Bucket List Trip Iron Age ring forts rose within sight of sixth century stone huts or fourteenth century castle remnants. The slate quarry on Valentia Island, famous throughout the world for quality stone, was a fascinating visit. The mine entrance held a peaceful candlelit grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Great gray sheets of heavy slate stood near the quarry mouth ready for international transport. A modern high bridge joins the island to Port Magee at its south end. This passage onto Valentia provided a panoramic view of rugged land- and seascapes that continued in view as we toured this windswept island. Leaving the island’s northern tip by ferry from charming Victorianera Knightstown was particularly picturesque. Brightly painted houses and official brick buildings of the village disappearing behind stood in sharp contrast to the approaching rocky shore of Renard Point. A visit to the sandy, rock-strewn beach at Ballyskellig gave a sense of the Atlantic’s power. This underscored how difficult life would have been for early dwellers and missionary priests on these rocky shores. This cold water seemed to deter many beachgoers from swimming. Further along the coast we could look out to Skellig Michael from the nearby rocky shore. The Skellig is a steep, rocky island where sixth
century monks built a monastery and lived in scattered stone huts perched on rocky cliffs high above the Atlantic. Tourists can take a boat, then ascend 168 steep steps to the monastery. Wind or rain makes this a dangerous walk. We declined to visit. One day lunch was taken at Cahersiveen, a very charming seaside community with a large memorial Catholic church dedicated to Ireland’s Emancipator, Daniel O’Connell. Another day we toured his family estate near Caherdaniel to learn more about Ireland’s fight for freedom during the past three centuries. Information learned here filled gaps in personal political knowledge and provided insight into the struggles waged for liberty by ancestors. Finding many family names among gravestones at the old cemetery on Abbey Island at Derrynane was haunting. Patriots and peasants were buried side by side overlooking the ocean’s crashing waves. As Yeats would write, Ireland is a land of “terrible beauty.” County Kerry is certainly one of its most beautiful. Dr. Jack Scanlon writes from his farm, Garyview, in Dorchester County. He may be contacted at email@example.com. His recently published book of essays, Ref lections from a Deer Stand, is now available from the author.
November 2014 Tidewater Times