As we begin to see the mountains of Beara ahead my heart always skips a beat.
I was born and reared in Dublin. Irelands capital, in a semi detatched house in a housing estate. However my parents came from Donegal in the North of Ireland, and we used to travel there quite a number of times a year, to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Donegal is a beautiful rural part of Ireland. Even as a child I loved the fact that it was not highly populated. My younger brother and I spent hours rambling the hillsides and playing in streams. Invariably my clumsy brother ended up “in” the streams, while I looked on laughing at him.
I am not sure if those holidays of my childhood influenced me, or if it is something that is within my blood, an unidentified gene, that draws me to the scree mountains and the sea. All I know is that every year, a part of me becomes restless if I cannot spend some time breathing in the air of West Cork.
West Cork is a long way from Donegal, but very similar in terrain. When my eldest was only two we chose a holiday, quite by chance in West Cork. From that very first holiday I was hooked. As our children arrived we continued to travel each Summer to Allihies.
As you approach Allihies there is a point where you drive through a gap in the mountains and see the valley, the sea, and the mountains for the first time. Nestled in those mountains are the multi coloured houses that form the village. I have seen this view so many times yet it always excites me, and fills me with wonder.
Holidaying in Allihies is a unique experience. There are three very family friendly pubs which happily serve families a litre of mineral, instead of charging per glass. There is a relaxed attitude towards children being in the pub, beyond a reasonable hour. In reality what this means is that many children of all ages play outside in the playground across from the pub each evening, while parents enjoy holiday nights either outside or inside the pub.
A number of nights per week trad groups play. Our children would come and go enjoying the music, and singing. Often these nights ended with at least one little one asleep on our laps, exhausted after a busy day of walking, picnicing, beaching, and playing. Don’t get me wrong my husband doesn’t even drink, but nights in these pubs were so very different to a night out at home. It really is a family occasion.
Over the years we have climbed most of the hills and walked most of the treks around Allihies, and nearby Garnish. When our chlidren were small we went for a hike most days. They would race ahead of us to make it to the next post and when we felt small legs were getting tired, we would stop for “petrol”. A sit down, munching a few sweets, and enjoying a drink or a small bar were enough to recharge them and we were soon on our way again. The promised picnic was greatly enjoyed when we got to the top of our climb. Then of course the journey down. Sometimes rushing ahead, suggesting we follow them as they knew the best ways, other times holding hands and chatting as we walked. For myself I loved these times. Stopping often to take in the views and the moments I wished to never forget.
As they got older our children at times were less than impressed with fact that we did not holiday abroad. However this was more to do with the pre holiday conversations that went on in school immediately prior to holidays. Most if not all of their friends were holidaying abroad. I would imagine they felt a holiday “at home” in West Cork was less than cool. Couple with that the fact that there was almost no internet access, no fast food outlet, no amusements, you can understand their lack of pre holiday enthusiasm.
However that was only among their peers. As we would arrive into Allihies, old friends, and familiar places changed their attitude. So let me share with you some of the images that are Allihies.
In the 1800s there were over 800 working in the copper mines of this tiny village. The old pump houses remain in the hills and in places the stones are still stained with the copper. As they dug the copper out they found a new home for the stones. They were ground up and deposited near to sea to form a man made beach which is still being enjoyed today. This photo was take two days ago, on the hottest day of the year so far. Look how crowded it is!
And look how clear the water was. Almost tempting enough to encourage me to go for a swim. Almost!
There are so many different views as you walk around in Allihies. Here are just a few.
And just behind you,look at this view.
Then a small way further along the view changes once more.
And I took this last photo for my youngest. To remind her of the “fairy fingers” she so loved to pick and decorate her fingers with just few short years ago.
I am not a photographer so I do know that these photos are less than perfect. However I hope that in some small way they help to capture the beauty and magic that is Allihies, and most of all I hope you enjoyed them.
Now one last thing, please tell no one, as this is the magic of Allihies, it is totally unspoiled by greed, excessive tourism or indeed people. This is Ireland at it’s most natural, beautiful best. An Ireland I am proud to be a part of.