After meeting Rob’s family at Dublin airport, we travelled to Rathdowney, a small village where Rob’s Dad spent part of his childhood. We arrived after midnight and sleepily settled in to the holiday cottage which we were borrowing from friends of Rob’s parents, while the rest of Rob’s family stayed with family a little way outside of the village. Due to my current obsession with American detective shows, and the isolated nature of our little house, I spent a sleepless night convinced that Rob and I were both going to be murdered at the first possible opportunity by a crazed serial killer, despite Rob’s attempts to reassure me that ‘nothing’ ever happens in Rathdowney, not even serial killings.
The next morning we awoke to bright clear weather, a calm and quiet village which I think is just so charming, and a detachment of Rob’s family arriving with bacon sandwiches, cake and later copious cups of tea (and wifi!) back at Pat and Francis’s house. It was awesome. Pat let Rob, Emily and me drive his big old tractor, which was slightly terrifying. I’m pretty sure Pat did all the steering, the pedals and the throttle for me, but I held the wheel and occasionally managed to make the tractor go in a straight line. I was also in sole charge of the brake pedal and pressed it with great pride and skill (although a little too often – turns out I am a very nervous tractor driver)
That day we went to see Rob and Emily’s Nana (Rob’s Dad’s Mum) in her lovely nursing home. I was happy to finally meet her ahead of her big Birthday celebration on Sunday (her 90th!), and she was a very witty lady – with the occasional lapse of memory which meant that she would often look up at Rob, ask who he was, and then upon being told look incredulous and declare ‘but he’s so handsome!’. It was very funny and she had us all laughing with her tales of the weekly dance night in the nursing home, and her popularity with the men as their dance partner of choice – “oh yes!” she reassured us in her thick Irish accent – “I get around!”
The next day we headed to Carna which is a really beautiful, wild area right on the coast; full of little houses and winding roads and steep fields separated by drystone walls. Rob’s family used to holiday right on the beach every year and I got to see the lovely tiny house where they used to stay. The beach is full of huge rock slabs and Rob found a ‘poking stick’ and went rock pooling with great enthusiasm, while I played around jumping off all of the rocks and getting my hair blown around like crazy in the wind. It was such a lovely beach and a really special place for Rob’s family.
After a chilly walk around the point, we dropped in on Barbara, part of Rob’s Irish family, who hasn’t seen Rob and Emily since they were little. We were immediately welcomed into her home, and despite our protests that all we wanted was a cup of tea, she had marshalled us all to the kitchen table and laid out a huge loaf of soda bread, jam, eggs, ham and salad, and was chatting away happily before we even realised what had happened. She kept a close eye on all of our plates and made sure we all ate plenty of food! The soda bread was absolutely delicious and I think drinking tea in Barbara’s kitchen was one of my favourite things that we did the whole weekend. It was such a perfect example of Irish hospitality, and I got to hear all about Rob and his cousins and what they had gotten up to in their childhood on Carna beach. I think Barbara liked me because I ate all her ham, and she told Rob off for not eating enough! Mwahahahaa.
On Sunday we all got dressed up super fancy to celebrate Mary’s 90th Birthday at Durrow Castle. We had a dining room all to ourselves for a group of Mary’s friends and family to eat lunch and celebrate with her. It was lovely to see all of Rob’s Irish family, although I sort of ended up just shaking hands and kissing people and smiling and having no idea who I had met or how they were related. I probably ended up hugging some random hotel guests too, but I’m sure they loved it. Everybody was super friendly, lunch was yummy and when we piled out into the garden afterwards to take photos, it was actually quite sunny. Top marks for Ireland.
That night we headed to Tuohy’s bar which is a tiny little bar (the size of somebody’s living room, with an amazingly well stocked bar) and I discovered that, contrary to what I had thought, Guinness is definitely my thing.
I was so sad to leave Ireland. By the time we had to head back to Dublin airport, I felt like I’d been away for ages and ages. There’s something about the pace and quality of life in Ireland which I just loved. I had the best time, got properly chilled out, ate so much amazing food and took millions of photos. We even bought a quite shocking amount of chocolate to bring home (between the six of us!) so we’ll all have sweet Irish memories to nibble for the next couple of weeks 😉
Big Love, PV x