Tuesday 21 June 2011

Midsummer Puffin Madness

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

A return trip to the Skelligs off the Kerry coast in Ireland was to be a must after we had spent the most wonderful but all too short, two-hour visit to the Island last Midsummer day, getting to know it's most famous residents, the puffins.

And so it was, this morning, we set out on the trip that had been planned for twelve months. We had had perfect conditions last year with a calm sea, blue sky and sunshine, so to hope for the same this year would of course, be a tall order. Although we left the quay in sunshine, the 'brisk' sea and descending cloud base meant that the Skellig Islands actually became less clear as we drew closer. What had started out as promising began to look vaguely fool-hardy as we jumped-ship for the slippery harbour wall, on the first of the six-hundred odd ancient steps that would take us to the top of this monastic settlement. As we had failed to make it to the top on the previous visit (too many puffin distractions), we set out to conquer the summit of Skellig Michael before settling down to more puffin delights.

Soaked through before we even started, the stiff breeze and near horizontal rain soon made us think again. With the warning words still fresh in our minds, we didn't wish to become third, fourth and fifth fatalities on this pimple in the Atlantic
in as many years. We called it a day and retreated to a small covered walkway to take shelter for the remaining time of this all too long, two-hour visit. By way of compensation we were able to observe the comings and goings of a few of these clown-faced birds from our shelter, snatching a few shots on my p&s, the only piece of kit I dared pull from my camera bag.

Driving home, daringly wearing far fewer clothes than we had started out in, (the rest being in a soggy pile in the back of the vehicle) we sat recalling our previous years encounter and realised that it had been a vain hope to expect an equally wonderful visit this Midsummer day. After all, this IS Ireland.

Thank goodness for the sweetness of the turf fire.

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