Ireland rocks. I don’t need to convince anyone really but I did need to convince myself. Away for a decade and unsure if I wanted to return. Chance and happenstance brought me back in a very unexpected way and I was unprepared for the unfolding.
The biggest surprise was that I fell in love with Ireland in a way that I would never imagine. This A-Z is an homage to my homeland by birth and now readoption. It incorporates the playground of my youth and now the landscape of my adult life. Come join me on my alphabetic odyssey around AMAZING Ireland.
Kerry is synonymous with tourists from all over the world for the verdant forests and mystical lakes of Killarney. What most don’t see only a stones throw away is the aching beauty of Caherdaniel. This tiny enclave was named after ‘Cathair Dónall’ which was Donal’s stone ringfort. It was also home to one of Ireland’s most famous political leaders, Daniel O’ Connell who fought for Catholic Emancipation, to allow Catholics to hold seats in Parliament in Ireland.
This charming little township is surrounded by the coast and overlooks the dramatic Skellig Rock. The area is rich in bird and sea life. At Derrynane house which was one the home of Daniel O’ Connell a fairy garden can be found. A walk from the house over greenery and dunes brings you onto the beautiful beach. A coastal drive from Derrynane takes in the incomparable views of the wild west coast.
Crookhaven is a sleepy little fishing village which swells to epic proportions with summer visitors. It is situated on the most south westerly tip of Ireland. overlooked by Mizen Head and Brow Head. Both headlands are famous for their extreme aspect on the Irish coast. The whole area was heavily influenced by Marconi’s visit and use of the town and headlands for radio transmittted signals across the Atlantic, the first of their kind.
In the past Crookhaven had a population of over 700 people and its bay heaved with boats, so much so you could walk across the boats from one side of the bay to the other. Nowadays the resident population sits at approx 40 people. The area now is more famous for its scenic beauty and Star Wars associations. The most recent Star Wars epic has filmed on Brow Head as well as Coomenaule in Kerry.
A wee way out of Cork city is a boatie’s dream, Crosshaven. It has long been used as a port, boatyard and the launch pad for the Royal Cork Yacht Club. This little sea snug is popular with locals and tourists alike with people coming year round to visit Camden Fort. This dates back to 1550 and is one of the only places left in the world where you can find a WW1 artillery fort.
After a walk along the coast many rest their legs and whet their whistles at Cronin’s bar. This pub is probably one of the atmospheric watering holes in Southern Ireland with excellent food. It also harbours a gallery to showcase local artists. In July it runs the ‘Redfest’ which celebrates red heads and ‘gingers’ en masse. Only in Ireland!
Baltimore is not just a beautiful village. It hides many secrets, some in the ancient buildings it accomodates, some in the deep blue sea beyond.
It’s history is one of intrigue and drama. In the 17th century it was home to the high kings of Tara and many pirates. All the women of the day were said to be either the wives or mistresses of pirates. In 1631 the village was devastated by the ‘Sack of Baltimore’ where Barbary pirates from Algiers kidnapped over 100 people and sold them into slavery. Only 2 or 3 of these ever saw Ireland again.
Despite its dark history it has thrived in recent times and has become one of the premier spots in Europe to see burgeoning whale and dolphin populations. Minke, fin and humpback whales are seen with increasing regularity. Large pods of common dolphins are also seen frolicking in front of boats, surfing off the bow waves to the delight of all.
Barleycove is a golden sandy beach which is overlooked by Ireland’s most South westerly point, Mizen Head. The dunes around Barleycove were formed in 1755 after an earthquake in Lisbon. Portugal caused a tsunami. The sand that was displaced by this formed Barleycove!
The dunes are listed as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) as they provide habitat and shelter for various vulnerable and interesting plant and animal species. A floating was placed across the river to allow public access to the beach. Walking on it feels like floating mid air.
Blarney is famous for its castle and for its ability to confer the gift of the gab on whomever may kiss its fabled stone. Besides its magic powers its gardens are a gardeners dream with a wide variety of plants from near and far. The poison garden is filled with lethal plants for both man and beast. Other sections have lakes, waterfalls and ruins. On a balmy day the gardens by the waterfall feel like a tropical oasis with their tribal carvings and lush. foreign plants.
Allihies is a stunning coastal village which straddles the Cork-Kerry border. Its unique position nestled beneath imposing rock faces, looking out onto the wild Atlantic ocean. The village is dotted with cheery multicoloured houses and watering holes and eateries. Numerous coastal and hill walks can be found for the outdoor enthusiast.
It was an important mining source in the 18th and 19th century and remnants of its history can be seen in the hillsides above. According to the legend ‘The Children of Lir’, the children are buried in Allihies.
Ahakista is a wooded coastal village on the road to the Sheeps Head peninsula in West Cork. Besides its beauty it is also known for its famous summer resident, Graham Norton. Originally a sleepy fishing village, it has become more prominent as a tourist destination for its fabled walks and history.
One of the loveliest pubs in Ireland, The Tin Pub is located in Ahakista. It has welcomed musicians from all over the world. Its glorious gardens overlook Dunmanus Bay. With music, a pint in hand and breathtaking beauty, where else would you want to be?
Annascaul was home to one of Ireland’s greatest explorers. Tom Crean. His epic voyages of discovery to Antarctica with Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton have left an indelible mark on the psyche of many. Despite risking life and limb on numerous occasions, this brave but private and modest man, bought a wee pub in his home which he called The South Pole Inn.
The dramatic landscape which encompasses Annascaul includes brooding mountains, thunderous waterfalls and pounding coastline. The scenery, sensations and solitude is sure to set your heart beating anew!