These were two events I was intrigued by when I was in Southern Ireland.
Starting with the Matchmaking Festival: Apparently if you want to find love, all you have to do is visit Ireland, in particular , Lisdoonvarna, a tiny, rural town in County Clare. Every fall, this little town is home to a huge matchmaking festival, where thousands of people flock to find “The One.” The festival mostly targets rural farmers who don’t have great access to singles bars or Tinder — but it’s been a local tradition for 150 years.
Then there is the Tidy Town competition: this national initiative was launched in 1958 by the Irish Tourist Board: Bord Fáilte (now Fáilte Ireland). It was originally part of ‘Tostal’, a nationwide festival celebrating all things Irish.
From the start, the primary focus of TidyTowns was to encourage communities to improve their local environment and make their area a better place to live, work and visit. The competition aspect was an important element in developing friendly rivalry that would help boost standards across the country. However, the emphasis was always on participating rather than winning as the very act of taking part brought benefits to the community- a focus on long-term results.
So this finishes my series of posts detailing my road trip across the West Coast and the Ring Of Kerry. The West of Ireland is all about the stunning, awe inspiring and breathtaking landscapes and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Apparently the East is all about the myths and legends, so that will be my next Irish trip.
The final, and one of my favourite, stops of our South Western Ireland trip was the beautiful Garnish Island- reached by a short ferry trip from the village of Glengarriff, overlooking the waters of Bantry Bay and set against the back drop of the Caha Mountains.
Garnish island extends to 37 acres and is renowned for its gardens which flourish in the mild humid micro climate of Glengarriff harbour assisted by a pine shelter belt.
A damp visit that in no way took away the beauty of the island- I was entranced. On the way over we passed Seal Island. The ferryman drew in close, allowing us to say hello and take some photos.
It was an enchanting and enriching afternoon and a lovely conclusion to our road trip.
First port of call on the penultimate day of our tour was Bantry House, a private estate and the ancestral home of the Earls of Bantry- still lived in by the family. Set in magnificent Italian gardens , inspired by the travels of the second Earl, this was a highlight of the trip for me.
Visit, have afternoon tea, stay a night or two, or get married. Whatever you do, you cannot fail to be moved by this beautiful, slightly ramshackle house and gardens. I was instantly smitten with the experience, enhanced by the knowledgeable and charming guide that took us around.
The departure town for over three million Irish Emigrants and final port of call for the RMS Titanic. We visited the Cobh Heritage Cente, which tells the story of Irish emigration through to the 1950s and traces the history of Cobh over the centuries. Starting with the indentured servants who were transported to the colonies to work on the plantations in the 17th century, to Annie Moore, who with her two brothers were the first emigrants to be processed on the newly opened Ellis Island in New York in 1891.
Today Cork was one of the stops on our tour of Western Ireland.
Cork is one of the oldest cities in Ireland. This medieval city extends from South Gate Bridge to North Gate Bridge and is divided by a long Main Street- the North and South Street. The medieval Main Street would have been narrower, messier and smellier, than its current form, but still followed the same route. Many of the lanes and alleyways that led off the Main Street still exist today. The city centre is an island positioned between two channels of the River Lee, which meet downstream at the eastern end of the city centre.
It was and still is, plainly a merchant’s city…
As a librarian I had to pay a passing glance at the city library. Loved the window display:
Puck Fair is one of Ireland’s oldest fairs. It takes place annually 10–12 August in Killorglin, County Kerry.
Held in Killorgan, Co Kerry each year, a wild mountain goat is crowned king of the town by the Queen of Puck, who is traditionally a young local schoolgirl. There is a coronation parade and King Puck rules the town until his dethronement on the festival’s final day.
The first day of Puck is known as “the gathering”. On this day the Puck goat is enthroned on a stand in the town square and the horse fair is held. The second day of Puck is known as the “Fair day”. On this day a general cattle fair is held. The third and last day of Puck is known as the “scattering” day and on this day the goat is removed from his stand and his reign as king Puck ends and he is returned to the wild Kerry
Travelling around Ireland in October, we missed the Puck Fair, but I loved the legend.
A Road trip of Road trips today. The stunning Ring of Kerry. Starting in Kenmare, this is a 110 mile circular route around the Iveragh Peninsular covering stunning views, charming towns, rugged forests, gushing waterfalls, all edged by the rolling, crashing waves of The Atlantic Ocean. It was a sublime journey, covering breathtaking land and seascapes. Key stages of the journey included the Coomakista Pass, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Molls Gap, Skellig Micheal in the Atlantic, Waterville village and Cahersiveen.
‘And some time make the time to drive out west … along the Flaggy Shore, In September or October, when the wind And the light are working off each other So that the ocean on one side is wild With foam and glitter…’
The Irish love their sport and high up on the list are football and wrestling. On a whistle stop visit to Sneem in Co. Kerry there are two life size bronze statues of two Irish sporting legends, part of the Sneem culture trail.
By artist, Alan Hall from Valentia this statue is set in South Square , facing Sneem Sportsfield, where John gave many displays of his remarkable footballing skills and vision over many years.
Stephen Casey was an Irish sport rower and world champion professional wrestler. He was the second Irish wrestler, after Danno O’Mahoney, to become a world champion. He was World Heavyweight Champion for six years, while fighting in WWII. The statue was again the work of Valentiasculptor Alan Hall.
Sneem was a lovely little Irish village and the statues were a highlight.