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The Weather Gods Are Behind Us

We have had a remarkable time in Ireland, not the least because it only ever seemed to rain when we were inside a vehicle or a building. This is a country known for its relentless rainfall so the weather gods must have been behind us; the sky typically cleared the moment we pulled on our hiking boots. We spent our first couple of days exploring the valleys around Glendalough, a picturesque region just south of Dublin that was once home to the St Kevin’s monastic settlement. The film P.S I Love You was filmed nearby and I think I pushed my luck when I asked the hostel receptionist if she had a copy of the film to rent (she has probably heard that lame request a hundred times this year).

After a brief visit to Dublin, we completed a circuit of the island via bus. While the landscapes are not as dramatic as they are in Scotland, the Irish coastlines are varied and truly impressive. I’m afraid I spent far more time photographing than I did sketching. Ireland has stark black or white cliffs, bizarre rocky moonscapes, white surf beaches and fields that are at least a hundred shades of green. Aside from the obvious tourist spots like the Cliffs of Moher, there are also some lovely ruins visible from the roadside, such as Dunluce Castle, which was abandoned after the rearmost section collapsed into the sea.

Towards the end of our visit we crossed into Northern Ireland and took a small cruise boat from Enniskillen to the ruins of St Mary’s Priory on Devenish Island. A forbidding storm-cloud followed us down Lough Erne and it was soon raining so heavily the windows fogged up and visibility was limited to a few metres. It was very dark and the air felt heavy and electrified. The rain cleared when we disembarked at the island, but it was still cold and unsettling, so Jo and I soon found ourselves alone in the ruins of the Priory. A great Celtic Cross in the graveyard was cast into high relief against the black, roiling sky. Swifts were darting around the archways; when we stood still we could hear the birds peeping every time they looped around the stone tower. A thick curtain of rain was falling over the forested hills behind the Priory. We could actually see this great wall of water advancing towards us. We were literally standing in the eye of a storm. The whole island was squirming under this messy exchange of light and shade. The French Impressionist Camille Pissarro once said, “Blessed are those who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.’ I sometimes wonder if being an artist teaches you to appreciate the details that others overlook. While Jo and I were gaping at the sky, a dozen tourists were rugged up in their jackets, impatiently waiting for us to re-board the boat. I am sure most of them felt nothing more than a niggling fear of getting rained on. They missed out on something amazing, because they failed to stop – wait – and just look. Sometimes you do just need to be quiet and alone to feel the weight of the world around you.      

Ireland was my last stop before heading back to Australia. We spent two weeks in the Republic and three days in Northern Ireland (a post on the latter will follow tomorrow). I somehow wound up in Ireland without a green pencil (!), so I have coloured some of the attached sketches at my desk in Melbourne, albeit in a fog of horrendous jet lag.       

Rainstorm over Devenish Island, Lower Lough Erne, near Enniskillen

Burren moonscape

Glendalough – looking back towards the upper lake from the end of the Miner’s Hut Track

Glendalough from the White Track looking back down the valley towards the Miner’s Hut

Claddagh is a village near Galway where this iconic ring was first produced
A funny scribble about the harsh sea wind

Rowen Tree – allegedly where the fairies live!
Artist painting on the roadside, West Coast of Ireland 
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