Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Lough Hyne. Beautiful. And Rare

Lough Hyne. Beautiful. And Rare

"Lough Hyne, Ireland's first Marine Nature Reserve, nestles in a fold of hills 5 km south west of Skibbereen in West Cork. This marine lake is fed from the sea by a narrow tidal channel known as 'The Rapids'.

This unique lake and its surrounds are home to a rich and varied range of plants and animals, including many rare and beautiful species. Since it was ‘discovered’ by marine biologists in 1886, scientists have carried out pioneering research in experimental ecology. Their continued research into the factors governing the distributions of marine animals and plants make Lough Hyne one of the most- studied marine sites of Europe".
read more here
A shoal of small fish swim in the clear waters.

I visited here on a glorious day last week. For details of a previous visit, including the walk that takes you to magnificent viewing point over the lake and the coast see here.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Castlehaven. On the West Cork Riviera.

Castletownsend. On the West Cork Riviera.

One glorious day last week, Wednesday to be precise, I spent a little while in beautiful Castletownsend. The afternoon had turned blue, or at least the water and the sky had. A couple of kids had their canoe out while the adults played croquet on the lawn. Other than that, even that, it was lazy lazy all the way.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Lost in Yonkers

Lost in Yonkers
Shirley McCarthy as Bella, with her nephews

Neil Simon’s comic drama, Lost in Yonkers, gets a new run at the Cork Arts Theatre this month and is well worth a visit.

Grandma Kurnitz rules the roost at her Yonkers apartment in 1942. Her giddy forgetful middle aged daughter Bella is firmly under her thumb and now her weak-willed son Eddie is forced to leave his two kids with her while he goes off to seek work and repay a debt to a loan shark.

The kids, both young teens, are full of trepidation, justifiably so, and there is little relief from the tyranny until another of Grandma’s sons Louie, on the run from some heavies, comes to hide out for a week or so. Street wise Louie has a good idea of how to handle his mother and helps both Bella and the two kids get a handle on her.

After many tears and much laughter, it all seems to work out fairly well. Grandma will hardly admit it but the outer barbed wire and the inner steel seems to be exhausted, metal fatigue perhaps, by the layered love of the two generations. Eddie repays his debt while Louie dodges the home town bullet by going off to war and, after yet another false start, Bella bravely continues to enhance her engagement with the wider world.

Gert (excellent performance by Judy Donovan), another of Grandma’s daughters, makes an appearance after the interval. Her breathing and speech regularly trip over one another and that leads to some comic moments. It also leaves at least one question hanging at the conclusion. What the hell is her New York phone number?

It takes a while, maybe a minute, to get use to the New York accents. Grandma, speaking with a German accent, is the major presence and Maírín Prendergast puts on a tour de force. You won’t like her! You will like Bella (Shirley McCarthy) and have a laugh or two with this giddy woman who is not helped by Grandma considering her, partly for selfish reasons, as a child.

Mark O’Shaughnessy (as Eddie) and Ian McGuirk (Louie) are spot on with their contrasting characters and once again it was great to see the CAT Repertory Company give youth its fling in the shapes of 17 year old Eoghan Moloney (Jay, or Jacob according to Grandma) and 14 year old Alex Murphy (as joker Arty), two for the future.

I can honestly say I absolutely enjoyed this two act play, directed by Trevor Ryan. It is really entertaining and you'll love the fashions of the forties. The costumes were supplied by Miss Daisy Blue on Market Lane and the Montfort College of Performing Arts.

The play was premiered in New York in 1991 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama that Year. It is still a winner. The run started this week and continues until Saturday 29th September. Get your tickets here  or 021 4505624.

Friday, 7 September 2012

UCC Conferment of Honorary Degrees

UCC Conferment of Honorary Degrees
Devere Hall, UCC, 7th September 2012.
Clockwise from top left: Denis Irwin*, John A. Murphy, Trevor Welch, Brian Cody*, Aidan O'Brien*, Tracy Piggott, Donal Lenihan, Ronan O'Gara* and Mary O'Connor

Pictured above are the leading sportspeople* conferred with Honorary Degrees at UCC today as part of the celebration of 100 years of sport at the college. Also included are the people who introduced them. In a departure from the usual pomp and ceremony, UCC veteran John A Murphy sang a few verses of the Banks of my own lovely Lee. Mr Michael B. Murphy, the UCC President, indicated that the next such ceremony will be held in 2112. That rules out a lot of you.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Get Moving. Cork Walking Month

Cork Walking Month

Fields, Midleton in distance

Curragh entrance

Cork Walking Month

Did you know that September is the Cork Walking Month for 2012?

Lots of choice and you may go on your own or as part of a group.

I enjoyed a few recently including this one in Gougane Barra,  and another easier one at The Gearagh.

I had a look at the Walking Month website and decided to go to the Curragh Wood today. It is about 4 kilometres from Midleton on the Fermoy Road. A roadside car park and no name sign but you’ll find it on the left. No signs either in the forest to you’ll have to "rough" it.

It is all uphill at the start. After a while I came to a V. Which way to go now? Which way to find the Ring Fort? At the pinnacle, the site said. So I took the track to the left that continued to rise but never came to the Ring Fort.

Did get some good views over the East Cork countryside though, including the town of Midleton as I took a narrow pathway back down to the start, arriving about ninety minutes or so after starting out.

Looks like I’ll have to go back again! There is another car park nearby that gives an easier walk by the river. Check it out on the site where there are many walks detailed with all parts of the county covered. Could keep you walking for more than just September!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Glen of Aherlow

The Glen of Aherlow

 The Glen of Aherlow is one of Ireland’s under-rated treasures, a fabulous glen with rivers and streams and stunning mountain scenery and some really good food too as I found out on a very recent visit. It is also a mecca for walkers and fittingly there is a wealth of information on the many walks, some short, some easy, some long, some difficult, in the area.
Coming from Cork, I headed for Cahir and then for Bansha where I turned left and soon found myself in the Glen with the Galtees to the south and Slievenamuck to the north. The main road through the glen is the R663 but we soon branched off and took the more southern route to Rossadrehid.

 The walks into the Galtees start from this road and one, the 11km trek to Lake Muskry, starts here near the village. We had already had a walk that day, so stayed on the road. The views aren't bad here – but much better on the higher R663. There are many high hedges but we did stop often and looked at the Galtees over farmers’ gates.
Soon we completed that leg of the trip – the distances are short enough within the glen – and headed for the County Limerick town of Galbally. Here, we visited Moore Abbey before turning back and finding the R663. The views were improving by the time we found our base, the Aherlow House Hotel.

Moore Abbey near Galbally
After checking in and enjoying the Galtees from our bedroom window, we headed closer to Slievenamuck and found the large statue of Christ the King on the R664 which goes to Tipperary Town.

 Quite a few walks start here and we took a looped one called the Rock an Thorabh Loop, the rock of the bull. This is a pleasant forest track walk, rated moderate, with a length of 6 kilometres. Highlight is the Rock from which you get terrific views of Tipperary town and the valley around it.
Rock an Thorabh
Back by the statute, the Galtees can be seen in all their glory. It is probably the best place to view the range and it highest peak Galtymore (919 metres).
Tipperary town from Rock an Thorabh

In Cahir, they have a very helpful tourist office and I also visited the Castle  and the Swiss Cottage. I stayed in the Aherlow House Hotel.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Swiss Cottage in Cahir

Swiss Cottage

The River Suir

Perhaps the first thing to say about Cahir’s Swiss Cottage is that it is not Swiss at all, not even related! Apparently some local said the 1810 house reminded him or her of a Swiss chalet and the name stuck.

The Office of Public Works are now in charge of the charming cottage and there is a small entry fee (€3.00 per adult) and for that you get a guided tour. I was there last week and enjoyed the visit.

We had just visited Cahir castle and saw a signpost for the cottage in the castle car park in the Tipperary town. Of course, you may drive to the cottage (by the Ardfinnan Road) but the 2 kilometre walk is a pleasant one by the banks of the Suir.

It is signposted all the way. You keep the river on your right and cross when you come to a white bridge. The cottage is built on a little height so there are some steps and a very short upward sloping tunnel before you open the door to reception.

It was built in the early 1800s by Richard Butler (an Earl whose family owned thousands of acres in the area), to a design by John Nash, a famous Regency architect. The Butlers had a town house in Cahir of course and this was intended as a little country retreat where one could take a party for afternoon tea, maybe even more judging by the amount of beds there.

One of the beds is quite interesting and is termed a campaign bed. The campaign came from its original army use, a fold-up easily transportable bed for the officers, and led to the well known camp bed. None of the furniture is original but most is very close to it.

What is original though are some of the wallpaper panels which amazingly have survived for over 200 years. All the rooms are elegantly decorated with nature the main theme.

It has been beautifully restored and looks more like the original that it did in the middle of the previous century. No photography is allowed inside but it certainly makes a pretty picture on the outside.

By the way, the proper term for this type of structure is a cottage orné. According to Wikipedia, Similar buildings exist at Burrenwood, Co. Down; Derrymore, Bessbrook, Newry, Co. Armagh (National Trust); and the Petit hameau de la Reine at Versailles.

While in the area, why not consider visiting the beautiful Glen of Aherlow. I did and I stayed in the Aherlow House Hotel.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Cahir Castle. Worth a visit

Cahir Castle
View from the outer ward.
 Once the stronghold of the powerful Butler family, Cahir Castle retains its impressive keep, tower and much of its original defensive structure. It is a fine example of a late Medieval Castle that had been enlarged and greatly remodelled in the 15th to 17th centuries and is one of Ireland's largest and best preserved castles. It is situated on a rocky island on the River Suir.

You can have a guided tour of the castle but I strolled around on my own, taking a look first at the various floors of the keep. I saw the mechanism for the winding gear for the portcullis and other artefacts.  Here too, you’ll find an exhibition on various Irish castles.

View from the Castle Street side
Soon, I came to the historic Banqueting Hall, partly furnished and totally impressive. Here, in 1541, a great pageant was staged and then, in 1652, a peace agreement was here signed between local leaders and Cromwellian commanders.

Next up was the 13th century North West Tower, with its “murder hole”. Not a place to go if you are an uninvited guest. Luckily, I had paid my 3 euro entry fee! From the top, and indeed from other parts of the ramparts, there are good views over the town and the river.

Banqueting Hall and NW Tower
 These largely 13th century buildings surround the inner ward, now  a green area. There is also a middle and an outer ward but, before visiting those, I took a look at two current exhibitions. One is on the position of women in medieval Ireland. Interestingly, the old Brehon law allowed divorce and property rights for women though men had the right to concubines.

Banqueting Hall interior
 In 1599, the forces of Queen Elizabeth attacked when the castle garrison refused to surrender to the Earl of Essex.  The short siege that followed is the subject of another exhibition and that includes a model of the siege.
Picture taken from outer ward
 In 1599, the forces of Queen Elizabeth attacked when the castle garrison refused to surrender to the Earl of Essex.  The short siege that followed is the subject of another exhibition and that includes a model of the siege.

After that, it was time to visit the outer ward and the more recent buildings around a larger green area. One the buildings here contains an excellent informative audio-visual account of the castle’s story.

All in all, a great visit and well worth the modest entry fee.

While in the area why not visit the nearby Swiss Cottage and the beautiful Glen of Aherlow. I stayed in the Aherlow House Hotel.