I came to Cork last September after 3 indulgent weeks, being spoiled by friends and family, a totally personal time, so way behind on blog posts and other work. It was rainy, and I holed up for 24 hours at a friend’s house, with my first decent internet connection in weeks (and the last one I had I might add there!) writing and catching up with research and social media.
We spent the next couple of days mainly driving around autumnal Co Cork. It was as green as everyone had promised it would be, and it was also as grey as that green made inevitable. It comes at a price. I knew that I had a few days coming up which would be full of note taking and snapping away, and I very much wanted to simply absorb some Irish-ness. Now, of course, I wish I’d made the odd note to help remember the meaning behind some of the snaps I have, but then again, winding down isn’t a bad thing either, and the photos aren’t that great – all that grey!
Here are just a few, random memories:
Whalewatching from Baltimore with Whale Watch West Cork
It was a longish drive from Cork City to Baltimore, but worth every second on the road. End of the day, it was no hardship driving through such gorgeous countryside anyway. I’ve been whale watching before, from Tenerife, where it’s a much different proposition, with the emphasis much more on the social side than on the actual activity of seeing these stunning creatures up close in their natural environment. This was no swanky catamaran filled with tourists there as much for the beer as anything else. This was the real deal. By that I mean it was a small boat, there was no booze on board, and captain and one crew were clearly dedicated to explaining what we were hoping to see, the signs to look for, the habits, the history of whales and this part of Ireland.
As luck would have it we saw no whales this day, but were delighted by a pod of common dolphins, which swam alongside the boat for ages. I took a couple of snaps, but then I just stood back and watched. When you’ve seen this sight before, it’s also a thrill to watch the reactions of folk who haven’t. Seeing dolphins or whales in their natural environment is a thrilling and humbling experience, and that first time is absolute magic. I doubt that anyone, after traveling alongside a pod for a while, like this, could ever believe that it’s right to keep them in captivity. Their joy in swimming, the innocence of their apparent delight in interacting with the boat/humans and the sense of freedom they convey in every arched dive through the waves simply fills your soul.
We broke the trip with a stop on Cape Clear. Since my friend, Katrina from TourAbsurd & I had been lunchless this day, we spent our time scoffing (in my case the most amazing onion tart). This was my first experience of the wonder of modern Irish cuisine, and looking back what a tasty precursor to the rest of the culinary side of my Irish experience! On this wee island of not much more than 100 souls, I had the most purely delicious food. I’d expected perhaps a stew, a sandwich, soup …… but what we were served in this village shop cum café was absolutely first class, homemade cooking. Just delightful.
Cape Clear is somewhere I almost desperately want to go back to. Even on this grey day the sense of peace was palpable. The feeling of being at the end of the world extraordinary.
Back on the boat for the return to Baltimore, I examined the stuff adorning the walls of the small cabin. What a kick to realize that our charming captain, Nic Slocombe was related to the famous adventurer and writer Joshua Slocombe, whose book “Sailing Alone Around the World” had thrilled me so much a few years back! Joshua Slocombe was the first person to sail single-handed around the world. Clearly, there is something in the Slocombe genes!
As we returned to Balitmore we were rewarded with the sight of seals lazing on a rocky islet. Perfect end to a marvelous wee adventure of my own!
I’ve done whale-watching trips so often, that the novelty wore off a long time ago, but I am, without doubt and unreservedly, always captivated and excited by the actual sighting of our amazing ocean cousins. Though the actual experience of doing a trip simply, isn’t new, this one brought back all my first thrills. Nic Slocombe’s love of and dedication to the ocean and its inhabitants is palpable, and his assistant, who explained so much to us about the history of Ireland as well as the ocean, was really friendly and well-informed, and made the day a sheer delight. For anyone who doubts bloggers, I can tell you that Katrina & I paid for this excursion in the normal way. It was simply something we wanted to experience, and didn’t ask for any discounts, in fact, we didn’t mention until we were disembarking that we were both bloggers. This wee recommendation for Whale Watch West Cork comes entirely unsolicited and fully paid, just as you would do yourself!
Drombeg Stone Circle
My first clue to the amazing history of Ireland which I was to learn about on my trip along The Wild Atlantic Way, actually came in Co Cork. We made a brief stop to see the Drombeg Stone Circle. My knowledge of Irish history, up to this point only went back about 500 years, so I was fascinated to hear about much earlier times, not least Megolithic times, when life was much simpler.
I was surprised to learn that this is Ireland’s most famous stone circle, and that often it is thronging with visitors. I guess we were lucky to come across a quiet day, because there were very few folk around, and it was marvelous to be able to wander and let my imagintion run riot. Excavated in 1957 the Drombeg site is orientated to the sun of the midwinter solistice. I’d love to go back then to get a deeper feel. As well asthe stone circle, and human remains which have been carbdonated to something like 800 years BC, the site contains remains of a couple of huts and a communal cooking circle. I felt no ghosts on this day, but suspect that returning in the right conditions, one might!
The English Market
The delights of Irish food began to dawn on me when we visited the English Market in Cork. Whilst my stay wasn’t going to be long enough to shop or cook, I drooled over an amazing choice of olives, and some of the most tempting cakes & pastrie I’ve ever seen. Perhaps, given what was in store for me in the days ahead, I didn’t indulge, though we did return for lunch in the mezzanine level and it was staggeringly good, considering how busy with lunchtime trade it was.
I’ve already rambled on about Irish food on this blog, in Cork, and Sligo and Donegal. I am a huge fan, needless to say! Don’t miss a visit to the market if you’re in Cork! Don’t be fooled by the name, which was given to it many years ago, it doesn’t sell only English products, but food stuffs from around the world, not least traditional foods from Ireland itself.
It seems to me that I should be celebrating St Patrick’s Day today especially, having fallen in love with Ireland last year (so much so I still have blog posts in reserve!), but I am a long way away, perhaps I should go in search of a Guinness!