Three Castle Head
We woke up slowly after a good night’s sleep. I’m grateful that real sleep has returned to me after all the early risings before we arrived. We decided to drive over to Mizen Head the last peninsula south. It’s across Dunmanus Bay and at its tip is the most South Western part of Ireland. Morgan wanted us to see Three Castle Head, an ancient castle built by Donagh O’Mahonaigh in 1207. So, off we drove back to Durrus and the road leading South to Mizen Head. The day was looking increasingly dark and as we got closer the clouds lowered. James and I were falling asleep in the back of the car so we made a quick stop in Goleen. While Morgan got a map from the tourist center for the route to Three Castle Head Peg, James and I beelined to a coffee shop to see if we could wake up. We finished our coffees and feeling more awake headed back out on the road. The road gradually turned into a one lane boreen with lots of twists and turns and finally turned downhill to a parking lot and the trailhead. The trail lead up through a gate into emerald green fields full of sheep, sheep that were utterly non-plussed by humans traipsing through their fields. Most of them didn’t turn their heads as we walked within a couple feet of them. Up a steep field to another gate, out across another rising field and up, up, up a steepening slope. The view is magnificent but unfortunately with the lowering clouds and threat of rain it was obscured to where the cliffs and headlands of Mizen Head were reduced to grey smudges. Up a final rise and there below and across from us lay a small lake with Three Castle tucked into the rocky landscape. The hillside that the path wound through was full of Primrose. The castle had an eerie quality to it, the weather certainly adding to it, and as we approached it I looked to the left at a magnificent grey-black wall of rock that dropped a good 100 meters to the ocean below. No photo quite gives the scale or feeling of that rock wall, but it certainly made me feel small and insignificant. As we explored the castle it began to rain, not pelting but steadily so we reluctantly cut our visit short and moved as quickly as we could across slick grass and rock back to the car. By the time we’d retraced our path to the car our pants and shoes were soaked. Thankfully I had my rain parka and hiking shoes. Morgan and Peg had kept their light weight shoes on and got a bit damp and James had forgotten his jacket and Morgan had loaned him his outer rain shell, but we all got back fairly unscathed. We shed our wettest gear and hopped in the car grateful to have a warm and dry shelter and started to make our way back to Goleen and a nice restaurant for a hot meal.
The Car In Question
On the road toward Goleen we got a little confused and turned into the road that leads to Barleycove Beach. Realizing it was the wrong turn James turned a circle back out to the Goleen road and on a slope the car stalled. James tried starting it and……….nothing. The same result over and over, nothing. Then messages began flashing on the display. CHECK HILL START, then CHECK CES and on and on the warnings scrolled. We were beginning to have a real dislike of “smart” cars. There was so much computer power in the damned thing that you couldn’t fix it or jump it. It was a stick shift but you couldn’t pop the clutch and get it to turn over. Realizing we were fecked we called Herz emergency service who told us they’d get someone out as soon as possible. I was thinking we were going to be there for quite a while. We kept ourselves entertained making jokes about the Renault we were driving how it was a French plot to get us, etc. We got out of the car and looked across the inlet, in the distance we heard the sound of a cuckoo calling, the tide was rushing under the causeway there were wild yellow Iris’ beginning to bloom, it was a beautiful place to be stuck. But sooner than expected a truck pulled in and it was our rescuer. Morgan asked him “where’d you come from”?, we were surprised he was so quick, and throwing his hands in the air he replied in a thick Cork accented English “from heaven sent”! His name is Eoin (Owen) O’Rallaigh (O’Reilly) and he’s a born entertainer. After trying to start it in a myriad of ways Eoin wanted to look under the hood. He looked at us and said “we’ll try this and if that doesn’t work then it’s Au revoir mon ami and he mimed jacking a shell into a shot gun and aiming it at the engine”. We all cracked up, could hardly stop laughing. It was almost worth breaking down just to meet Eoin. It’s just these unexpected adventures that we treasure in Ireland, it never fails that the unexpected happens and it’s always fun, educational, challenging or enlightening. Eoin’s truck had been idling this whole time and James said to Eoin “that’s a nice truck you’ve got there, it’s running” to which Eoin grins. Eoin calls the tow truck and informs him that the Renault is DOA and tells us he’ll get us back to Ahakista. He lives close by. in Goleen and our place is easily a 40 min. drive. We’re grateful that he’s willing as he wryly tells us he’s not obligated to do so but since we’re nice Americans who didn’t vote for Trump he was happy to do so. On the way back we stop to assist a woman whose car blew a tire, turns out she’s an American as well, whom Eoin tells that he’s a vehicle full of other Americans who aren’t exactly Trump supporters. She scrambles out of her car comes up to my window, which I roll down, letting in midges as well as her booming voice exclaiming, “I hear there’s a bunch of Trump lovers in here”. We all exclaim no, no, no we didn’t vote for the man. She’s another larger than life extrovert in a cocky felt hat (are you seeing a pattern here? Ireland has a way of capturing people like this like a magnet pulls in iron filings) She says, “So it’s Melania’s birthday and Donald forgot all about it. Melania let’s him know she’s not pleased so to save himself Donald says, well just imagine whatever you want, you visualize that Melania and I’ll get it for you. So Melania screws up her eyes and really concentrates, she thinks and thinks. Later that night Donald’s dick fall’s off.” She roars with laughter as do we, it’s hard to do anything else. She tells us she taught school in Texas for 40 years, lived all over the place. Her mother’s side of the family were Irish generations back so she holds an Irish Passport. We wave goodbye and Eoin roars off, the locals drive the roads with abandon, and I’m holding on to the door handle trying not to slide into Peg. Peg is proving to be an able traveler, she’s taking all of this with alacrity. Eoin mentiones that he and his wife were running a B&B out of their home and most tourists were just fine but in his experience Australians were the worst for complaining and then in a very good Aussie drawl he imitates them complaining about the food, the homes and the roads, especially the curving roads. Eoin says, “well mate that’s cause your used to driving on roads for 5 hours that are dead straight, bends in the road a bit of a novelty for ya now aren’t they”. We’re laughing all the way home. Eoin deposits us safe and sound at our door. We thank him, Peg thanks him for being our knight in shining orange armor (referring to his safety vest) and we bid him goodnight.
We’ve lost our chance of a dinner out, it’s past 8:00, so we use all our remaining eggs and veg’s. and Morgan makes us a delicious omelet. We head down to the Tin Pub for a drink and a chat and Niamh isn’t there but her brother Cormac is behind the bar. It’s quiet with 3 people there before us who are just finishing up. We fall into easy conversation and learn some interesting things. I mention how much I appreciate the Irish gift of banter, how it’s honed to a fine skill. Cormac said that it’s really a default setting in Irish relations, that speaking of deep things is much more difficult in most Irish families. I’d never even considered that and it puts it in a different perspective. We also mentioned the difference we notice between the Irish Pub and an American Bar. The Irish Pub is a social gathering spot, not a place you go to avoid others. He told us that he noticed a real difference between the U.S. East and West coasts. He’d gone over to The States to visit when Niamh was working there. In New York and Boston he found a more social environment. In San Francisco he found the atmosphere inside a bar much less social, that people were in their own small groups isolated from one another, no real mixing. But even in New York and Boston he found himself isolated from people and he’d get lonely. He’d go to a barber shop and pay for a haircut just to have someone to speak with. When Niamh would come home she’d see the fresh haircut and ask him “were you lonely today?” Cormac graduated from University in criminal studies, but he couldn’t get any work. He’s going back to school for nursing. He’d been working the pub since he was a child, his mother had grown up in the home next door and had worked in the pub. His grandfather had owned it. We bid Cormac a goodnight and walk home.