Sunday 25 January 2015

Landmark - 20 Years in Ireland

Loading the Isle of Inishmore (facing a force 9/10 crossing) two weeks ago

"You should go to Ireland, you will love it"

Those were the words of recommendation given to us some 20 years ago by both friends and family who had already traversed the Irish Sea, to explore the Emerald Isle. A country which, at that time many British people still viewed with unwarranted suspicion. We didn't actually need much encouraging though and in June 1995, himself and I took our very young family on the long drive through South Wales to Pembroke, where we boarded the Isle of Inishmore, bound for Rosslare in the south east corner of the country.

Archive image

One of our most vivid memories of that sailing was the distinct smell that blew on the breeze, coming off the land, and reaching us several miles offshore. At the time we didn't know what it was but it became the aroma we subsequently associated with our visits when we either arrived at the port or the airport year after year. "Ahhh, that's Ireland!"

Following that first visit, which included a stay in a traditional West Cork former farmhouse, Ireland became the regular choice for our annual holiday. We had fallen in love with the beautiful country and its people, and along with the friendly welcome given by our hosts at the cottage, we returned to the same place for several years, inevitably becoming great friends with the couple in the process. Sadly for us, the cottage was eventually taken on by another member of the family and we had to seek alternative accommodation for our visits. This made us think, and we finally put down our own roots in West Cork in 2008.

Roll on to 2015, twenty years since I first sailed to Ireland.
When I booked my ferry crossing for the 10th January just gone, I was surprised to see that the usual ship on the Holyhead - Dublin crossing (our preferred route now), was off service, and I would be sailing on... The Isle of Inishmore, albeit the replacement ship of the same name. It kind of brought the whole twenty years together. I have totally lost count of the number of visits to these shores in that time, but I now consider the UKs nearest neighbour as my second home. (And no, we don't have recent Irish heritage) However, I did notice one change during this trip, in that the new ship now seems to be registered in Limassol rather than Dublin - a sign of the economic times no doubt. Apart from that, I still have the same excitement when I board a plane or a ship bound for Ireland, despite having found out that that distinct (but not unpleasant) aroma of Ireland is, ahem...natural field fertilising (Do you get my drift?!)

Boarding the Isle of Inishmore on the 'graveyard run' out of Holyhead

True, Ireland has been hit hard by the recent economic recession but there are signs of new life. With the Spring on the way, it is the right time to forge ahead with my West Cork Photography Weekends, sharing the delights of this one particular corner of Ireland with any of you who may have contemplated a visit to this lovely country. Also, with the new attraction of the Wild Atlantic Way running right past our front door, it couldn't be better placed as a location to come and learn the basics of photography whilst enjoying the scenery and nature. If photography weekends aren't your thing then just come and relax at The Yellow House B&B* (double and single room available) on selected dates, where the catering specialises for those who need a Gluten Free diet.
But please note, these workshops and the accommodation is currently limited to this season only for now, (depending on how this goes, availability may be rolled out in the Autumn too)
So don't spend too long thinking about it - we didn't. Let me just repeat what was said to us:

"You should come to Ireland, you will love it"

*The Yellow House B&B is currently listed on the airbnb website for the benefit of international travellers. A dedicated website is soon to be live but in the meantime, do feel free to contact me direct - oh, and share the good news around too!

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