below which you can click for a slide show.

Sometimes the most beautiful things we experience aren’t chosen or placed, they’re quietly existing around us; we have to slow down, open our eyes and see.


Winter sunrise ~ a hill dwellers perspective

January 13, 2012

Winter Sunrise - a hill dwellers perspectiveThere are many days on the top of our hill that we are engulfed in low cloud. Sometimes the damp air seeps through every crook and cranny of our house seemingly endlessly, so that in the end we resort to lighting the fire to dry it out.

Winter Sunrise - a hill dwellers perspectiveMy memories of August 2011 are waking up, hoping that I would jump out of bed, draw back the curtains and see the sun rising above the canopy of my favourite tree, but sadly it was not to be, yet another day of damp cloud.

Winter Sunrise - a hill dwellers perspectiveIn the colder, winter months however, the roles can be reversed and we are blessed with spectacular sunrises whilst the valley below is blanketed with freezing fog.

Winter Sunrise - a hill dwellers perspectiveAs we drive down the ‘horrible hill’ on the school run we see islands poking through the mist, the sky lit up with a myriad of colour, the views so spectacular that even the children stop chattering and gasp.

Winter Sunrise - a hill dwellers perspectiveMornings like today make up for all those dull summer days. Mornings like today make living and gardening in an exposed elevated spot so worthwhile. Mornings like today can make my soul swell with happiness that we live on such a beautiful planet.

Winter Sunrise - a hill dwellers perspective