Gazing Overhead on The Wild Atlantic Way
For those exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way, a soothing interlude is a stop at James Turrell's Sky Garden. Just outside Skibbereen, in West Cork, a few miles below the N 71 main road is the entrance to Liss Art Estate where the acclaimed artist of space and light installed the Celestial Vault for viewing heavenly phenomena. Visitors recline on a stone plinth gazing up at the clouds or stars above. With no peripheral distractions the eye can contemplate nothing but the Irish sky overhead.
PHOTO OF SKY GARDEN
Visitors are encouraged to go in pairs or small groups. A gravel road through the woods approaches the stone arch which leads to the beginning of the installation. Before passing through the arch you're advised to stop at the copse of trees at the entrance and appreciate the surrounding woodlands, breathing slowing and taking in the natural sounds and colors.
Eventually a sign points to the inner entrance which is secured by a lock and key. The chamber resembles a catacomb that embraces the sounds of your footsteps and of the water dripping from the walls.
A blaze of light bounces off the white marble floor surface leading to the stairs at the end of the passage.
As you climb the stairs, the sky gradually appears in the rectangular frame of the archway, enlarging as you walk into the crater. Sounds are muffled, there is only the grass and the sky. You position yourself on the "Vault Purchase" stone plinth and contemplate the sky above.
Liss Ard is a 150-acre estate dating from 1853. A small hotel, it includes the main Country House and a nearby Lake Lodge. Registered guests have priority for visiting the Sky Garden which is open to the public Tuesday through Thursday.
LISS ARD COUNTRY HOUSE
LISS ARD TEAROOM
In addition to the Sky Garden, 50 acres of grounds include Woodland and Waterfall Gardens and a Wildflower Meadow. There are Reed Beds, the Celtic Meeting Place, and a Lakeside Walk past the Bird Hide.
Recent Turrell exhibits have included the wondrous "Aten Reign" which transformed New York City's Guggenheim Museum into a revolving rainbow and the "Light and Perception" retrospective earlier this year in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Visiting the Irish installation, dating from the early 1990's, is an opportunity to experience the extraordinary artist's early work and a pleasant pause on Ireland's southwest coast.