Welcome Back

I came into Kilcrohane by foot this time, all but one hillclimb through a loop up Seefin, down Farranmanagh toward Dunmanus Bay, west along the Sheep’s Head Way, and back up along a road aptly called the Goat’s Path. More about that road later.

Seefin is the peak where, according to legend, the Irish giant Finn plonked his behind down when he was done with his labors. The way up from the ridge is marked on walking maps of the peninsula, but remains more conceptual than actually delineated in any recognizable fashion.

The way down toward Dunmanus Bay had actual signposts every 50 or yards, but they had the feel of a mathematical proof: while they showed you where you were supposed to end up, they didn’t give any guidance on how you were supposed to get there. Across that chasm? Through that bog? Past the surly bovine in that pasture? One thing I love about the Irish is that they’ll trust you to figure it out.

I did, and it was a lovely walk, but I was happy to reach actual level pavement when I got to the bottom and turned west for the stroll into town.

Kilcrohane is a small place. Not much has changed since I was last here three years ago: it still seems to have one inn, one almost theatrically curmudgeonly grocer who doubles as the local postmaster, one weekends-only restaurant, a church (obviously), and Eileen’s Bar. The sign out front of Eileen’s had changed a little, but still offered all ages music, chips and peanuts, with marginal notes indicating that local eggs and jam were on hand, as were as bags of turf. I’d pass on the turf, but ducked my head in for a Guinness to revive me for the final climb.

The pub was quieter than when I last left it, but Eileen was behind the bar, right where I’d last seen her three years ago. She looked up from the glassware she was drying and smiled as if it had only been a long weekend. “Welcome back,” she said, “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

Yes it has.

She poured me a pint of Guinness and tried to remember when I’d been in last. “It was when Arthur and Liam had you come up and play a few, wasn’t it?” Yes, it was. That was a few weeks after we’d been first introduced, when everyone had started singing Dougie MacLean’s “Caledonia,” and the Yank in the corner turned out to be the only one who knew all the words. We all have our obscure gifts, don’t we?

“Are you staying long this time?”

“Long” means something different out here, so I told her I didn’t know yet. But she wanted to make sure I knew there’d be music again on Sunday – would I be coming? Wouldn’t miss it for the world. And did I need any eggs or jam? Of course I did.

It was good to be back.

Seefin on the way up the Goat’s Path

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