A Letter from Ireland:
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Touring West Cork with Kilcrohane Sue

Céad Míle Fáilte – and welcome to this weeks Letter from Ireland. 

I am on some pure, clear water from the well as we chat this morning. So, I do hope you’ll join me now with a cup of whatever you’re having, as we start into today’s Letter. Have you ever considered planning the ideal Trip to Ireland? Well, here is an example of Touring West Cork in the company of one of our readers.

McCarthy

A Note from Kilcrohane Sue. 

Have you ever visited Ireland? Maybe you’ve lived here at one stage – maybe you still do! Over in the Green Room, I get quite a few questions on where to visit in Ireland and how long to spend in different places. However, I do notice that people who enjoy their visit the most are those who slow down and concentrate on a specific area. I was talking to a man during the week who commented on how true this was for him:

“heaven is having a few weeks in some remote location in West Cork or Kerry – with no plans but to see what each new day will bring”.

And in Ireland, a new day usually brings lots of the unexpected – specially when you bring yourself to talk spontaneously with us “natives”. For the rest of this letter, we’ll take a comment from one of our long-time readers and then take a leisurely tour around the Irish villages and townlands of her ancestors. One of our great friends on the letter, “Kilcrohane Sue” from Canada, sent in the following last year:

“It is difficult to explain the connection I have to Ireland.  My parents never made the trip although my father longed to go most of his life.  I am feeling the ‘pull’ to visit more and more every day.  Sometimes it is difficult to understand such a strong connection to a land I have never seen.  Now, if I could just find that pot of gold I’ll be all set!”

I think that when Sue eventually gets to Ireland, she will enjoy nothing more than basing herself in Kilcrohane on the Sheeps Head Peninsula – the land of her ancestors – and waking up each morning with no expectation of what a new day will bring.

Ahakista

So, how about you, me and Sue take a trip to Kilcrohane and take this journey in our imaginations? (By the way – I do have a link to lots of photos to help us along in the shownotes).

A Land on the Ocean. 

The Sheep’s Head Peninsula is in the very west of West Cork. It’s a strip of land that travels out to sea for about 30 miles from the town of Bantry. Maybe you know this town already?

Bantry TownAs we travel from Bantry we first pass beautiful green-wooded pastures on either side. Over a few miles, however – as we go through the villages of Durrus and Ahakista – the land starts to open up with rocky fields and sea vistas to our left. By the time we get to Kilcrohane, it can feel a lot like the “end of the line” – but this is just the opening to one of the best walking areas in the world. As you go even further west, you might feel like you are travelling on the deck of a ship as the sea starts to come in from both sides.

This land was originally ruled by the O’Mahonys – with strong oversight from the McCarthys, but the local chiefs were the Cork branch of the bardic O’Daly clan. You still find all these surnames in abundance in this area, both in the graveyards and above the shops and pubs of the villages.

O'MahonyBut, let’s go back to the village of Kilcrohane. If it’s a Sunday morning, we will head to the small market just outside Eileen’s bar in the village. A good place to catch up with the local “going-ons” and to figure out what to do for the day. It takes a while to wander a few yards in this part of the world as you bump into some welcoming faces and become part of a conversation on the latest coming and goings in the parish.

If it’s a nice day, we’ll take the car a few miles up the road and go for a walk around the old O’Daly bardic school. This was the place you came to study to become a Bard or Poet for one of the lordships of Ireland back in the 1600s. It’s all a ruin now, but the land and vistas hint at the inspiration these student poets must have felt on a daily basis.

Sheeps Head ViewTowards evening, after a nice lazy lunch in front of our homestead – looking out on the view once enjoyed by so many of our ancestors – we’ll head to the end of the Peninsula to sit above the ocean. A nice cup of tea and a slice of rhubarb tart at “Bernie’s Cupán Tae” will see us right for a brisk walk to the lighthouse. A place where the sky, the land and the ocean become one.

And then we’ll see the sun setting over the sea to finish a perfect day – before a trip back to the local pub for some convivial chat and maybe even a song or two.

Bardic SchoolSo Sue, I do hope that you will enjoy all these beautiful small and everyday things that the land of your ancestors will have to offer on your planned trip to Ireland.

I think it is fitting to close with a verse from an O’Daly song called Eileen Aroon (Eileen my Love) – one of the oldest Irish songs on record:

I know a valley fair, Eileen Aroon

I know a cottage there, Eileen Aroon,

Fair in the valley shade, I know a tender maid,

Flow’r of the hazel grove, Eileen Aroon.

Who is the song so sweet, Eileen Aroon

Who is the dance so fleet, Eileen Aroon,

Dear are her charms to me , dearer her laughter free

Dearest her constancy, Eileen Aroon.

Were she no longer true, Eileen Aroon,

What would her lover do, Eileen Aroon,

Fly with broken chain, far o’er the sounding main

Never to love again, Eileen Aroon.

Youth will in time decay, Eileen Aroon,

Beauty must fade away, Eileen Aroon,

Castles are sacked in war, chieftains are scattered far,

Truth is a fixed star, Eileen Aroon.

How about you? What would be your ideal trip to Ireland?

Slán for now – Mike and Carina : )

  • Carolyn H born Oliver says:

    A really tender poem. I have visited Ireland once with a ship’s cruise that stopped in Cobh, Belfast, Dublin and a return to Dublin (flight from London) and on to Armagh for a few days. Planning a return trip to stay longer based in Armagh.

  • Sandy Laferriere says:

    What a lovely trip with you today. I do hope Sue can make that trip to the land she has never been to, yet her heart keeps calling her home. ❤️☘

    • Mike says:

      Well said Sandy! Mike.

    • Christine Mackay says:

      What Mike said Sue. It can be cheaper than you think with savvy on-line fares. I have been to Ireland once 2 years ago on a coach trip and I noticed that it would be easy to drive around (I’m an Aussie). I’d asked Irish nursing colleagues about this too and they all said that this was so and that it was easy to find good cheap acommodation. One even offered her Aunt’s house as her 4 cousins had all left home! I may take her up on that next time- whenever that may be.

  • Janet Montgomery Scobell says:

    I was in Ireland in September of 1976, a while ago. I’ve been desperately trying to get back. Hopefully, I’ll be granted a Fullbright award to go to Oideas Gael in Gleann Cholm Cille, Donegal in August of this year. I have been studying the Irish language for 4 years. I love Ireland & everything about it. I feel it’s my true home. Even though I was born in the US all my relatives came from Ireland. I am second generation Irish American. I NEED to be in Ireland!!!!!

  • Linda Wilson Stevenson says:

    hi There, going to Ireland in July 2016 ..my dad was born in Ireland and the family as far back as time where all farmers..but like everyone else who has relatives in Ireland or past relatives I also feel the pull to get there..My family are from the north near Giants Causeway..

  • Annwyn says:

    Now and again I come across words which are very similar to Welsh, although the two languages are very different, In Welsh a cup is cwpan and tea is tê as in the latin word tecum. (At the moment I can’t think of a rhyming word). I love seeing and hearing the language and I know that Ireland is working on keeping the language alive. I teach Welsh so I can understand the importance of saving languages from extinction. The saving grace for the Welsh language was having the Bible in Welsh so that services could be in Welsh and Bible studies could be in Welsh. I often wonder if my Tipperary relatives spoke Irish. I hope they did. I also hope to visit the south this year. Any idea how I’d get there from Rosslare and how long it would take please? Have you posted a previous letter from Tipperary? Thanks.

  • Marilyn Sliva says:

    I’m with Sue. I have longed to visit Ireland for a long time – and this year will finally get there. I actually just completed plans with a sister-in-law (who has been there 4 times) & she is going to help my sister & I with the planning. Even though I have no idea where my ancestors are from yet – I can’t wait to visit. Beautiful pictures, as always, Mike.

  • Chris McAllen says:

    Oh, this is great. I’ll be basing myself in Cork city for 4 weeks beginning March 10, chasing down my Cork ancestors. I’ll for sure try to get over to Sheep’s Head. Looks like a place not to miss.

  • jan killelea says:

    my family came from gaway bay area my great grandfather became the first lord mayor of shellharbour in south NSW Australia

  • Marge says:

    My. Cotter ancestor left Co. Cork for Glasgow in the 1870s. He was born in the 1850s but his parents Ann, Johanna, and Nan Cronin and Cornelius Cotter married in the 1830s. Those two stayed in the county during the Famine years…I wonder if they hadn’t had and lost an entire first family at this time? Sheer spec on my part.

    My Dunn ancestor left Co. Cavan with his parents, siblings, and first family at the peak of the Famine for Glasgow. They lived in crowded and I am assuming appalling conditions. All of his kids died or married and then died. One daughter married, had children, and was abandoned by an irresponsible loser. She and the kids ended up in the Glasgow poorhouse.

    In the 1860s, my Dunn ancestor was widowed and remarried a very short time later to my ancestress who was very much younger than he. They lived in a room and kitchen in Glasgow, where they had 4 boys and 1 of his sons remaining from his first marriage.

    There is so much more to the story of me but these are just a few highlights. 🙂

  • […] Letter 2: Touring West Cork with Kilcrohane Sue. […]

  • […] just off the coast of Southern Ireland – and counts as one the “Carbery Hundred Isles” of West Cork. Like much of the region of West Cork, it became a target for Copper Mining in the early 1800s […]

  • […] When travelling to Ireland, the best thing you can often do is slow down and connect with the landscape and the locals. We show how this might be done in the company of one of our readers. Click here to read the letter. […]

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