Saturday 17 March 2018

Yeats Country: 17 photos of Sligo and Leitrim that are pure poetry

The waters and the wild

Eagle's Rock, Co. Leitrim:
Eagle's Rock, Co. Leitrim: "On a recent hike with Northwest Adventure Tours, we come across this mound; it looked like a glacial slide had pushed it down and left a nice viewing point to stand upon." Photo: Colin Gillen/
Classiebawn Castle, on Mullaghmore Head, as a rain cloud passes overhead. Benbulben is in the distance. Photo: Colin Gillen /
"Sometimes taking a good photo is all about taking your time. I was an hour late for a meeting, as I couldn't pass with without capturing this view." Glencar lake, Leitrim. Photo: Colin Gillen /
A storm surge at Serpent Rock, Ballyconnell, Co. Sligo. "When most people take shelter, I like to head out and see the power." Photo: Colin Gillen /
"This photograph featured on the front page of the Irish Independent last December. I waited for this person to walk in shot to give scale and a sense of how wild the coast can be. It was taken during a storm at Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo." Photo: Colin Gillen /
"The Glenaniff river travels down from the mountain above Rossinver, Fowley's Falls must be one of the best kept secrets of North Leitrim." Photo: Colin Gillen /
Eagle's Rock, Co. Leitrim: Photo: Colin Gillen/
Low tide and a winter's sunrise over Ben Bulben. Photo: Colin Gillen /
Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo: "The world's bravest surfers travel here. Elite surfers are towed into these huge waves, returning each winter undeterred by serious wipe-outs". Photo: Colin Gillen /
The Sligo-based rescue helicopter out on a training exercise near Ben Bulben. "My father John was with me this day; it was his first time to go to the top of the mountain. I asked him why, in all of 68 years, did he not go up before. He replied: 'Well, as a child I had to walk five miles with a donkey and cart to get to the bog where we would cut and save the turf, work there all day and then walk all the way home... the last thing we wanted to after that was to walk up a mountain'." Photo: Colin Gillen /
Ariel view north of Streedagh with O'Connor's Island and Dernish Island. Photo: Colin Gillen /
Eagle's Rock, Co. Leitrim: "The mist lifts as we begin our partial decent into this valley. We were only halfway through our hike, as we had to trek to our right and back to the top of the mountain to overlook the crag we'd just passed through." Photo: Colin Gillen /
Knocknarea, Sligo. Last of the winter snow. "This is the walkway up Knocknarea towards Queen Maeve's Grave." Photo: Colin Gillen /
Benbulben, with Mullaghmore headland to the top-right. "The white specks are sheep grazing on the side of the mountain." Photo: Colin Gillen /
An old fishing boat - 'The Donegal' - that came to rest in Sligo Bay. the wreck is accessible on foot only at low tide. Photo by Colin Gillen /
Benbulben: A snow-covered view from Streedagh at low tide. "I'm lucky to be living here between the mountain and sea. Every day I still feel the need to capture the beauty." Photo by Colin Gillen /
Aerial view over Cope's Mountain to Sligo Bay with Knocknarea in the distance. Photo: Colin Gillen /
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

The desolate landscapes of Sligo and Leitrim aren't just a fitting subject for poetry, as Colin Gillen's photographs show.

Gillen is a professional photographer living on the Sligo coast, and he spends his days shooting what he calls "the amazing, light-filled playground of a landscape that is Yeats Country".

W.B. Yeats was a regular visitor to Sligo and Leitrim, with local features like Ben Bulben, Glencar and Inishfree familiar to many through his poetry.

But words aren't the only way to celebrate unforgettable landscapes.

A good photo, as we know, is worth 1,000 of them.

By day working for local and national media, Gillen is also a keen musician with a reputation as one of Ireland's top music photographers.

But it's his stunning eye for Sligo and Leitrim that caught our attention.

From the tiny human forms caught in magnificent landscapes (or monster waves) to simple, almost painterly shots of bohareens and lakes, his photos draw you into the waters and the wild, inviting you to explore Yeats Country all over again.

Check out the gallery above - we think you'll agree.

You can find out more about Colin and his photos on, on Facebook here, and about hiking and adventure guides in Sligo on

For more on Yeats 2015, a programme of events celebrating the 150th anniversary of the poet's birth, see

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