|A view of the Blue Stack Mountains in Co. Donegal. Zoe and Irene took an hour to get to the top.|
Mountain hikes are the most perfect form of relaxation. The Blue Stack Mountains were unbelievably deserted. Except for my excitable family’s voices, there was natural silence: the murmur of streams, the occasional bleat of sheep, the wind, the chirrup of insects (the species Darwin claimed God loves the best since they vastly outnumber any other life form), and the occasional sound of birds. As you can see, it is a treeless mountain, so the only birds were lapwings, grouse and other ground-dwellers–bird song was infrequent, but high and sweet.
|The grass is full of these compressible foot high mounds|
|There are numerous decrepit stone houses, often with sheep sheltering inside them.|
|Lovely Lough Eske in the rain from the Blue Stack Mountains.
There is very very little left of Assaroe Abbey, a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1184. It was already in decay in Cromwellian times when its stone was used for building in the area.
|Brook that turned the Abbey’s water mill|
|“Catsby Cave”, also known as “St. Patrick’s Oratory”|
The Catsby Cave is unquestionably very ancient. During Penal times, Masses were celebrated here, and consecrated bread and wine were distributed.
The Abbey was most sacred place of interment in the surrounding area, and many dead were brought down the river Shannon and buried on the hill above the Abbey. This ancient cemetery is no longer visible, here are some photos from a more modern extension.
Some modern and very personal graves at the top of the hill. Dates of birth are not generally recorded on the headstones. The Irish memorialize what their dear departed best loved in their graves
There is a large area reserved for the nearby Sisters of Mercy, Ballyshannon
The individual memorials testify that these nuns all lived very long lives — mostly 60 or 70 years in religious life.
There is whole hillside of more traditional Celtic crosses
It’s beautiful, isn’t it?