Rolfe notes from the Emerald Isle

Norma and Rhys Rolfe returned from France to spend three weeks taking care of their family’s homes and pets … a bit of rest and relaxation after their six weeks on the road.  Now they find themselves in Ireland for a month before they return home to South Africa at the end of September.

For the first time in over a hundred years, Ireland, a country with a sad history, is experiencing a greater number of people returning to the country than leaving it. The little towns and harbours on the coast are very quaint, and so much has been modernised and improved here since Ireland became a member of the EU. The roads, farms, buildings and facilities have improved since we were here in 1975 and 2007.  We enjoyed driving down the Hook peninsular to Tramore just south of Waterford where we spent a few days.

We are so enjoying the Irish, who have a very dry sense of humour and are a very friendly people. We are in the South-East at the moment where Gaelic Football and Hurling are the popular sports. They seem to make things very casually and are certainly in no rush. I think Ireland is a very easy country to live in, without the weather. I think, even with the weather, we could live here.

During the potato famine in the 1840s, one million people died and one million more emigrated. A mass grave at Skibbereen is the burial site of eight to 10 thousand people. The population of Ireland in 1840 was over eight million. After the famine, in 1851, the population numbered 6.5 million, and today the population is 4.7 million. Interesting figures.

The first Temperance Hall in Europe was built in Skibberdeen in 1833; this has been replaced by 26 well-patronised pubs.

We visited the monument to Michael Collins, a leader of the IRA, who was ambushed by members of the IRA who were dissatisfied with the peace agreement in 1922 of which Collins was a signatory.

Markets are very popular in villages and towns, in spite of all the supermarkets. The fare on offer is fresh but more expensive. I could not resist a nice Plaice and a kilogram of prawns, plus local cheese and some veggies. All very nice. We do enjoy buying local cheese in the areas we drive through.

In Skibbereen Main Street, the buildings have been painted in different colours instead of the old cement colour, making a huge difference to appearance. We stayed in Bantry Bay, a beautiful area on the South-East coast. Unfortunately, it was raining, but the forecast for the next day was good. Yesterday we went to Mizen Head.

Our road trip today from Dungarvan to Blarney was beautiful, especially the little fishing village of Ardmore, a quaint little town on a beautiful bay. The countryside is beautifully green, typical Ireland.

The 12th century round tower is one of the best examples of these structures in Ireland, built by the Monastic monks to safeguard their valuables and themselves if attacked. The St Declan’s church stands on the site of the original monastery next to the tower. There are 9th-century carvings set in unusual panels on the western wall.

We visited Blarney, a few kilometres outside Cork, famous for its castle and the Blarney Stone. The weather remained good, fortunately, and we continued to enjoy the Irish and Ireland.

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