Ireland’s Misty Shores

What is it that gives us the urge to travel? I’ve never actually dwelled on the question. Being Irish there is almost a taken-for-granted attitude that everyone will, one day, leave this island for pastures new be it long-term or short-term.  We tend to delight in constant mobility. The notion of ‘itchy feet’ comes to mind.  

It’s our genetic make-up that seems to ‘encourage’ us to embrace life beyond our shores. I don’t think we’re the type of individuals who think that faraway hills look greener – that would be difficult given that Ireland is ‘The Emerald Isle’! – But rather, we’re inquisitive about life elsewhere.  

Our damp climate can be one of the reasons why many Irish people decide to move away, usually to warmer places; embracing the outdoor lifestyle. Yet, despite some of the inconveniences that push us abroad, there are those of us who return.

While I appreciate the sun and living in warm climates, I would miss the ‘ole Irish mist’, the stormy seas washing up on our shores.

A few years ago, my husband and I paid a visit to a friend in Nice; it was early December. The weather was so warm that I spent the majority of the time in shorts and short sleeves. I went swimming almost every day. It was delightful. Coffee at a beach-side terrace, picnics on the beach, spending time à flâner – strolling – through the streets of Vieux-Nice… The warmth of the sun on my face, no lack of vitamin D here!

I marvelled at the outdoor lifestyle; I could see myself immersing into life in the south of France.  That particular winter in Ireland, well, in Cork anyway, it had rained for 80 consecutive days.  I can hear some of you exclaiming: “What! Is that possible?” Indeed it is!

About a week after our return to Cork, I was strolling along the beach one morning – as I often do –when sea mist began to envelope me. Despite it being winter the day was mild – it’s not unusual to have mild winters in Ireland, especially on the south coast. I stood motionless, taking it all in, and the feeling was one of gratification. I thought “this is why I would miss Ireland”. Indeed, I love the sunshine and warmth but I also appreciate the sea mist that brings a certain sense of ‘otherworldliness’ to a place.

For those of you living in ‘mostly-hot-and-sunny climes’ do come visit Ireland; maybe you too can appreciate the mild mist falling around you – creating a feeling of enchantment. These mist-filled days are so propitious to having a bowl of homemade soup accompanied by brown soda bread – homemade of course – beside a blazing open fire in one of the many traditional Irish pubs. It’s an ideal time to chat with locals and listen to traditional Irish music. Come explore this ‘Island of Saints and Scholars’; from Dublin, its capital, to Cork, the People’s Republic also known as the Rebel County, stopping off at Ireland’s Ancient East, not forgetting to meander through West Cork and all the pathways of discovery as you journey on the Wild Atlantic Way, taking in the scenery of the west and north of Ireland– there is something for everyone. And if you enjoy walking then don’t forget to pack your hiking boots to experience the myriad of breath-taking trails.

Experience our Celtic heritage, our identity steeped in local folklore. Irish people tend to be rooted to their culture, however, have an innate sense of travel ‘in the blood’. You’d find an Irish person in every part of the world. We tend to adapt easily, yet, we bring with us the expression of who we are through our cultural heritage, be it music, sport, or language.

During your Irish adventure you are sure to hear a number of locals discuss the weather conditions; we are recognised for our inherent attachment to the meteorological forecast. Expressions such as, ‘soft day, thank God’ usually heard on a mild but dampish day! Come visit and be part of the experience; explore the dramatic maritime landscapes of our seaboards.

Atlantic Irish Mist

For me, a place can never be neutral; landscapes, seascapes, cityscapes…we are shaped by whatever ‘-scape’ surrounds and envelopes us. We come to mirror our environment so to speak.  Have you ever thought about ‘place’ in a profound and philosophical sense?

A rugged terrain appears to characterise its people as tough and hardy; never fearful of getting their hands dirty or their feet muddy.

Coastal in habitants tend to never take for granted the mysterious element that is the sea – calm or chaotic – it will always take its quota of lives.

Lament of a rugged landscape or calamitous sea can be read on the faces and bodies of those working the land or heading out into the vast ocean.

Have you ever felt the scent of the sea waft under your nostrils when you’re journeying through the coast? I’d like to hear about your experiences. ‘Tasting’ a place, literally and metaphorically, is about using our senses to imbue ourselves with the sense of place.

The coast and the sea are important to me. As I sit, I watch the grey clouds travel across ‘an already grey sky’, from the south-west, bringing with them rain from the Atlantic. As they sweep across the sky, Atlantic mist is forming, creating a curtain or rather a blind that closes down on the sea, and thus, shutting out the horizon.

The coast is busy with cargo ships ‘ebbing and flowing’ as the pilot boat transports the local maritime pilots to and from awaiting vessels, each containing specific freight. It’s amusing to guess the size of the boat, from where it came and its onward journey once it leaves the Port of Cork.

The curtain continues to sweep across the bay. I never tire of this view or any sea view for that matter. It is ever-changing; no two days are the same. The curtain draws back, the blind swings up; the clouds are a much lighter shade, yet still no sun in sight, but I don’t mind. That is the beauty of coastal Ireland.

By the way, if you get a chance to view an Irish TV programme called Creedon’s Atlas of Ireland, it is really worth watch. The presenter, John Creedon, explores the true meaning behind some of Ireland’s most unusual and famous place names; each episode is a journey of discovery as John surveys and strides across the island of Ireland for lost meanings in everyday place names. It’s a 3-part series on Sundays at 18h30 for one hour on RTÉ One. You can view it online: http://www.rte.ie/player. Check out my review…

A Breath of Fresh Air…

I enjoy an early-morning walk; before breakfast, especially during the summer time. I actually don’t do it very often as I usually go for my daily walk at around 11 am but relish this early-morning activity.

When both my sister and I are spending a few days at our parents’ we always delight in our early morning activity, usually around 7h30 am. We fill a backpack with our bottles of water, a banana each and sometimes our Mom’s homemade spelt scones with our Dad’s homemade blackberry and apple jam. Delicious!

Always delighted to accompany us is my sister’s German Shepherd. Our usual walk is to the local strand which takes about 20 minutes. Then, we sit on a bench and have our ‘pre-breakfast’ and Darcy has his bowl of water. Depending on the weather we sit enjoying our time; mornings are always so tranquil. There is a certain peace about the place. We sit, watching and listening to the ebb and flow of the tide. Sometimes there are courageous swimmers and fishers out checking their pots. We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Arriving ‘home’ we sit down to second breakfast and a good strong cup of ‘real’ coffee. There is something innately therapeutic about the sea, especially the ebb and flow of the tides that mirror, so to speak, the comings and goings of everyday life. It’s good to appreciate and be aware of the small and simple things in life that fill our minds with memories, shared between two sisters.

Next time you find yourself on the coast, find a bench or anything that presents itself in the guise of a seat, and feel your ‘being’ in nature. Be part of the maritime landscape. Breathe in the briny sea air. Perhaps bring a yoga mat or even go for a swim; just 15 minutes of activity, as regular as possible, to increase your flexibility, strength, improve your health, relieve stress and possibly change your life. Once you start it becomes second nature…