In the fall of the year, Barbara and I visited Ireland, mainly to see the celebrated Giant’s Causeway which is a World Heritage Site. We flew to Belfast and then took a coach to Letterkenny in the Republic northwards via Londonderry. We stayed at the Radisson SAS Hotel, in Loop Road (quaint name!) and made excursions:
• to the Giant’s Causeway, about 30,000 basalt columns, usually hexagonal, stretching far out to a wild and tempestuous sea. We climbed over the stones and steeped ourselves in the legend.
• to Bushmills Distillery, where we partook liberally of the wonderfully smooth Irish Whiskey made there.
•to Donegal, taking the Waterbus around the bay and learning of the privations of the poor during the potato crop failures in the 1840’s, whereby desperate deople were obliged to emigrate.
• to Glenveagh National Park, exploring Lough Veagh and the modern castle (built in the 19th Century of Scottish Baronial Style).
We also took part in the local festivities and folklore. The whole delicious break gave rise to the following poem:
An Irish Holiday
An Autumn break to encounter McCool, pre-named Finn,
A Stone’s throw from the Scottish Isles to view;
Where crystal basalt columns hex’ed shoped the land within
And formed a causeway in Dalriada and Staffa Fingal too.
From Gatwick Easy Jetting - Belfast bound,
And thence to Letterkenny in western Dhun na nGall
Through vibrant Northern Ireland round
Northwards, via Derry into peaceful southern Erin’s Isle.
Our Hotel stay (Loop Road) in Rad’sson SAS
‘Respublica’ we sang in Wolfe Tone’s lively music bar.
Up castle hill for ST Eunan’s Wednesday mass
And Josie’s for the dancing in a later hour.
We trudged down coastal path in stair-rod rain
And clambered over rocks and stones the giant made -
This Finn McCool - with wife Oonagh (of the clever brain),
Who our fugitive then in disguisèd cradle laid.
Repaired to Old Bushmills thee to taste
Thrice-distilled liquor on our tour.
Of two wee drams (not bog-standard) we did partake
Of some yet 12 years old, by oaken cask mature.
In hostelries on Main Street we at evening dined
And danced, and heard the local rebel songs.
Brewery Bar, Act of Africa and Yellow Pepper ate and wined,
Enjoying fiddle music and listened to historic wrongs.
Therèse and Brian hosted and organised our way
To Glenveagh National Park in wild and barren land.
At Donegal Bay by watebus an happy hour did stay,
And ring-knot tied along the diamond-sided strand.
We learned about the furies and the losses
Of Ireland’s finest in the famine days.
Marvelled at their fortitude, resilience and the Celtic crosses
And all their helpful, Guinness-loving ways.
We were in thrall
To Ireland’s warm-hearted call.
And loved it all.