Your Favourite Posts of 2014

Cape Clear Harbour

Cape Clear Harbour

What were your favourite Roaringwater Journal blog posts of 2014?

Our blogging software provides a running count of visitors to Roaringwater Journal and it’s always fascinating to see which ones receive the most views. Some of them are our own favourites as well, and some can attribute their high numbers to being re-blogged by others, or to being shared on social media. So tell us, Dear Reader – did the software capture it – or do you have a different favourite from our top posts of 2014?

From the Whiddy Island high point

From the Whiddy Island high point

The top two posts of 2014 were the ones we wrote about our trips to Cape Clear and to Whiddy Islands. We loved our time on the islands and intend to go back often – our enthusiasm probably shone through. But it may also be that islands hold a mystique for us that is hard to define – out there in the dawn mist, mysterious and peaceful, whole worlds unto themselves. The islanders of West Cork are worried at the moment by cuts to their development officer funding, and need all the support we can give them. So if you live here, or are planning a trip, include one or more of these beautiful islands in your plans.

Timoleague Friary

Timoleague Friary

Next in popularity was our post on the Timoleague Friary. It’s an iconic piece of West Cork history and architecture – the only sizeable medieval religious ruins we have, perched on a picturesque estuary of the Arigideen River.

I've learned to look carefully for road signs

I’ve learned to look carefully for road signs

Finola’s frustration at the inflexible regulations that treated her like a novice driver, despite forty years of driving experience, must have struck a chord with you. Maybe you dropped by Driving Home the Point to sympathise with her plight, or maybe it was to chuckle over the numerous example of the routine flouting of the Irish rules of the road, or the bemusing driving conditions of many rural roads.

Evans of Bantry

Evans of Bantry

We have enormous nostalgia for the things we remember from our childhood, don’t we? In that vein, it’s not surprising that Shopping for Memories was such a popular post. These lovely old shops evoke a time when a whole variety of shops lined the main streets and our mothers went from the butchers to the greengrocers to the chemists to the haberdashers and, if we were lucky, to the sweet shop on a daily basis.

Carraig Abhainn Gardens

Carraig Abhainn Gardens

But sadly, the numbers of these old-fashioned shops are dwindling. This year we said goodbye to Wiseman’s in Durrus, no longer able to compete against the hardware shops of Bantry. Fortunately, their wonderful Carraig Abhainn Gardens are still open behind the shop – and our description of this hidden gem was one of your favourite posts of the year.

A group of posts on festivals came next. We wrote about the question our friends asked us when we decided to move here, What on earth will you find to DO? We answered in a series of posts describing some of the local events and festivals we have taken in this year – the Ballydehob Jazz Festival and Arts and Culture Festival (which included our own Rock Art Exhibition), traditional music Festivals in Baltimore, Bantry and Ballydehob, and a host of musical and theatrical events. One day all of you retirees out there are going to discover that moving to West Cork is the best decision you can make!

The next group of posts centred on the Mizen – the Mizen Magic posts where we concentrated on aspects of the Mizen Peninsula that delight us – the Beaches, Brow Head, the Butter Road, Mount Gabriel, the Gortnagrough Folk Museum, and the history and archaeology of this beautiful part of Ireland.

How are ye?

How are ye?

In fairness, like, it looks like ye would have enjoyed our take on how to speak like ye’re from West Cork. Those little posteens made you happy out.

Ye must be a fierce active crowd altogether because you really got a kick out of Finola’s description of her day of sailing and (perhaps her personal favourite in the activities department) her moonlight kayaking on Lough Hyne.

Happy New Year from Robert and Finola!

Happy New Year from Robert and Finola!

And our own personal favourite of 2014? Robert’s post on the Sky Garden, of course! If you haven’t read it yet, you’ll have to do so to find out why this was the highlight of our year in West Cork.

Sky Garden

Iris Sky Garden (photo by Liss Ard Estate)

Irish Sky Garden (photo by Liss Ard Estate)

Just outside Skibbereen – a stone’s throw from Nead an Iolair – is a work by Californian artist James Turrell: the Irish Sky Garden. It’s a piece of landscaping which explores light by both night and day: an observatory. The structure is an artificial crater with a stone plinth at its centre from which two participants can view the sky framed by the perimeter of the oval enclosure.

Sky view from the plinth

Sky view from the plinth

In Turrell’s own words describing the experience “…The most important thing is that inside turns into outside and the other way around, in the sense that relationships between the Irish landscape and sky change…”

Turrell CoverJames Turrell was born in 1943 – in Pasadena. His father was an aeronautical engineer and James obtained his pilot’s license when he was just 16. He has been exploring landscapes by flying over them ever since. He studied perceptual psychology, mathematics, geology and astronomy. He enrolled in the graduate Studio Art program at the University of California, Irvine, in 1966, when he began to explore light projections. At the same time Turrell, a Quaker and conscientious objector, was jailed for a year for encouraging young men to avoid the Vietnam War draft.

All the artist’s work is focussed on light and space. In an interview of 2002 for the International Sculptor Center he explained:

“…I was raised a Quaker, and now I have come back to being active. I’m not sure whether that has impacted my art-making, because my work is not about specific issues—perhaps being a Quaker influences how I live my life and what I value. People tend to relate any work in light to the spiritual. I don’t think this is actually correct, yet, in terms of our lives, we greet light in three major ways that aren’t necessarily partitioned. There is a psychological aspect, a physical aspect, and a spiritual aspect. In terms of the physical, we drink light as Vitamin D, so it’s literally a food that has a major effect on our well-being. The strong psychological effects of light can readily be felt in particular spaces…” 

Some examples of Turrell’s work in light and space:

Finola’s post on Liss Ard Gardens gives a good background to the setting of this artwork: a Georgian house (now also an excellent hotel and restaurant – check for opening hours) surrounded by formal and informal landscaping and lakes interlaced by tracks and footpaths which offer ever changing vistas. When she wrote the post a year ago she probably had no idea that it would be the setting for our marriage – which took place this week!

Liss Ard House

Liss Ard House (photo by Peter Clarke)

The name Liss Ard comes from Lios Ard, ‘lios’ being an Iron Age ring fort and ‘ard’ meaning high – hence high fort. The ring fort is still extant as a magical space – a grass circle surrounded by trees; there is also, under it, a souterain – a system of low tunnels and chambers which are often found in association with structures of this type. When we discovered that Liss Ard was licenced to hold weddings – and that licence covered all of the grounds – we jumped at the opportunity to ‘tie the knot’ within an Irish archaeological site…

James Turrell's concept drawing for the Liss Ard project, showing Ring Fort and Sky Garden

James Turrell’s concept drawing for the Liss Ard project, showing Ring Fort and Sky Garden

Our ceremony was simple – a humanist celebrant and just a few guests who have been important to our lives in Ireland. After the official bits we wandered down to the Sky Garden and admired Turrell’s vision from the altar-like plinth. We were blessed with blue sky and sunshine.

Wedding Day...

Wedding Day… (photo by Peter Clarke)

In 1979 James Turrell acquired a vast natural cinder crater located outside Flagstaff, Arizona. This – the Roden Crater – is possibly his best known work, and it is still in progress. He is turning this volcanic crater into a massive naked-eye observatory, designed specifically for the viewing of celestial phenomena. There are other ‘sky’ works in a number of countries: a ‘Turrell Tour‘ has been mapped out which takes in an least 23 of them.

Roden Crater

Roden Crater, Arizona

Skyspace, Scotland

Skyspace, Scotland

Within-Without

Within-Without, Canberra 2010

Celestial Vault, Stroom, Holland 1996

Celestial Vault, Stroom, Holland 1996

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It’s a big leap – from Liss Ard to Arizona and beyond. The full concept of the Sky Garden has never been completed: two more installations were planned. But how exciting that here in West Cork we have a stunning example of the work of this world-renowned artist.