Last summer, I took the whole family to West Cork for a holiday that included seeing Roy at De Barras and attending the Gathering. Two high points for me in an otherwise uneventful year apart from work, my yougest son being diagnosed with Crohn's Disease and general entropy!
The holiday was supposed to be just me and the missus getting away together on our own but it wasn't long before we grew from two people to six. Although I'd been to Eire before on business, I'd never been down to the South West Coast but having read some of Roy's posts about Rossmore, I was intrigued to discover what the 'real' Ireland was like. So departing from Anglesey after an abysmal stopover in Bangor Premier Travel Inn we departed late for technical reasons on the catamaran and arrived in Dublin too late to make a shopping trip. With four of us in a luggage filled car, it wasn't the most enjoyable of journeys and especially as Ireland doesn't abound with too many motorways. Fortunately the other two in the party flew into Cork and hired a car so arrived in Clon to be able to collect the keys and put the kettle on ready for our arrival.
Being vegetarian in Ireland poses a few difficulties. More so for someone who has Crohn's and is on a very specific diet with nor carbs or sugar or raw dairy. Now Clonakilty is the World Capital of Black Pudding and we did wonder whether this was related to a settlement of Yorkshire folk back in the 1700's. However, there are plenty of shops most seem to be run by Polish people but having lived in Bradford and enjoyed the delights of Polish and Estonian and Ukranian provisions, I wasn't too worried that we wouldn't be able to find some food even if it amounted to Gerkins and Sauerkraut and other traditional Irish Cuisine.
Clonakilty is a delightful place. Apparently it has suffered in the recent past from an influx of people who came for the wrong reasons and the summer festival and now the town is rebuilding itself and its touristic branding buoyed up by an increase in interest in Cork County. After arriving, we unloaded and decided to have a walk around the town, stretch the legs and find some food. By the Catholic Church stands a memorial to Michael Collins the great hero of Clonakilty. Now I should point out that my Great Grandmother was Margaret Redmond the sister of John Redmond the former Prime Minister of Ireland at the outset of WWI. John Redmond was a great and passionate promoter of Irish Home Rule through peaceful means but when the war broke out the British Government wanted troops to send to the front line and so recruitment of Irish Soldiers was supported by the Irish Government. However, there were many complainants who disliked the fact that only English Officers were permitted to lead the men into battle and despite Redmond's protestations, the situation didn't improve and led to Redmond losing his power in 1916 and the Easter Rising.
My eldest son read the inscription on the memorial to Michael Collins and worked out from his date of birth and his death that he had only lived for about thirty years (when the British shot him). So in the middle of Clonakilty with local people passing well within earshot, he says "Dad, he didn't live for very long, did he?" Now I'm a liitle bit deaf and wear hearing aids so he thought I hadn't heard him, didn't notice me shhshhing him and repeated it even louder which caused a few heads to turn. He says, "Whats up?" I say, "The British Government shot him for insurrection and keep your bloody voice down!" The passing phalanx of Nuns gave us some rather black and white looks as they proceeded on to Mass at the nearby church.
Oh my God! First day in Clonakilty and Sprog 1 causes a scene and me a descendant of John Redmond. Eeeeeekkkk!!! Fortunately the moment passed uneventfully but I had the feeling that curtains twitched and sideways glances were exchanged for the rest of the week.
Day 2 and I was woken by my body-clock at 6:15am. Up, showered and dressed by 6:30am, quick cup of coffee and out the door for a walk. The other travellers were still fast asleep. Clonakilty harbour is not what you would expect but its tidal and a haven for wildlife. The air smelled fresh and not like the seaside I remember from childhood. I must have sat and soaked up the atmosphere for over an hour, peaceful and tranquil.
The Polish minimarket was open and so I bought some milk and headed back to the apartment. Still no one else up. More coffee and an opportunity to play the guitar. Just as I had taken the instrument out of its case and checked the tuning, in walks the subdragon and says I hope you're not going to play that bloddy thing all holiday! Illusions shattered, I return the guitar to the case knowing to quit when you're winning is a virtue!
I for one have never doubted that Irish people believe in the "Little People". Although I would never have expected to see them, on a trip through Kerry we came across a troupe of biker Leprechauns. After a brief conversation it became apparent that they were Yorkshiremen from Barnsley but they did provide a good photo opportunity and were thoroughly friendly people.
If you visit Clonakilty, a visit to Inchidony beach is a must. Having grown up near the Northumbrian coastline, I regard myself as a good judge of beaches. Although there have been quite a plethora of developments it is relatively unspoilt. A favourite location for Irish families and some tourists, the white sands and rocky outcrops provide a beautiful setting for the Atlantic sea. Sprog 3 took some surfboard lessons here and we all got a bit tanned sitting in the bright sunshine. Good walking and chilling opportunities but remember to take supplies of refreshments with you.
Since I personally don't drink alcohol anymore, I'll leave descriptions of the various hostelries and beverages on offer to those who have better experience. Suffice to say that De Barras does sell litre bottles of excellent Alcohol Free German Beer. My liver or whats left of it certainly enjoyed the experience!