Stories of Friendship, Family, Fun and Food.
All the way from the Emerald Isle!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Coole Park Nature Reserve

Gort, County Galway


Telephone +353 (0) 91 631804

One thousand acres of Coole Park Nature Preserve beckoned me, on a recent spring morning. Loading a few fellow mature students and their off spring into the car, we did not let the foggy hue nor low looming clouds halt our plans. After all, there is no such thing as bad weather here in Ireland (as long as you remember to dress appropriately). We headed south on the N-18 towards the small heritage town of Gort, County Galway. It took only half an hour to reach our stately destination (less than 20 miles from Galway City).

A few brusque steps through the semi-filled car park brought us right into the walled garden. Children and dogs unleashed, the momentum of a relaxed saunter took hold and talk of literature, lovers and poetics flooded the damp and earthen paths before us. Stopped in our tracks by the Autograph tree (the copper beech in the walled garden) time stood still as we studied the autographs, imagining the lives of incredible poets as they meandered through the grounds of Coole Park, pondering their next poem.

Coole became a haven in which renowned literary figures sought refuge from time to time, drawn by the hospitality and enthusiasm of Lady Gregory, whom George Bernard Shaw once described as the 'greatest living Irishwoman'. The names of many of those who contributed to the Gaelic Literary Revival are engraved on Lady Gregory's Autograph Tree. The first name to be carved on it was that of W. B. Yeats himself, whom was asked to cut his initials in the summer of 1898.

The autographs of John Millington Synge, WB Yeats and his artist brother Jack, George Moore, Seán O’ Casey, George Bernard Shaw, Katharine Tynan and Violet Martin are just some of the autographs on this tree at Coole Park.

A brief history about Coole Park, Lady Gregory and her famous friends.

Purchased in 1768 by Robert Gregory, Coole Park remained in this family until 1927 when it was sold to the state. Lady Augusta Gregory was in residence at Coole Park at this time. She herself was a legend as a dramatist and folklorist. She was also co-founder of the Abbey Theatre with W.B. Yeats and Edward Martyn. Lady Gregory's love of Coole and its 'Seven Woods', eternalised by Yeats, is evident in her writings and those of her literary guests.

"These woods have been well loved, well tended by some who came before me, and my affection has been no less than theirs. The generations of trees have been my care, my comforters. Their companionship has often brought me peace."

                                                                                                                  Lady Gregory, Coole, 1931

"At sudden thunder of the mounting swan

I turned about and looked

where branches break

The glittering reaches of the flooded lake."

                                                                                       W.B.Yeats 'Coole Park & Ballylee', 1931

A little damp but none the worse for wear, we approached a clearing in the woods that led down to Coole Lough. As if on cue, like they had been waiting patiently for their audience, a flock of Swans took flight off the Lough, pedalling furiously into the foggy backdrop.

Our work here was done. The younger ones in the group are still gobsmacked from that vision which will no doubt; survive a life time of memories.

No matter where one roams around this island, it would be unheard of to while away an afternoon without stopping somewhere for a cup of tea. The original Coole Park house that fell to disarray, was demolished in the 1940’s. It has been reconstructed, and a memory museum paying tribute to the poets of Coole Park is worth a few moments of your time.

This structure also houses a pleasant café that is typically filled to the brim with locals and tourists all hungry for the home-style cooking of Mrs. Concepta Quinn and her family. In keeping with the current theme of ‘A Gourmet Lovers Guide to Galway’, it is with great pleasure, that I share this little secret with you. I have been nourished here plenty of times over the years, and I am one of those people that believes in ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Purchasing from local farms and growing a mountain of their own vegetables and fruit, the output of their efforts is evident with every blissful bite.

Not one to be tempted by the sweet-side of dining, I rarely grow hungry for dessert. In saying that, the one thing I keep coming back for at this little café, is Mrs. Quinn’s Blackberry and Apple Crumble. With all desserts priced under five euro’s and the delicious smell of baked goods lingering, making a decision was no easy feat, for those that were hungry.

Mrs. Quinn cautioned us that each dessert would come smothered in her home-made vanilla butter ice-cream, in case Lenten promises should be broken. The decision was hastily made and the price would later be paid in penance.

A walk in foggy woodlands, leads to the Swan filled Lough of Coole.

A pause in hectic living, a break from work or school.

Nourishing the Mind, the Body and the Soul,

A glimpse of Irish living, the park in which we stroll.

                                                                                                                        Móna Wise, 2010

Another one of my very favourite places.
It is local, It is Galway, It is home!
That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


Pama Mitchell said...

Hi Mona -- Your blog sure makes me want to visit Ireland. I've only been there once and the weather was such a turnoff. Maybe I didn't dress appropriately, huh?
Another thing though, I notice that my Healthy Foodies blog is not on your blogroll. Any chance you could add me? If not, that's OK too.
Love, Pama

WiseMóna said...

Hi Pama,
Thanks for the comments. Coole Park (in particluar) is one of our very very favourite places and it is that gorgeous!
The right clothing makes a huge difference - but truthfully Pama, it is the mildest weather environment one could hope to live in. The most extreme weather we get is rough winds of the west coast and a bad flooding every 30 years. NO SNOW :o) You and George are welcome to come visit and stay with us any time. We have loads of room. PS - I added you to my WiseFav.Links. (Sorry, thought you were one there!)

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