Happy Birthday Myra! This is for you! (But others are welcome to enjoy!)
My friend Myra and her family are traveling to County Cork, Ireland (and beyond) this summer so, as promised, here are highlights from our 2004 trip there, culled from entries hastily scribbled in my journal (journal #44 to be precise.) Please excuse any misspellings – chalk it up to tricky Gaelic spelling and my hard-to-decipher handwriting!
Another good resource: http://www.schull.ie/index.html, (complete with a sound track of fiddlely-dee music – as our English friend Francine refers to Irish music).
- We rented a 200-year-old stone house in the countryside with a tiny pond, outside the small village of Ballydehob. (I wish I knew exactly where. Below are some family photos. We shared the house with friends from London.)
- We spent much of our time in the larger village of Schull (pronounced “Skull”) where we visited the Sunday morning farmers market. (Of course!) We bought some locally-made Gubbeen cheese (my favorite on this trip; the mature, non-smoked version is best!), sausages and bread for a picnic by the water; visited the ruins of a church with a famine (?) graveyard; and had a drink at The Courtyard, which we ended up visiting several times. We watched local musicians play during a traditional sing-along. We also ate one of our better meals at the pub – which, oddly, was Thai food. At the Sunday market, I also bought a hand-knit sweater (which I still wear). Here’s a photo of the kids exploring the ruins by the water in Schull.
In Scull, we also went to a ceilidh (pronounced kaylee) at the village hall – which is not to be missed. It was a cross between a square dance and a talent show, where locals and visitors (from all over including Germany, France and, oddly, the Canary Islands) danced reels and line dances to live accordion music, as well as performed ad hoc. (Francine got up and sang a song. So did a weather-beaten old man sitting beside us who didn’t say a word otherwise. He sang beautifully; Some young girls did Irish stepdancing, a la Riverdance. A little boy played a tin whistle. ) Then we all broke for tea and biscuits (of course!
In Schull the kids also went sea kayaking. One of our best meals was home-cooked – we brought back fresh mussels and salmon that we bought along the water in Schull.
DAY TRIPS FROM SCHULL:
#1) We drove about 45 minutes southwest to Mizen Head, a very dramatic slab of sculpted rock jutting out into the ocean (or so I wrote). We toured the lighthouse station, stood on a suspension bridge above a deep slash in the rock (shades of Ithaca!) and saw several seals. From there we drove to the small fishing village of Crookhaven (see photo at top), where we ate crab sandwiches and seafood chowder at O’Sullivans Bar, sitting at an outdoor picnic table overlooking a narrow channel full of sailboats. A few brave souls (not me among them) tried swimming in the ice cold sea (or “paddling” as the Brits call taking a dip.)
Mizen Head: the most south-westerly point of Ireland.
#2) We took a day trip via ferry to “Clear Island” (see photo below; AKA Cape Clear or Cléire), a wild, largely uninhabited small slab of craggy land which we will forever refer to as “UnClear Island” since the little isle was shrouded in dense fog. But it was a fun trip. During a long hike in the fog, mist and “soft rain,” I completely lost sight of Emma – who I was pretty sure was ahead of me – but when I called out to her, she answered back. Phew! I also had my first ever Irish coffee in the pub by North Harbor, where we caught the ferry back. (see photo below). It really hit the spot since we were chilled from our long slog in the fog. The ferry ride aboard the Karycraft took about 45 minutes and was very amusing, thanks to our skipper, Kiernan Malley, who not only told stories about the area but sang a song or two while playing the accordion and ,presumably, steering the boat (We later spotted him working in a car garage in Schull. A man of many talents!)
Church at Gougane Barra – built on island near monastery/well site at end of 19th century.
#3) Another great day trip: Bantry Bay to the seaside villages of Glengarriff and Castletownbarre (where we ate seafood chowder at MacCarthy’s Pub), around the Beara Peninsula and stunning Cod’s Head cape.
OTHER PLACES WE VISITED IN IRELAND:
- Emma in Co. Kilkenny at a monastic ruin
Mountain view from Oldtown Farmhouse
We stayed in Howth, a small village outside Dublin (we commuted into the city) with a cool cliff walk over looking the ocean. We stayed at a very low-key b&B called Gleann-na-smol B&B (where we found some other visitors from….Iowa). Very nice host family.
- In Dublin we did the typical stuff – walked around Trinity College, St. Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street, at pizza at the Badass Cafe at Temple Bar, walked over the Ha’Penny bridge.