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Inchcleraun & Lough Key Forest and Activity Park

This is another post about my trip up the Shannon River on a 28’ sailboat with Honey Bunny (my significant other) and Slim Jim (Honey Bunny’s lifelong friend).

By the way, I have a backlog of pieces, so I’m posting everyday this week. Yep, there was a lot of time to write on the boat.

Today, I am posting one piece about two different places we went to on two different days. Hopefully, it will all work out in the transitioning and contrasting.

On our first day on the water, we rowed in the reliable dingy over to Inchcleraun, an island near the north end of Lough Ree.

Inchcleraun was once called Inis Clothrann. Clothra was the sister of Queen Maeve, a warrior/goddess/queen whose legend comes from pre-Celtic Ireland. I like to think of her as Xena with more clothes on. One day, Maeve was bathing on Inchcleraun when she was killed by a sling shot fired by Forbuidhe who had practiced for a year and a day.

But that’s not all for inchcleraun. First, there were the Druids. Then, there were the Christian monks for a thousand years starting in 540 AD and ending with the age of suppression in 1539.

Before our trip, I had read a great book on Lough Ree island history called Lough Ree & Its Islands by Sean Cahill, Jimmy Casey, and Gearoid O’Brien, so I was able to provide insight for the Honey Bunny and Slim Jim. I highly recommend the Lough Ree book. It is the least obnoxiously nostalgic of all the Shannon books I read, and it gave me a lot of info.

The ruins of six churches remain today on Inchcleraun. The largest is Teampall Mor which is oriented almost perfectly east west. The church ruins blew my mind. Here I was, a girl from Cleveland, standing in the Grand Central Station of civilization a thousand years ago. It gave me pause, then I took pictures.

Church RuinsTeampall Dhiarmada

We then hiked to the highest point of the island to find The Clogas which has a tower with a church ruin attached.

Clogas TrailOutside Clogas 

Even though it holds a place in history, Inchcleraun is well off the tourist track. You can only get to it by boat. There is no dock or weir, and we ended up tying up in a mucky grassy area. There’s no visitors center or coffee shop. Our only guide book was my notes from Lough Ree & Its Islands, but it was kind of nice going off the well-worn tourist path. Now, I worry that a visitors center will open up there, but I don’t think the goats on the island would like it.

Two days later, we pulled up to Lough Key Forest and Activity Park. I had picked up a brochure in our travels, and I was curious to see the first Tree Canopy Walk in Ireland. As we walked to the visitors center, we noticed that the Tree Canopy Walk was protected by a high fence and monitored by security cameras. Okay, so it was an elitist tree canopy walk.

Canopy WalkLough Key Forest Park 

As we sat down to drink our morning coffee (or tea for Slim Jim) in the visitors center, we were told that we could not sit out on the sun deck because they were power washing it. I guess Wednesday was powerwash day at Lough Key Forest and Activity Park.

Still, we were in good spirits, and we were anxious to walk around. On a 28’ sailboat, you would have to do approximately 94 laps in order to walk a mile. I’d rather walk in the woods.

Lough Key Forest and Activity Park was once an old estate which was taken over for tourism after the mansion burned down. In addition to the tree canopy walk, there were puzzle rooms and playgrounds for the kids. There were also lots of very nice trails in super green forests.

Trail at Lough Key Forest ParkTree at Lough Key Forest Park 

As the day wore on during our walk, the sun made us warmer and warmer, and we peeled off our fleece layers and rain jackets. I started to feel very much myself and like I was right where I should be. Most importantly, I felt totally and completely chilled-the-fuck-out. I like that feeling. Why do I only get to feel it on holidays especially when I live in a chilled-the-fuck-out town?

When we got back to the visitors center, we decided to eat some lunch before going back out onto the water. Besides, the Lough Key Forest and Activity Park Ladies Room was bright, shiny, and nice smelling.

Fortunately, the sun deck was open, so we could sit out in the sun and enjoy our lunch. Settled at our table, we ate our soup accompanied by the very loud hum of a large piece of construction equipment sitting just beyond the sun deck. Most of the time, we could block out the hum, but I still had a hard time hearing Honey Bunny and Slim Jim.

Two teenage girls were sitting at the next table over. They were part of a school group I had noticed earlier. They wore black hoodies, too much makeup, and carried designer knock-off bags. They fiddled with their cell phones, but I could see that they were bored. They had done whatever group thing they had to do, and they were in limbo until they could be shuttled back to wherever they came from. It was like they wanted to break away, but they just didn’t know how to do it yet.

In their boredom, they commented on how loud the mechanical hum was, and I realized that it was pretty darn loud. What was the purpose of a sun deck if not to enjoy the pleasant surroundings? With that thought, I became my father’s daughter, the daughter of a retired construction project manager, and I wondered who the moron was who left his big ass machine running next to the sundeck of a tourist attraction during lunchtime.

When I vocalized this to Honey Bunny and Slim Jim, they turned pale (or as pale as two Irish guys in the sun could be). They were good boys. They didn’t want a scene, they didn’t want drama, they just wanted to sail away.

I pushed my chair back from the table and went to find someone with authority. I figured I would be saving whomever I spoke with from the Next American. The Next American would not be as nice. The Next American would probably be really loud, condescending, and brash. The Next American would not be in a state of chill-the-fuck-out.

At the information counter, I found a lady in a burgundy Lough Key polo shirt who was eager to talk with me.

Hi, I’m wondering if you could help me. We’re all eating lunch out on the sundeck, and someone seems to have left his tractor running, and well, it’s just a little too loud. I’m wondering if you could call someone to maybe come and turn it off because it’s really intrusive.

Oh, that’s the power washer. I don’t know. . .The lady said nervously. She didn’t want to go out into the world of men. She was happy inside at the information counter.

Maybe you could call the head of the maintenance department or a supervisor. It’s just that it’s really loud and hard for us to enjoy our lunch. I said with a smile on my face. I was obviously not going away.

Well, hmm, I guess I could go and talk to the power washer. I just hope he doesn’t spray me. She said.

He won’t. I said. The lady took a breath to build up her courage and I pointed to where I was sitting with two guys who looked kind of scruffy.

When I got back to the table, Honey Bunny didn’t say anything because he was used to my exploits. However, Slim Jim had a what-the-fuck look of perplexity on his face, and I felt the need to explain myself to him.

You see, there’s complaining, but complaining rarely gets anything done. I was empowering someone to get something done. And maybe at the next staff meeting, the power washing will be discussed, and maybe some new power washing policy will be implemented. But what is the goal of this place? A nice tourist experience. Shouldn’t they strive to make it as nice an experience as possible.

Okay, yeah, I was talking out of my ass, but I doubt Slim Jim heard most of my words over the hum of the machinery.

While I was talking, an older guy climbed into the cab of the large piece of machinery and drove it around the building. Meanwhile, the information desk lady came over to me.

He didn’t spray me! She exclaimed. She was bubbly as if she had just eaten a really nice chocolate.

Of course not. I said.

He said he’s moving it around the building.

Excellent. Thanks so much for talking to him. I said. Sure we were finished with our lunch, but I really appreciated the lady’s help.

As the info desk lady walked away, I noticed the two teenage girls sitting with jaws dropped. What had just happened? I sat back and smiled inwardly. Watch and learn, my little amazons, watch and learn.

Maybe I was a warrior queen in a previous life. Nahhhhh. I was probably her sword carrier and personal assistant.

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