Cong / Cross in Co. Mayo

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The Gaelic name for Cong, Cunga Feichin, is very informative and revealing. Cung means a narrow strip of land and is situated on a narrow isthmus of cavernous limestone between Lough Mask and Lough Corrib.

A stroll through Cong and its hinterland is a microcosmic trip through the history of Ireland and its people. No trace today remains of Feichin's haven by the river but the tranquillity, clear water and abundant supply of fish that tempted Feichin to settle in Cong are still there to be savoured, enjoyed and appreciated nearly 1400 years later.

The majestic monastic remains that adorn Cong today are the relics of a monastery built by the High King of Ireland, Turlach O'Connor in 1120 for the Augustinians. The monastery continued as a site of worship and learning, until it was suppressed in the reign of King Henry VIII. Stroll around the monastic cloisters and cast your mind back to the psalm chanting monks following the ornate Cross of Cong which is now in the National Museum. The Market Cross in the village commemorates two former abbots of the monastery.

A walk along the dry canal rekindles memories of the dreaded famine of 1845-1848. The canal was a famine relief scheme that never quite fulfilled its promise in any sense of the word. Due to the limestone nature of the terrain, the water disappeared into the ground like water gurgling down the plug hole of a bath.

This era also saw the Oranmore and Brown family vacate Ashford House in 1852 and heralded the arrival of the famed Guinness brewing family to the area. Arthur Guinness (Lord Ardilaun) devoted much of his life and considerable wealth to the development of the castle, the walks, the forest and local historical artifacts.

Cross (An Crois)

A great battle took place between the Firbolgs and the Tuatha de Danann (ancient tribes of Ireland) on the great plain of Moytura in Cross. They played the first ever hurling match on those plains. The Firbolgs outshone that day, but the battle was won by the Tuatha de Danann. Ballymagibbon Cairn was erected to celebrate the battle.

From Christian times you can still see the ruins of St Fura's church at Ballymagibbon (7th Century). An interesting relic of this old ruin is now placed in the porch of Cross church. It is a carved stone having in relief the figure of a child.

Having completed your rambles through Cross, relax with a copy of Sir William Wilde's Lough Corrib, or enjoy the works of his son Oscar, who roamed the area as a youth while holidaying in Moytura House.

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