Wednesday, August 3, 2011

From the Garden to the Gaeltacht - Synge and Wicklow

During my trip this past summer, I traveled from Aran to the Wicklow countryside, in the east of Ireland. I wanted to see what was "home" to Synge - what he had grown  up around, what made the Aran Islands seem so wild and exotic to him. I wondered, as I took the ferry to Rossaveal, the shuttle bus to Galway, the GoBus to Dublin, the train to Rathdrum, and a cab to Avondale, how Synge made this journey a hundred years ago. For me it took from 8am to 6pm (with wait times in between connections). I imagine it took him much longer to make his way back east.
The rainbow that wished me farewell on the ferry from Aran

Synge used to walk and cycle around Wicklow. Synge's walks in these areas, and the people he encountered, inspired the plots and characters of many of his plays (in addition to his time spent on Aran). In his Wicklow writings he mentions places such as Glenmalure, Sally Gap, and Rathdrum. I wasn't able to make it to all the places he talks about, but I did see enough of the area to get a good feel for it.

The Wicklow landscape is so different from Aran. Aran is bare, exposed, gray-brown-green, angry waves, and raw slabs of stone.

Inishmaan, Aran Islands

Wicklow is called "The Garden of Ireland," for good reason. Trees and bushes and ivy and grass and flowers abound.

Golden field near Avondale, Rathdrum, County Wicklow

The Wicklow mountain peaks scrape the clouds. The gaps between the mountains form secluded glens.

Upper Lake in Wicklow National Park

Wicklow is wooded, with green trees, carpets of grass and moss, and bubbling streams, and rolling fields.

Trees, grass, moss galore! Wicklow, Ireland.

The Avonbeg River, flowing through Glenmalure, Wicklow, Ireland
It's no wonder to me now, after having seen the place Synge came from, why Aran was so strange to him. If Wicklow were a chalkboard, Aran is what it looks like after the eraser dust settles.

Considering where I was coming from, it was a real change for me, too.


Next time: more on Synge's plays that were inspired by Wicklow...


  1. Thanks for sharing this. Lovely photos and a fascinating journey to have made. I live in the Kerry Gaeltacht, west of Dingle. In Irish it's called Corca Dhuibhne. My father's people were from Galway and his grandmother came from the Connemara Gaeltacht. Half my time is spent in London, so I recognise the further contrast you felt between NYC and the contrasting places that inspired Synge. I'm currently writing a book about my life lived between London and Corca Dhuibhne. So the concept of contrasts fascinates me, and I loved finding your piece.

    Best wishes,
    Felicity Hayes-McCoy

  2. Hi Felicity, thanks for reading and commenting! I can imagine the contrasts between Dingle and London are great, and fantastic inspiration for writing. I'm very interested to find out more about your work and will definitely check out your blog! -Emily