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.

Ballydehob Rocks Art and Culture

Looking pleased with the exhibition!

Looking pleased with the exhibition!

I’ve posted before about the amazing variety of events and festivals that West Cork towns host. The latest, and this is a new one, is Ballydehob’s Art and Culture weekend. It’s just over and it was great fun.

For the most part the venues were intimate (think pubs, cafes, An Sanctoir) or outdoors. The weather was variable – we got everything from gales to sunshine – but only one event had to be cancelled because of it.

There was a bus tour to the delightful Gortnagrough Museum, and another to the Rock of the Rings (local rock art!) and an historic walking tour of the town. There was a poetry trail, storytelling, plays, dance performances, a dozen different art exhibitions (including our own), kids’ workshops and movies, a cabaret, and of course music – lots of music from trad to country to world music to drumming to classical.

Young songwriters

Young songwriters

Perhaps one of my favourite moments was watching the girls who had taken the songwriting workshop, which had been led by a 12 year old, perform the songs they had written. We’ve been having fierce gales and the whole of Ballydehob was without electricity, so the pub was lit by candles and gas lamps. It was like going back to the rare old times when we made our own entertainment for gatherings of neighbours and friends. The lack of power didn’t bother anyone – the following act simply switched from electronic to acoustic with no fuss and soon we were singing again. The Choir I (try to) sing with, A Capella Bella, had a sing-along too – it was great to hear so many voices belting out our African rythms, enthusiastically conducted by the talented Caz Jeffreys.

By lamplight

By lamplight

Our own event, the Prehistoric Rock Art Exhibition, proved to be popular. The talk was packed and people lingered afterwards and peppered us with questions. There is a lot of interest here in anything to do with our heritage, and rock art is a little-known aspect of it: many people commented that they had no idea it existed or what it was like. People also liked Robert’s account of rock art in other parts of the world. For those of you who would have liked to be there but couldn’t, we are planning a permanent blog page on rock art which will contain some of the images we used as well as the program we produced for the show. You can also read our friends Amanda and Peter Clarke’s accounts of the exhibition here and here – they supplied the photographs of the exhibition I’ve used in this post.

These small local festivals can make a huge difference to a place. I’ve written before about the economic downturn in Ballydehob and the depressing effect it has had on local business, but the community has never lost its positive attitude and its volunteering spirit. One of our local writers, Sarah Canty, illustrates, in her documentary Down But Not Out, the challenges facing small villages like ours.

The Eileen and Marilyn Experience

‘The Eileen and Marilyn Experience’ Caberet

This festival was spearheaded by a great team, many from the Ballydehob Social Club, with lots of other volunteers pitching in. A huge thank you to the pubs and other venues for providing free space and paying for entertainers. And a special shout out from us to Joanne Cassidy at the West Cork Gourmet Store for providing a wonderful gallery for our Rock Art Exhibition. 

The Weekend ended with a huge party – more music, more dancing, more laughter and camaraderie.

Ballydehob – you rock!