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The boreen leading to Tullycrine Holy Well and the Children's Fort.

Although it was a grey, rather dreary looking day in Kilkee, the weather was mild and calm with no rain to speak of. The mild weather, along with it being a weekend in late July, had Kilkee doing a great impression of the Wisconsin Dells. Rows of cars crept through O’Curry Street, filled with families geared up for their holiday in this summertime resort town. For me, it was a good time to leave in search of quieter surroundings.

With no place in particular in mind we made a journey to Killimer, a town on the Shannon River, so that Eoin could watch the Shannon Ferries carry people and their cars back and forth across the wide river between County Clare and County Kerry.

Like many loosely planned journeys, this one presented an interesting side trip. Taking the long route to Killimer and driving through the townland of Tullycrine in Kilmurry-McMahon, I spotted a brown sign pointing the way to a holy well and “children’s burial ground”. This piqued my interest so I made a quick right turn and ventured down along a quiet, narrow country road, eventually locating our unplanned destination.

Tullycrine Holy Well

The sign at the gate indicated that we had arrived at what appeared to be two sites in one, the Tullycrine Blessed Well and Lios na Leanaí, the Children’s Fort/Burial Ground. The area was deserted and very quiet, except for the sound of cows in a nearby field. After opening the gate we made our way up an incline walking along a gravel boreen to the holy well. This particular well came complete with holy statues and even a couple of kneelers.

Ignore the reflection of my Converse All Stars at the bottom of the sign!

There was no sign explaining the significance of the Tullycrine Holy Well. However,  like most holy wells, this was likely once a sacred pagan well, eventually acquired and renamed by the Christians as they tried to replace the old ways with the “new”.

Beyond the well, there was another gate and a walk further up the hill where we found the signs, topped by a large marble Celtic Cross, indicating the Children’s Burial Ground. As I suspected, this was a place where, for centuries and up until the late 1950’s, unbaptized babies were buried, along with a few adults who, for one reason or another, were not buried on Church holy ground. Venturing past the signs and the gate, I was quite surprised to see that, if I am not mistaken, the burial ground lies within what appeared to me to be one of the many ancient ring forts found around Ireland.

Gate and path to the top of the mound surrounding the Children's Burial Ground.

After climbing up the side of the mound and looking within, it was startling to see the bleak and very rough sight of dozens of oddly shaped stones that at first appeared to be randomly laying about. However, upon closer inspection I realized that most of the stones were actually stacked very thoughtfully, to form tiny graves. This poignant sight brought a heavy wave of sadness and regret over me and touched Eoin as well. It was heart-rending to ponder the parents who so tenderly arranged these rocks around the graves of their children in such a lonely place.

Below are photos of the site and just a few of the tiny graves.

At first it appeared to be stones just laying randomly about.

This morning as I walked, on a slant, down from the high cliff to the south of Moore Bay in Kilkee I was caught, twisting my neck, between two magnificent scenes to my left and right, not sure where to focus my attention. To my left stood the breathtaking view of the cliffs, waves crashing with gusto below and gulls ‘chancing their arm’ battling the wind currents in between. And to my right was a group of beautiful horses. Since I knew the cliffs, if not necessarily the waves, would be there tomorrow, I opted to stand with my back to that glorious view and instead, behold the horses enjoying the morning. A few stood with a noble stance, as if posing, manes blowing in the wind as they appeared to gaze out toward the cliffs; others contentedly nibbled their green breakfast of tall, wild grass; a couple enjoyed a lie-in; and one joyfully rolled on its back. I then noticed two handsome, brown horses suddenly trot toward each other from opposite sections of the field, ears alert with manes and tails flowing behind. As the two trotting horses approached each other, they slowed down with caution and abruptly stopped just a few feet apart. Bowing their heads they began to nonchalantly nibble the grass at their feet as though they were only near each other by coincidence. The display of indifference by the two brown horses did not fool their fellow grazers, gazers and loungers. The others all watched the interaction with great interest, which made me sure that some important horse ritual, or conversation, had just taken place!

Eoin's "heart rocks" at the threshold of Teach deBúrca.

As I walked on, I shook my head in amazement over my morning “dilemma” of having to decide whether to focus my attention on the impressive view of the cliffs or a gorgeous herd of horses interacting ‘naturally’ in an open field! It is moments like this that carry me through the inevitable moments of doubt about whether this whole cottage-in-the-bog-thing was a good idea. The dark moments of doubt usually come as I’m writing a check for a repairman and worrying myself over what this place might do to our budget, or they come most intensely and painfully, when I think of how far away my son is in Chicago and my daughter in L.A.. But then I have an interaction with one of the warm, friendly locals, or cast my eyes upon a magnificent view that takes my breath away, or watch my young son, robust and fearless in his wetsuit as he marches into the cold waves during his Nevsail Watersports Camp, or sit in my kitchen sipping tea by a cozy fire as the wind howls outside – and everything feels perfectly right for the moment.

It is very dark and violent in the bog tonight. The wind has howled for a couple of hours, occasionally rattling the bottom half of the half-door so forcefully that it sounds like someone is just outside, knocking with an urgent request to come in from the storm! Eoin was pretty frightened by the wind, rain and knocking but after I read an extra couple of chapters of Redwall by Brian Jacques to him, a book we’ve been at for about a week now, he became relaxed and tired enough to fall asleep. Now his ‘brave’ mom has taken the situation in hand and opened the bottle of Bunratty Mead bought in a Ballyvaughan gift shop in anticipation of a night like this! Each rattling knock at the door is followed with a sip of steamy, hot mead – and a request to the bog fairies that the electricity keeps working, because I don’t think even the mead will help if the lights go out!

I have no photograph to go with this night or my eerie little tale, so I will go to the other extreme and post a photo I took today in the Ladies’ Room of the fantastic Magnetic Music Café in Doolin, which by the way, not only has a funny sign in its Ladies’, but serves the best rhubarb crumble I’ve every tasted! I could use a bit of a laugh at the moment anyway…

It pays to keep a camera in your purse at all times!

Eoin having a scream in Lahinch!

St. Tola's 12th century High Cross at Dysert O'Dea shares its field with a herd of cows.

My husband called from Chicago saying it was the coolest day there in about 3 weeks with a high of only about 75 degrees – he was very happy with the “cool” weather. I told him it was probably the warmest day here in about 3 weeks with a temperature that hit a high of about 73 degrees. Eoin and I were very happy with the warm weather! Warm or cool, it is all relative!

Anyway, the West Clare weather has been very nice for several days now, culminating in weather that today, felt almost tropical! And due to the mild, dry days we have spent lots of time at the Pollock Holes hunting sea creatures, have made a few trips around the Burren, spent a couple of hours touring the castle and grounds at the Dysert O’Dea Castle Museum in Corofin, saw yet another flight display at the Birds of Prey Center, drove along the Coast Road from Ballyvaughan down to Doolin, took a little drive up to Lahinch one day to watch the surfers and generally have kept so busy there has been little time to write about it! So I thought I would just share a few photos of our recent days in Clare.

I hope, wherever you are, you are having a pleasant summer too!

Up close with a vulture at The Birds of Prey.

Eoin rock climbing in the Burren.

Eoin's treasure trove of hermit crabs.

... and I did a bit of gardening, too!

As I do my best to domesticate this cottage in the bog, all the while learning the true meaning of the term jury-rigged, I take comfort in the fact that, at least as far as I know, no prisoners from the Spanish Armada were executed here. This, however, is not the case for the beautiful Doonagore Castle in Doolin.

Doonagore Castle, courtesy Wikipedia.

Yesterday Eoin and I paid a visit to Doolin and as usual, stopped along the road leading down to Fisherstreet, to gaze at the beautiful tower house that looks down on Doolin and the Atlantic waves crashing on the shore below. Doonagore Castle, has long been a symbol of the romantic Irish past for me. I initially laid eyes upon it during my first trip to Ireland when I spent eight days in a Doolin B&B, wandering the Burren by day and reveling in the music of McGann’s and Gus O’Connor’s Pubs at night. Each day I would either walk up to the castle, or at the very least, pause in my little rental car to gaze upon it as I made my way up and down the steep, winding road that passes this treasure of antiquity.

Unusual for me, I somehow never managed to investigate the castle’s history beyond the information obtained from the owners of the B & B where I was staying – that it is privately owned, fully restored and belongs to “Americans”. However, after our visit yesterday, I finally googled the castle and was quite surprised to learn something of it’s darker side. In 1588 as the Spanish Armada retreated from an invasion attempt on Britain, a ship wrecked on the West Clare coast, after which 170 captured Spanish soldiers were hanged… in my favorite, picturesque, romantic Doolin castle! Alas, as lovely as it is, I don’t think I could sleep there at night!

Meanwhile, this American is doing  her best to make this little cottage in the bog into a home – fixing the negative surprises as they arise one by one and being thankful for all the positive surprises that come with each passing day we are here.

A cozy corner of the Teach deBúrca kitchen.

“Are you the lady who lost her keys?” This was my greeting during our first visit to Maud’s Ice Cream Shop in Kilkee! If you don’t remember that story, or perhaps never read it, I will refer you back to Blame it on the horse and my misadventure with keys last July. But the point being, the people of Kilkee and the surrounding area, the shopkeepers in particular who I had the most contact with, have been very welcoming and have made this summer unique from the last in that they remember us and have welcomed us back at every turn.

Dublin is a great city where I love to wander, shop and eat. But for the “Irish experience” of the friendly people sort, which has made this country famous, I have had to come to the West of Ireland, Kilkee and the Loop Head Peninsula. The familiarity of the people who run and work in the shops probably says a lot about just how much I frequented places like Diamond Rocks Cafe, Naughton’s, The Pantry, Keatings, Jo Soap Laundrette and Maude’s Ice Cream. However, considering the vast number of visitors this place takes in during the summer holidays, I was delighted by the immediate recognition and welcome I received from people remembering us and details about our stay here last year, such as Eoin’s watersports activities and our house in the bog – and my missing keys! And though everyone is generally friendly and helpful, I think they go that extra mile when they learn that we own a place here. Although we are blow-ins who don’t stay for the entire year, we have still made an investment in the area, both materially and emotionally, and I think it is appreciated. But, it is not only the people in the shops who have made us feel welcome. The local man who has been so helpful to us all year-long by checking on the house when we’re away, showing up to let the heating oil man fill our tank and looking in on our friends during their stay in May has dropped by twice since we arrived just to check to see if everything is alright! A busy man, he is here and gone like a whirlwind, but has made his neighborly presence known in a way that makes us feel like a part of the community.

And we are still meeting people. For instance, yesterday during a stop in nearby Carrigaholt, I met the man who runs the prettiest Post Office I have ever seen – and I told him as much! Not only is it lovely to look at, but at least while I was in town, soothing classical music could be heard emanating from the open door. And on top of that, this is a Post Office after my own heart because it also serves as a coffee shop! Not only did the friendly man wave and say hello from his doorway, but he walked up to my car, began a conversation and, after learning that I owned a cottage in Lisheen, invited me to stop in and visit the shop when I’m back in Carrigaholt. I took him up this invitation sooner than he probably expected when I dropped in again only a couple of hours later asking for, and receiving, the recommendation of a plumber from the area! Local tradesmen, by the way, are another group of people I am getting to know quite well around here!

A very pretty Post Office!

Flags lined both sides of the main street through Moneygall.

The Fourth of July is just another day in Kilkee, but on Sunday, July 3rd, the “4th” was celebrated with a U.S. Independence Day Festival in President Obama’s ancestral Irish village of Moneygall, a town with residents still delighted over the President’s May 23rd visit.

The Obama Cafe

The band was playing mostly American Country Music on a hot, sunny Chicago-like summer's day!

As we were traveling along the M7 motorway, returning home from Dublin on Sunday afternoon, I decided to turn off at the Moneygall exit in order to have a look at the town from which President Obama’s maternal great-great-great-grandfather, Fulmuth Kearney emigrated to the United States in 1850. Although I expected to see some signs that the president had been there, I was not expecting a crowded town with American and Irish flags displayed along the main street and a festival taking place.

Eoin at Ollie Hayes Pub

Although Eoin and I did not seek President Obama’s Irish 8th cousin, Henry Healy, we did stay long enough to enjoy the band onstage playing mostly American Country music, have tea and delicious home-made apple pie in the Obama Cafe, buy a couple Is Féadir Linn/Yes We Can t-shirts and read the plaque on the President’s ancestral home, having just missed the tour hours.

Plaque on Obama ancestral home

We even had a look inside the now famous Ollie Hayes Pub, where the President and First Lady enjoyed a pint during their visit. Inside we found an Obama impersonator schmoozing with the locals!

It may seem a bit over the top to some, but it was all in fun and the President’s visit appears to have given a needed economic boost to this quaint little town nestled within the fertile, green landscape of County Offaly at the border of Tipperary!

Obama impersonator schmoozing!

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