There is so much to love about our beautiful county of Waterford. The soft sweeping landscape, the wonderful deserted beaches of the Copper Coast, the little towns of the county, each one with it’s own character and community. So we were more than a bit peeved when we didn’t get included in that new WIld Atlantic Way re-branding. Somehow the Ancient East doesn’t quite match it. I’d like to have been a fly on the wall when they came up with that one.
So on the annual road trip out west this year, I realised again how much they need that “Wild Atlantic Way” boost over there. Galway is only the start of it. You can drive for hours beyond it and soon be in the midst of mountains and bogs of rare isolated beauty. However you won’t be nipping down to the shops for a bag of crisps out there. Roads are small and twisty, sheep hop out in front of you, and those rented tourist cars hold up the whole show. They have so many challenges.
The mountains over there are a kind of cloud factory for rain. They are huge, bleak and dark. The Atlantic throws up some amount of moisture! We check for humidity levels, and it’s always over 90!! It rains, it is about to rain, it has just rained. Every variety, pelting, heavy, summery and driving. I have to accept though that this is perfect weather for fishing and obviously for ducks!
Except for the movement of sheep up and down the mountains morning and evening there is very little way to tell the time of day. The rain sees to that. It’s mostly grey with occasional splashes of light. The big skies change every few moments and those giant rain clouds make for wonderful photographic opportunities. But even for seasoned campers it’s a challenge.
We have always been campers. From those primitive canvas tents to our various converted vans, we have camped all over. We even took our kids, their friends and cousins on trips around Ireland long before there were internet cafes and interpretive centres to go into out of the torrential downpours. We made it fun to go swimming in all weathers, and relied on chippers and hurdy gurdies when things got too much.
We once had the three lads and their pets in the back of the van on our way to West Cork when a small fire broke out and the fire brigade was called. At this stage ourselves and the kids were safe but a budgie, two gerbils and a family of mice had to be rescued from inside. The firefighters were highly amused at the menagerie. What they didn’t know was that the cat had done a runner in Wexford the previous week. He had taken a liking to the rich pickings at the compost heap there and wouldn’t come home.
Camping is not for the faint hearted. In fact I often amuse myself at how good I would be in a disaster as a result of years of scouting for water and sleeping under the stars. Far from thinking that campers are a nuisance, in France they provide free parking places with facilities as well as numerous campsites with every luxury from hot showers to fancy eateries. You find them on windswept cliff tops, in the centre of big cities and on the beautiful beaches. Camping is big business and part of family life. You can also join a network of over 3,000 farms and small producers who will let you camp and sample some of their duck pate or latest vintage.
Now we have a tiny van and luckily it squeezes under the 2 metre car park barriers here. For some reason in Ireland, there is nowhere for the larger visiting campers to park. These wandering tourists are becoming more common and it is vital that facilities are provided to encourage them. If there is no where to go they will cause havoc parking on the Prom in Tramore or driving around the city looking for somewhere to pull in. Worse still they will drive on to other counties which make more of an effort to support their travels. We should get ahead of the posse on that one. (Wexford seems to be thinking along these lines already.)
Meanwhile back on the Irish holiday in the rain, the tourists are walking around aimlessly looking for a way to fill a few hours. In their superior rain gear they have walked the trails up mountains and across bogs and have cycled and jogged in the fog all day. They come into Hamilton’s of Leenane looking for mussels and they are not disappointed. The rain doesn’t matter anymore and we all cosy up to the fire with a bowl of steaming chowder and the loveliest proper homemade soda bread just like your granny made.
So yet again, poor old Ireland has an awful summer, but thanks to the welcome of a great pub, all is forgiven!