— Submitted by Yvonne Higgins Leach
My life partner Ed and I attended our first artist residency – he as a photographer, and I as a poet – in West Cork at a beautiful manor house on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork during early October, 2015. The residency is called Anam Cara and is run by owner and wonderful host Sue Booth-Forbes (www.anamcararetreat.com).
By sharing meals with Sue and the other visiting artists, we felt an immediate sense of community. Ed and I would alternate days of creativity, with photo taking one day; and writing poems the next. At the end of our residency, we headed north and made a deliberate stop in Craughwell, County Galway, where my great grandmother grew up before she left for America. We spent a few days in County Donegal before making our way to Northern Ireland. The two weeks were filled with inspiration, community, beauty, and education. We long for the day we will return.
The Stunning Healy Pass in West Cork
While exploring the Beara Peninsula, we were delightfully surprised to discover Healy Pass, which is a road that crosses the Caha Mountains and has panoramic views toward Bantry Bay to the southeast and Kenmare River to the northwest. Originally called Kerry Pass, it was cut during the Great Famine as a poor relief public works project. It was renamed for Timothy Michael Healy, former Governor-General of the Irish Free State, who died in 1931 shortly after the road was improved. We loved the lush green, the waterfalls, and the sheep. At the top of the pass, we found the crucifix and holy statues strikingly beautiful. This shrine was erected by an anonymous donor in thanksgiving to Christ the King in 1935.
A Relaxing Time in County Donegal
We decided to settle in for about two days in County Donegal and chose the small town of Ramelton as our base. Ramelton is located on the Wild Atlantic Way and at the mouth of the River Lennon, on the western shore of Lough Swilly.
It’s an ideal place for walking. We took a half-day trip up to Fanad Head to photograph the lighthouse. The lighthouse was designed by civil engineer George Halpin and was first lit on March 17, 1817. Its fixed light showed red to sea and white towards the Lough, and could be seen for fourteen miles (22 kilometres) in clear weather.
We stayed at a beautiful Victorian manor house called Frewin that is owned and operated by lovely hosts Regina and Thomas (www.facebook.com/FrewinHouseAccommodationDonegal/).
The Beauty of Northern Ireland
The whole of Northern Ireland, with its ever-changing scenery set against a dramatic coastal backdrop took our breath away. We spent a day and night at the Giant’s Causeway so we could experience the magnificence of the bizarre basalt columns at both sunrise and sunset (www.thecausewayhotel.com).
We also ventured a short drive east to take the 30-minute, one-mile walk to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. For 200 years, fishermen hung a narrow, 90-foot-high bridge across a 65-foot-wide chasm between the mainland and a tiny island just east of the Giant’s Causeway. Once over the bridge and onto the island, we were able to take in the beautiful views.
Submitted by Yvonne Higgins Leach – www.yvonnehigginsleach.com