Falk was to blame. To be more precise, anticyclone Falk. For many weeks it ensured incredibly hot weather atypical for Ireland, let raging rivers dry up into miserable runlets and transformed green, lush meadows into dust-dry fields. No joke, the high over Ireland really was called “Falk”, I’ve got a photo to prove it!
We spent a large part of the record summer of 2018, that didn’t match the otherwise mild Irish summers at all, in our home County Clare. We’d already seen a lot of Ireland up to this point – it was time to take a short travel break. So we decided to spend some of the hottest weeks of our entire stay in Ireland at home.
“Summer vacation in Ireland? How unusual, I would rather go to Mallorca! ”The green island not only knows rainy days and mossy green hills, but thanks to its surrounding coast also offers plenty of beaches, numerous festivities and other activities in, by and on the water – often even in bright sunshine.
About Pitching & Putting
Pitch & Putt are small 18-hole golf courses that are particularly suitable for beginners. It’s golf, but on smaller courses, with fewer clubs, for significantly less money and a lot of fun! This modification of classic golf actually comes from Ireland and can be found everywhere here – next to the huge golf resorts for professional golfers. The name comes from the fact that you only use two different clubs – one for pitching and one for putting. We didn’t know it before either, but since we had several Pitch & Putt courses in our area, we just tried it one day and loved it. We quickly became repeaters and tested several courses. Our favorite places to Pitch & Putt are Lahinch and Doolin, because they are right on the wild Atlantic Ocean. It is often very windy there, but the view is so gigantic that it’s a lot of fun. We persuaded almost everyone of our visitors to go “golfing” with us and no one regretted it. 😉 Just try it out next time! By the way, it’s not only suitable for summer. Pitch & Putt is great fun in every season!
On the tracks of forgotten Ireland
Anyone who travels along the west coast of Ireland knows it: the Wild Atlantic Way. It leads to the most remote corners, including the Clahane viewpoint (Irish: An Clochán) near Liscannor. From the stony coast here you can view over the Atlantic Ocean up to Liscannor Bay, Lahinch, Mutton Island and Spanish Point. Further west on Hag’s Head is the southern end of the Cliffs of Moher. But not only the view is great, this place is famous for its rock pools and is a unique place for swimming.
But more is hidden here, particularly in the history of this place. The inventor of the submarine came from here! In 1881, John Philip Holland was the first person to successfully operate a submarine. The first modern submarine was called “Fenian Ram”. In 1900 the U.S. Navy officially ceased production of these underwater boats. The British and Japanese navies soon followed.
I’m wondering if John Philip Holland got the idea for his glorious invention while bathing in these rock pools?
Farmer seeks Wife
One fine early summer day we decided to take a little detour and follow brightly painted signs saying “Donkey Farm” and “Match Making Museum” without knowing what to expect. When we arrived we met some cute donkeys that we loved to pet. A car pulled into the driveway and we were greeted by an old, bearded man with a thick Irish accent. He warmly invited us to his property and led us into his barn. He told us about the pieces on display – including old carriages and wagons – and then led us over to a television. He showed us an old film on VHS about the original Ireland. Donkeys pulling trucks and poor people living in farmhouses were shown. It looked like it was from a long time ago, around 100 years old. The man explained to us that he was still a young guy when these recordings were made. It was actually only about 60 years ago that people lived like that in Ireland. Hard to imagine, compared to the way of life in continental Europe at the same time!
Then he told us about match making – we had no idea what that meant. He said he was the last remaining traditional match maker in the whole world. He continues the family tradition, which unfortunately would die out with him. He pulled out a large, heavy bundle of old papers bound in worn leather. These are all files of the people he, his father and his grandfather brought together. In match-making, single Irish farmers were paired up with marriageable women. An old-fashioned Irish “farmer seeks wife” so to speak. 😉 You can still contact him for this. He doesn’t need an online database or dating app to do this – everything is done through word-of-mouth, letters and human contact. Willie Daly knows all of his customers personally. He claims that in his match-making career spanning more than 50 years, he has already matched more than 3,000 happy couples, most of whom are still together or have stayed together until the end. He took our hands and placed them on top of his more than 160 year old matchmaking book, which has been passed on in his family for several generations. “You will be married within six months,” he announced cheerfully. To be honest, it didn’t work out for us, but we trust him that the rest is true. 😉
Every year in September, the so-called Match Making Festival takes place in the nearby village of Lisdoonvarna. Singles from all over the world make the pilgrimage here to fall in love. At this time, Willie Daly can be found in his office in the Matchmaker Bar on the main street of the small town. You can also contact him at any time by email, phone or post. If you want to find out more about him and the history of match making, you can also read it in his book “The Last Matchmaker”.
It’s less well known among non-water sports enthusiasts, but Ireland is considered as one of THE surfing paradises in Europe. Hardly any other country can offer such perfect conditions for surfers. Did you already know that? Shallow miles of beaches, but also rocky coastal waters invite you to catch the waves. Of course, a wetsuit and shoes shouldn’t be missing. Lahinch is one of those surf meccas – many only come here to surf and stay here. Including us when we first arrived here, because the charming little coastal town in County Clare has a magical spell to it. Back then we were very surprised by the large number of young people, hippies and surfers. But other beaches in the area also attract many wave-worshipers to the otherwise quiet west coast of Ireland every year. If you like it a little more exciting, you can venture for example on the rocky, steep coast at Doolin, very close to the Cliffs of Moher.
Since we are surf beginners, we first signed up for a beginners surf class in Lahinch. There are plenty of surf schools here with similar conditions. The second time, we dared to do it without a teacher. It’s very exhausting and much harder than it looks, but it was always great fun. And there is no trace of the cold water under the thick neoprene layer or the adrenaline that’s been poured out. No matter where you spend your summer in Ireland, be sure to look out for one of the numerous surf schools and give it a try. It’s incredible!
Bathing Fun in Western Ireland
When you think of Ireland, images of beaches and bathing in the sea aren’t likely to come to your mind. In addition to numerous spectacular cliffs, Ireland has a number of breathtaking beaches. Many of them are miles of sandy beaches, where you can relax not only in summer. The often flat shores, that are warmed up by the sun rays in summer, are ideal for swimming. The brave dare – albeit in a neoprene suit – to head into the cold water all year round, not only for swimming, but also for kayaking and surfing.
In the record summer of 2018, we were drawn to the beach and into the water quite often. We didn’t have to go far to do this. We didn’t even need 10 minutes to get to the beautiful Lahinch Beach. We made use of this short distance several times a week. 🙂
Another popular bathing beach is Fanore Beach a little further north. It is a bit rockier there because the stony Burren region runs out here. This year we had a jellyfish plague due to the abnormally high temperatures, though. This made it more and more uncomfortable to go into the water as the summer progressed. Greetings from the climate change!
A boat trip that’s good craic!
Anyone who thinks Ireland is all about the sea is wrong. There are also plenty of freshwater lakes. One of the largest is Lough Derg, which connects 3 counties. County Clare is one of them and so we decided to go on a boat trip. We departed from Mountshannon, where we borrowed a rowboat – funny enough, the boat hirer was a German emigrant who had lived in Ireland for a very long time, and so we had a brief conversation. She recommended a tour to the most famous island in Lough Derg, the Holy Island. There are a number of uninhabited islands in this lake, but Holy Island, Irish Inis Cealtra , is the most interesting. It was worth rowing the not-so-short distance. Surprisingly the ruins of an old abbey from the 7th century, a holy spring and a round tower à la Rapunzel, the entrance of which is about three meters above the ground, awaited us. Some monasteries have been established here over the centuries. In between the island was plundered by Vikings. Today some people still make pilgrimages here or you just come by unexpectedly and explore this historical gem on your own .;)
Summertime is festival time. One party followed the next one. At the beginning of July the traditional music festival called Willie Clancy Summerschool (in Irish “Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy”) takes place in the village of Miltown Malbay, one of our neighboring towns. County Clare is known as the center for traditional Irish music and so the famous Irish musician is honored here year after year. The festival attracts music lovers from all over the world. For one week, besides Irish music, Irish language, dance and Irish art are celebrated here. There are also plenty of classes that can be attended by students as well as the general public.
We couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves! On 7.7. The time had finally come and we wandered through the pubs of the now crowded village in the evening. Irish live music played everywhere, later also modern music for the younger generation. The pubs surprise you again and again – from the outside very narrow and small, there’s a lot more hidden inside than you could have guessed. There are not just one or two, but often many back rooms and large covered open-air areas hidden in the back yard. In such a nice pub we ended the evening with a couple of Irish acquaintances. That was one of our most exciting evenings in Ireland. 🙂
Midsummer Dances around the Bonfire
Another festival highlight in County Clare is the annual Midsummer’s Eve Bonfire Festival in the courtyard of Newtown Castle in the picturesque village of Ballyvaughan. The Burren College of Art is based here and hosts this festival for young and old every year. On the longest day of the year hair wreaths are woven from flowers, music is played, people eat and drink together, and everything takes place around bonfires. At the latest when the sun goes down, a magical atmosphere arises – we promise!
Gaelic Films in Galway
We come to the last festival this summer, the Galway Film Fleadh. Anyone who knows us, knows that we love films and – especially me – film festivals. So we went to one of our favorite cities and watched a number of short films. Some of these were even in Irish / Gaelic with English subtitles, because County Galway and many other parts of western Ireland have large Gaeltacht regions in which people mostly communicate in Gaelic. The Irish language is also associated with ancient Irish traditions and ways of life, which can be observed there more likely than in English-speaking parts of the country. On the Galway Film Fleadh we saw nine short films by directors living in West Ireland about exactly this life in the West Irish Gaeltacht regions and thus gained a special insight.
The 9 short films we watched at the Town Hall Theater fell under the “Irish Talent: Way Out West” category. In this only a mix of documentaries and drama films from the west of Ireland was shown. The following short films have stuck in our minds most of all:
- ♣ “Denis” by Damien Connolly – The film shows his difficult journey from a tragic childhood (raised in an orphanage and abused by Catholic ministers), through his hard life on the streets of Galway, to his new found life as a dry alcoholic. A compassionate biopic about a brave survivor of his own fate.
- ♣ “Smoked Mackerel” / “Ronnachaí Buí” by Ciarán Charles – A multi-award-winning Irish drama film about growing up in a Gaeltacht region, shows the arrival of Irish students from Dublin in a remote village in Connemara. Together with local teenagers, they get to know life in and around the Atlantic Ocean, which is unknown to them. But the local adolescents can still learn a lot from the visitors from the big city. An exciting insight into two colliding worlds within one country.
- ♣ “Bittersweet – The Rise of Diabetes” by Hugh Rodgers – A documentary that follows the personal stories of various young people who live with diabetes and struggle daily to keep the terminal disease in check. Made of high quality, extremely instructive and interesting – our favorite of all the short films shown!
Well, if that’s not a lot to do for your next Irish summer! Anyway, we had a great time. When we weren’t lazy on the beach or going to one of the festivals in our area, we liked to spend the summer in our own garden. After all, it was big enough to do a lot – be it a round of hurling (Ireland’s national sport), yoga, a delicious BBQ or reading until sunset.
But the summer was far from over. A few more trips to foreign regions awaited us as well as numerous visits from family and friends, with whom we were constantly on the road. So you can still be curious. 😉