People are fantastic. People keep us fed, adored, healthy, happy and entertained. We love people.
There are moments, days, weeks, summers when fewer people can be a good thing. Like hmmm, say when you’re not sidestepping map-readers like a quarterback, nose-under armpit on public transport or hurdling over a wandering child to catch that LAST BUS HOME…NO WAIT, WAIT…Damn.
You missed the bus, but you can still escape the madness.
And in order to do just that, we’re blogging to you from the Blackwater Valley in the south of Ireland.
Relax, splendid isolation doesn’t mean scrabbling for berries, in a potato sack on some rocky mountain outcrop. Splendid first, isolated second. Like Anne’s Grove Gatelodge in the Cork countryside:
- Lines of leafy beech trees – check.
- Turreted entrance – check.
- Romance spilling out onto the soundless country road – check.
- Happy – check.
Plus, as it’s self-catering you won’t have the scramble to the scrambled eggs that you usually get at the hotel breakfast buffet. Nope, this way you can swan down for coffee in possibly the cutest kitchen in Christendom at any time of the morning and there won’t be a family of tourists tucking into their breakfast. Take tea in the dainty gardens, warm a bottle of red in the glow of the wood-burning stove and devour that book you bought in the airport with rain pitter-pattering on the lattice windows.
Madness escaped status: Good start. But more to do.
Breakfast finished (you’ve got a crumb of toast on your chin by the way…)
Right, let’s pop back, oh, say 800 years?
Confession time: until now, I did not know that Bridgetown Abbey existed. In an act of repentance, I’ll be visiting there at the next earliest convenience. A good clue to how much of a hidden gem this is, apart from my own ignorance, is how hard it was to find images.
Thanks to Bob Kuhn, who visited himself and took these gorgeous snaps, we now know that Bridgetown Abbey (built in the 13th Century to clocking in at around an impressive 800 years old) is one of Ireland’s prettiest, and least-mobbed chunks of history:
“It’s right off the beaten track, so infinitely more tranquil and, in my opinion, picturesque than its more famous brethren. As a historical site, I found it really well curated. It’s no stretch of the imagination to imagine the lives of the monks [who lived] there.”
Madness Escaped Status: ‘Off the beaten track’ was just what we needed to hear. Nearly there.
The ominously named ‘Blackwater River’ (actually An Abhainn Mhór in Irish meaning the big or the great river) is a bit of a star round these parts. Fizzing with salmon, this could be one of the quietest spots in Ireland to drop your rod, while further along its winding way you’ll spot the very beautiful Lismore Castle peeking out over a wall of beech trees.
This quite beautiful shot above was taken by Dutch Ireland-based photographer, Nico Nieuwstraten. Nico took the shot when his posse, the friendly lads and ladies of Cobh Camera Club, visited their brethern in Fermoy. According to Nico, the camera clubs are “a great way of exploring photographic sites and yapping about it afterwards in the pub”.
Speaking of pubs…
Madness Escaped Status: Nearly, very nearly…
TV chefs are kind of lying to us. Yes, you can cook decent food in 10 minutes with one child hanging from your leg and the other millimetres from testing exactly how hot the cooker is. What you can’t do in that time, is cook exceptional food. That’s why we have places like the pub restaurant, O’ Brien’s Chop House in Lismore. Justin and Jenny Green love food the way we love, well, things we really love. Just look at the menu: Ballyvolane (named after the enchanting country home B&B also run by the couple) Saddleback Pork Scratchings with Apple Sauce; Wild Blackwater Salmon Tartare; Sirloin Steak with Bone Marrow and Hand Cut Chips and to finish, Elderflower Cream with Rhubarb and Rose. If I weren’t damaging the keyboard by drooling, I’d happily transcribe the entire menu. It reads like an epic ode to good grub. And, as the images here suggest, this is not a place to rush your food. Book ahead and nab the more secluded dining table if you can and let the day outside jog about on its merry way from soft dusk to thick dark, as you giggle and chuckle about how packed the bus/underground/roads would be back home. Ha! What are they thinking.
Madness escaped status: Put a fork in me I’m…actually, don’t, I’m stuffed. But yes, I am calm all over. Madness escaped and balance restored.