Saturday, 28 February 2009

Mo chridh Portmagee *

Portmagee from the Dog House
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

Booked plane tickets to Kerry this week. This will be my tenth visit to the annual Set Dance Weekend at Portmagee - we usually go for Halloween, too, and it always feels like coming home. So much so that two of my friends have moved there! The weekend itself is a mad rush of set dancing, céilidh, music sessions, wonderful food (fish fresh from the sea), fabulous Guinness, and whatever sightseeing we can fit round everything else - all based around the welcoming Bridge Bar, Moorings Restaurant and B&B run by Gerard & Pat Kennedy.

Over the years we have travelled in groups of five, sometimes ten (and once, unforgettably, seventeen) - on one occasion we flew to Dublin, intending to drive down, stay the weekend, and take several days coming back in order to see some of the rest of Ireland. We got to Portmagee and stayed there, dashing back at the last minute. That was the year some of us took the opportunity to take a fishing boat out to the Skelligs, the two amazing rocky outcrops in the Atlantic which are only reachable in the best weather. The smaller one is a bird sanctuary and the larger one - where you can land & visit - was once a monastic settlement: beehive huts at the top of an incredibly steep set of steps carved out of the rock.

The Iveragh Peninsula is a mixture of majestic mountain ranges & glacial lakes, craggy coastlines, sweeping beaches, stone age forts, fishing villages and bustling towns, with a surprise around every corner. We'd been visiting for years without realising that JRR Tolkien and his wife Edith had holidayed in Castlecove back in the 1950's; that Caherciveen, the nearest town to Portmagee, was the birthplace of the Liberator, Daniel O'Connell of Catholic emancipation fame; we discover something new on every visit. I just can't wait!

* Mo chridh = 'harp of my heart'. At least, I hope it does . . !

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