An English woman’s love affair with Kerry

Sue Hubbard in The Irish Times:

I lost my heart from the moment I first saw it. Cill Rialaig is about as far west as you can go in Europe without falling off the edge. A magical place set in a wild landscape full of ghosts and memories, it’s a pre-famine village that clings to a steep slope, 300ft above the sea in Kerry, on the west coast of Ireland.

In winter the sea boils and rages against the cliffs as storms sweep in from the Atlantic. Hugging the hillside, it looks southwest towards the Béara Peninsula and the tiny uninhabited islands of Scariff and Deenish, and eastward beyond Waterville to MacGillycuddy’s Reeks. At the right time of year, you might see seals or, if you are lucky, a leatherback turtle. Abandoned by the inhabitants, the collapsed cottages – a few refurbished, now, to create an artists’ retreat – stare out to sea like a collection of grieving widows. The one-time fields and tillage-plots that lie on either side of the road are half hidden by rocks and boulders. Criss-crossed by drystone walls, they are full of spongy tussocks of boggy grass, gorse and bracken. Grazing sheep, marked with the Day-Glo blue and pink dyes of their owners, shimmy up the hill, wiggling their backsides like muddy go-go dancers.

As the mist comes in, settling over the headland like a white duvet, and the rain beats against the windows in the winter gales, it’s not difficult to imagine how hard life must have been up here. Unlike other parts of Europe, the plough was unknown, and the cultivation of the staple, potatoes, was dependent on the spade.

More here.