Posted on 24 Comments

Round the Rosses

Landscape painting of the Rosses, West Donegal, Ireland
Round the Rosses (SOLD)

The Rosses (in Gaelic, Na Rosa) is a region in the west of County Donegal, Ireland. The name comes from “Ros”, the Irish word for headland. It is a curiously rocky place. Not rocky, in the sense that national parks in the American west, like Utah and Arizona, are made of 100% rock, but rather the bedrock is covered with a thin layer of earth, with slabs of rocks and boulders poking through. It’s a barren but beautiful landscape, studded with a myriad of lakes and inlets of the sea.

Aerial View of the Rosses
Aerial View of the Rosses, from the aeroplane (with Mount Errigal in the background).

It may feel like the edge of the known world but this area has been inhabited “since time immemorial” according to Wikipedia. Coastal places like the Rosses, in Donegal, looked out onto a massive highway – the sea. Missionary Celtic saints were busy in this area in the 6th century AD. These saints relished a challenge and liked to travelled up and down the Celtic waterways to spread Christianity to nearby Scotland. In the 1990s it was fashionable to argue that these Irish monks  had in fact, “saved civilisation” by copying the books being destroyed elsewhere by Germanic invaders, eventually bringing them back to the places from which the books had come. Part of this movement included women like St. Crona or St. Crone (Cróine) , a female religious of royal blood. She found a monastery in Termon near Dungloe. She was a cousin of the the better known St. Columba (St. Columcille in Irish) one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, who founded the monastic settlement at Iona.

Much later (about a thousand years or so) in the 16th century, a number of ships from the Spanish Armada sank off or landed off its coast. Some 24 to 26 Spanish Armada ships are believed to have foundered off the Irish coast in 1588 while returning from a failed invasion of England by King Philip II. This is not just local myth as the wrecks of two Spanish ships were discovered by archaeologists in shallow water near Burtonport, Donegal, in 2008/9.

Donegal Wreck
Donegal Wreck

What happened to the survivors of these wreck is unclear. We know that as many as 9,000 Spanish soldiers and sailors lost their lives off the Atlantic coast of Ireland, either through drowning or were killed by English troops or Irish chieftains after they were washed ashore. However, not all died. Some Irish who were sympathetic to the Spaniards sheltered them and some kept them on as soldiers. Local legend, credits black-haired locals as being descents of these men, but they are possibly the descents of much earlier people who came from the Iberian peninsula after the end of the last ice age.

I found this area both beautiful fascinating. Donegal manages to combine a sense of isolation with company, should you want it.  This area is littered with houses, old and modern. Many homes are built on the rocks, or have massive rocks in their gardens. People have had to work around the boulders and outcrops.The prevalence of pines dotted across the landscape gives the area a Scots or Canadian feel to it; Caledonian in fact.

Cruit Island

Cruit Island

Although in many senses there is plenty of space, houses seem to huddle together in clusters, isolated but within sight of others. A lot of them (the newer ones, anyway) face out towards the Atlantic Ocean. It seems that in many cases old cramped cottages have been replaced by larger modern buildings. Many tiny cottages, or abandoned derelict buildings are overshadowed by bigger ones. The smaller cottages ended up as holiday homes for visitors. Most of the houses are painted white, but with some older stone cottages and out-houses are left “au naturel”.

On one of the few sunny afternoons we had, we raced round taking photographs of the houses on the rocks. Each bend in the narrow road revealed different vistas. It was hard to decide which one I liked the best. Not only did these houses look out to the sea, behind them were hills and mountains. My painting “Round the Rosses” captures a typical cluster of old and new homes perched on the top of rocky landscape. The light from the afternoon sun glints in the windows of the large house, that faces out to the ocean. The older, smaller buildings look to the east; away from the force of rain and storms and towards the rising sun.

Oil painting of West Donegal Landscape
Round the Rosses (SOLD)

Round the Rosses (SOLD)



24 thoughts on “Round the Rosses

  1. Beautiful! The scenery seems just right for your artistic style. Lovely paintings.Donegal is one of the places I have always wanted to visit. I followed Aidy McGlynn’s blog for a long time, tracking his trips around Donegal and other parts, and they made me want to go there.

    1. If you can go. It is very beautiful and people are very lovely. I couldn’t get over how polite and sweet they were.

  2. I once worked with a woman who was of Irish ancestry, with black hair. She said perhaps one of her ancestors was one of those Spanish sailors or soldiers.

    Beautiful painting, as always!

    1. Those Spanish sailors get a lot of credit for the black hair!

  3. I always wondered about those beautiful black Irish! This painting is wonderful~a new favorite.

  4. Your painting is beautiful. It has lovely proportions.

  5. I love the vibrancy in your painting. Interesting about the Spanish influence of the dark hair. My family, on my mother’s side is Irish and we all have dark hair and blue eyes. Hmmm……

    1. Do you all have freckles too? My father (his grandfather was from Cork) has (had when he was a lot younger) dark hair and hazel eyes and freckles. There’s a strong cross-over with Scotland too.

      1. I had freckles when I was younger and my Daughter has freckles.

      2. Sounds like celtic genes to me!

  6. What a beautiful, rugged place. It must have been quite desolate back in the 6th century. Your painting has captured that feeing of a safe haven in a wild place.

    1. Thank you, Anne. I think that’s why the monks like theses desolate places. They could retreat into their very own Irish “desert” to be closer to God.

  7. Lovely work, Emma! I must come back and read what you had to say properly when I have a bit more time(ugh, I’m so busy right now!!) 🙂

    1. Thanks, Hilda. It’s OK to just look at the pictures. It’s mostly about the images anyway!

  8. […] from Dublin, from the runway at the airport, from the beach at Carrickfinn, From Bunbeg beach, from the Rosses, from Gweedore. Its barren surface is rather moon-like, but when the sun catches its slopes its […]

  9. Your blog page “Under the Shadow of Errigal” is not displaying correctly. There is no reply section to enter comments, and its layout seems to be disturbed. That’s why I am leaving this comment here. Anyway, I wanted to say that your painting of that extinct volcano is quite lovely.

    1. Thanks for letting me know, I’m not sure how to fix it or where to get help.

  10. Lovely land. The rockiness adds to it rather than detracts.

    1. That’s what I like about it!

  11. De kleuren in je schilderijen maken me bij donkere dagen altijd vrolijk

  12. Bedankt. Dat is goed om te weten. Ze maken me ook blij!

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