Hello from the green hills of Ireland! I am certainly missing everyone, even while we are greatly enjoying our time here. The country is beautiful and the people are a joy.
We have been adopted by many residents of our temporary home. Almost immediately after we arrived, we found ourselves participating in several walking groups. Our house is halfway between two large-ish towns, Bailieborough and Cootehill. The first week we joined two walks sponsored by the Happy Feet Walkers of Cootehill. The first was about 10km, done in a little over 1½ hours! The pace is about 4 miles/hour, or 15-minute miles, with constant chatter and laughter, as people catch up and talk about everything. The most frequent question we’ve heard is “Have you relations in County Cavan that you are visiting?” Followed by the announcement: “These folks came to Co Cavan and they don’t even have relations! Just because they want to be here!” We met the man who built the house we are staying in; he already knew about the heating problems we had on our 2nd day (his wife is married to the brother who….etc). Then we walked with the Bailieborough group, driven by locals to a forest about 45 min away, this time 13+km, up and down some steep hills, in a little over 2 hours. We were invited to the pub that Friday for music, recitations, and cheer.
Last night we walked with a combined Happy Feet and Bailieborough group. After we greeted our Happy Feet friends, we started to walk over to register with the Bailieborough
group. The Happy Feet said “No! You are with us!” The Bailieborough group said “No! They are ours!” I love small towns!!
On our 3rd day here, we went to the ploughing competition. Just down our road, which is one lane, with high hedges on both sides, about 11km from Bailieborough. It was cold with alternating rain and sun that day, so we didn’t stay long.
It is beautiful here, and I’m quite happy Co Cavan is not a tourist area. It reminds me a lot of home. Rolling, green pastures, mountains, forest, streams and cows. Lots of cows. Last night coming home from Cootehill, we had to wait while the herd of dairy cows was moved from pasture to the barn and every evening, we say hello to our closest neighbors, just behind our house.
During our second week, Michael, his wife Kate, and Leah visited us. We had lots of fun. On one of our walks, we encountered Noel Carney, who, it turns out, is a conservation architect leading the restoration of the Bellamont House. We had first glimpsed the house on our initial walk with Happy Feet. Built in the mid-1700s as a hunting lodge, it is “the finest example of Palladian architecture in Europe.” When we ran into Noel and started to chat, he invited us to come see the estate, which is privately owned and not yet open to the public. We went the next day and got a four-hour personal tour, including climbing up the scaffolding to examine the slate roof and brickwork. He talked at length about the rules of restoration, the work that was ongoing, and why the house is so unusual and special. He pointed out every nook and cranny outside and inside the building, such as the original iron piping from Scotland, etc. For him to give us that much time out of his busy day was unbelievably generous. We were totally enthralled.
So, each day brings another small delight. The churches that are the cornerstones of every small town are so beautiful, and I love to explore their cemeteries. We went to Kells one Saturday and saw 9th and 10th century Celtic boundary crosses (once you passed within the boundary outlined by the crosses, you had the protection of the church). The level of craftsmanship required and accomplished centuries ago is just amazing.
Next, in mid-June, we go to the wild west coast, staying in a small village just south of Bundoran, County Donegal. I will be taking a weaving course on Clare Island, off the coast of County Mayo. So, perhaps I will start to fulfill my dream of weaving!
And of course the obligatory pub and Guinness in Dublin!
Miss you all!
PS: I love the gorse! So beautiful and terrible (big, mean thorns)!
Ok, one more PS-> we came across this yesterday. In the US we have Coke machines; in Ireland there are………