Knockalla or Port Salon Beach, County Donegal – One Of Ireland’s Most Beautiful Beaches

Ireland’s beaches are spectacular, and one of the most stunning of all is Knockalla Strand, also known as Portsalon Beach, in County Donegal.

And so, as everyone head’s back to work on this Monday morning,I thought why not start the week off with some beautiful scenery.

Hopefully, these peaceful views of Ireland’s shoreline will set the tone for the rest of your week.

Knockalla

Ireland may be a small country, but as an island, she boasts a long and varied coastline.  The actual length of this coastline is debatable, and any statistic for said length is totally dependent on how much detail was used when measuring.

There may always be a hidden cove not traversed or measured.  However, the Ordnance Survey of Ireland estimates the total length of Ireland’s shoreline at 3171 kilometers (approx 1981 miles).

Beaches of Donegal

And Knockalla is no hidden cove. It is approached from an elevated cliff side road, with amazing viewing points along the way. 

Donegal’s coast is festooned (I love that word) with sandy beaches, and Knockalla is probably the most breath taking of all.

Beautiful beaches of Ireland and Donegal

 This is Ireland at its best – the Ireland made famous in poetry, song, legend and film.

Beautiful Donegal

Knockalla lies on the western shores of Lough Swilly, with commanding views of the Inishowen peninsula across the waves.

Beaches like this are why Ireland’s coastline is described as dramatic.

Donegal Coastline

 When designing Ireland, God spared no extravagance.

 

Donegal is an untamed landscape, with three-quarters of its borders formed by the Atlantic Ocean.   The sea has shaped this land.

Ireland's Shoreline

This magnificent beach is a photographer’s paradise.

This is Ireland, at her best – a place of tranquility and great natural beauty.

Most beautiful beach in the world

Portsalon was named the second most beautiful beach in the world by “The Guardian”, or maybe it was “The Observer” newspaper.

I’m not quite sure who awarded this beach the runner-up prize in the world beach beauty pageant, but let’s face it, who cares.

Port Salon Beach

Portsalon’s beauty may be much appreciated around the world, but luckily, the Donegal climate means it can be enjoyed without having to deal with crowds similar to those found on sunny Mediterranean shores.  

These photos were taken on a bright, sunny day, and not a soul can be seen on the strand below…… Only in Ireland……

Sandy beach in Donegal

Even on a cold winter’s day, a run on this beach is perfect for getting rid of excess energy, and clearing the cobwebs from the brain.

Top Ten Beaches in the world

And so, to start my week off on a positive note, I am imagining myself going for a leisurely stroll along a sandy beach in Donegal.

You’re welcome to join me on my mindful morning walk.

 

View from Port Salon

For me, the wind is blowing a soft gentle mist across my face, cleansing my spirit and strengthening me for a busy week ahead.

Stiff breezes feature in all my Irish imaginings – I wonder why?

Donegal Beach

Wishing you all a wonderful week, full of promise and accomplishments.

I hope this little tour of Knockalla Strand has stirred your Irish dreams, and lifted your spirits on this Monday morning.

Remember, ocean blues are the only Monday morning blues allowed in my little corner of the web.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

Old Irish Road Signs – Giveaway

Old Irish road signs are an instantly recognizable feature from Ireland and times past.  Only a few originals actually remain in place on our roads today, mostly in isolated and rural areas.

Luckily some original street name signs can still be seen in towns and buildings throughout the country.

Black and White Irish Signposts

These distinctive white and black signs truly are a symbol of Ireland, especially for those who now live far away from home. I’m delighted to say that once again these old Irish signs are being crafted in Ireland. Anthony Proctor, from Moone Co. Kildare started a new company called Old Irish Road Signs to recreate these treasured symbols of Ireland’s past.

Today I’m thrilled to publish a guest post by Anthony, explaining his inspiration for creating these beautiful pieces. Anthony has graciously sponsored a giveaway for one lucky reader. More details on how to enter are at the end of this post, but first here’s the story of how Anthony started making these signs.

 

The Story Behind Old Irish Road Signs 

by Anthony Proctor

 

When the original cast iron signs were replaced most were destroyed or recast into other stuff. But they also became collector items and a nostalgic reminder of ‘Home’, especially for people far from home.

Some were ‘saved’ from destruction and then turned up in gardens, pubs and anywhere that Irish people settled – worldwide.

Irish Signpost - Skibbereen

I live in a village in Co. Kildare called Moone. I always wanted some signs in my garden but since they were so scarce there was no hope of finding any and definitely not with accurate mileage. There was no option but to make some. I made 2 exact replicas of Moone and Castledermot signs and then added accurate mileage from my home. The significance of these are Castledermot is my home town and Moone is my wife’s home.

Such was the immediate reaction from people on seeing these signs I was soon making signs for lots of people. First locally, then nationally and now I make and ship them worldwide.

School Garden Signpost in Ireland

The signs have been used for decoration in many different areas such as gardens, patios, homes, pubs, schools and businesses. Given as gifts for every occasion, these signs have an added nostalgic attraction for people who actually remember the originals.

Every sign means something – most commonly it is a customer’s home town or a loved one’s home. They can also be historical or functional, and one has even been fictitious . But on receiving each sign people always smile – and remember!

No one likes leaving home and the longer they are away, it seems the more they look for a reminder or link to home.

Kildare Crest on an old Irish signpost
These signs are a constant reminder of our origins and I have added family crests to some signs for people who want something a little different , but equally attractive. If you have an idea for a sign I would be happy to discuss the options.

The signs I make are exact in size and detail to the originals. All have bilingual text and any mileage (accurate or fictitious) can be added as standard.  Here are some specifications and details:

  • The signs are 250mm (10 inches) high and the average length is 750mm long (30 inches).
  • Length will vary depending upon the number of letters in the chosen name.
  • The letters are individually handmade and bonded to each sign.
  • The English text lettering is 75mm (3 inches) high.
  • The Irish text is 35mm (1 1/2 inches) high .
  • All signs are 6mm (1/4 inch) thick.
  • Celtic style lettering is also available for the Irish translation on any sign.
  • The white backround of the sign is 11mm (1/2 inch) thick.
  • The material the signs and letters are made from is called ‘foamex’. It is a pvc material. Completely weatherproof in all conditions, it is also uv resistant. It won’t fade.
  • These signs require no maintenance. But, good news, they can be washed with soap and water if necessary.
  • The signs can be single or double sided and double sided signs come complete with a powdercoated bracket (no maintenance).
  • The weight of a single sided sign is approx 800grms and a double sided with bracket weighs approx 2.5kg.  This makes them easy to handle and to ship anywhere using standard post.
  • The average cost of a sign is €65 for single sided, and €85 for double sided. Postage costs around €25.

Irish Style Mail Box - An Post

Recently I have also added another ‘Irish’ product. A Post box featuring the Irish harp and ‘An Post’ on the front. The family name can also be added on top if required. They are also made from 11mm foamex, and are fully lockable and weatherproof. The standard size box is for A4 size mail. I can also ship these worldwide.

The green and gold is the standard colour but I can also do black, blue or red. They are easy to fix to a pole, wall or gate.

All the signs and post boxes are made in my home in Moone, Co.Kildare, Ireland.

The appeal of the signs and the post boxes are their unique connection to Ireland. We all want ‘a little piece of home’ no matter where we are.  We want to make our little patch ‘just like home’.

There is nothing better than seeing a familiar sight, sign or even taste to remind us of where our heart is. We stand and stare when we come across them.  There’s no place like home.

Irish Mail Boxes

I hope these signs make that connection for you because I love making them, especially knowing they stir lovely memories of home for so many people.

The stories behind these signs, the people and the destination are always so heart warming. There are places I’ve never heard of in Ireland and I’ve sent them to places I’ve never heard of abroad. So it’s been an education and an opportunity to keep a little piece of the past alive.

Old Irish Signposts

If any readers would like to contact me for any reason or for more information , I would be delighted to reply, and answer all queries.

My Facebook page is called – Old Irish Road Signs and where you will find lots more examples of signs and products to browse through.

I can be contacted by e-mail:

approctor@eircom.net

oldirishroadsigns@eircom.net

phone – 011 353 86 3919162

 

Irish signpost as a gift

The Giveaway: 

 

Anthony from Old Irish Road Signs has generously donated a single sided sign as a prize for one of Irish American Mom’s readers. I think these signs would make wonderful Christmas gifts.

To enter our giveaway just leave a comment on this blog post by noon on Sunday, September 7th, 2014.  You can leave any comment you wish. What you write does not affect your chances of winning.

If you need some inspiration, why not tell us what name or location you would like to have inscribed on your sign should you win.

A winning comment will be chosen randomly.  Remember to leave your e-mail so I can contact you to arrange shipping of the prize.  Your e-mail won’t be published or shared, just used to contact our lucky winner.

The winner will be announced on Sunday September 7th, 2014 at the end of this post.

Best of luck to all our entrants and a big thank you to Anthony Proctor for sponsoring this fantastic prize for Irish American Mom’s readers.

 

September 7th, 2014 – We Have A Winner:

 

Congratulations to Patricia Awen Fey O’Luanaigh, who is our lucky winner.

Thanks to everyone who joined in and enter this little giveaway. It was lovely to read everyone’s comments and learn of all the wonderful places in Ireland that readers hold dear to their hearts.

And a big thank you to Anthony Proctor for sponsoring this wonderful prize. Wishing him every success with his business.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Irish American Mom receives a road sign for review purposes.   I do not receive cash payment for publishing guest posts, but do so to help spread the word about home businesses and artists. Thank you to all who support Irish and Irish American crafts people and their wonderful enterprises.

Memories Of Secret Coves, Hidden Steps and Pirate Queens

On the hill of Howth in north County Dublin a secret pirate cove awaits would-be explorers, daring enough to descend one hundred and ninety-nine steps carved out of the sheer cliff face.

In my post today, I once again hope to take you off the beaten path, and help you discover some of Ireland’s hidden treasures.

199 Steps In Howth

When I was a little girl growing up in Dublin, my grand aunt loved weekend outings with all my cousins in tow. One of our favorite hang outs was on the beach at the bottom of the “199 steps” in Howth.

My cliff stair collage above shows how these stone steps are carved out of the cliff, winding their way from the shore to Howth summit.

Looking Towards the Bailey Lighthouse Howth

This is Grace O’Malley territory. The famous Irish pirate queen visited Howth on many occasions.

My grandaunt loved to tell us this very cove was where Grace O’Malley always came ashore in Howth. Considering Grace O’Malley, or Granuaile in Irish (pronounced Graw-nea-wale) lived between the years 1530 and 1603, the truth of this tall tale may never be known.

Undeterred my grandaunt relayed stories of pirates working by torch light to hack and cut 199 steps from the rocky cliff face, to allow their pirate queen ascend to Howth’s summit undetected by the English.

Looking Down At the Cove Below 199 Steps in Howth

We loved to wind our way along the cliff path in search of the first step to this secret pirate cove. We looked down from on high dreaming of Grace’s lost treasure, just waiting behind some rock for our eager eyes to find.

Steps Leading to a Hidden Beach in Howth

Last summer I rediscovered these secret steps with my children.

Once I told them of potential pirate treasure, they made quick work of navigating the treacherous steps.

Grace O'Malley's Secret Cove in Howth

A sense of mystery and magic awaits on the rocky shore below.

Barnacle covered rock

You can easily imagine the pirate queen herself standing on top of this barnacle covered rock issuing orders to her crew of Mayo men.

A Strange Rock on an Irish Shore

This strange rock has not shifted since I was a little girl.

I imagined a big, strong pirate flung the smaller red rock across the beach with such force that it lodged into the larger boulder.

I’m certain there’s a perfectly sound geological explanation for this rock formation, but let’s face it, nothing beats a good pirate story.

Ireland's Shoreline - Rocky Beaches

This is no sandy beach. Shoes are definitely required for pebble covered shores…..

Seaweed Covered Rocks

……. and seaweed strewn rocks.

Searching for Pirate's Treasure

My kiddos were convinced Grace O’Malley’s treasure lay beneath the large rocks at the base of these cliffs. I spent hours as a child climbing those very rocks. In four decades they don’t seem to have budged even an inch.

The Beach Below 199 Steps in Howth

A small row boat could easily have been maneuvered close to the rocky shore at this very point, allowing the brave Grace reach dry land. 

O’Malley’s connections to Howth are not just part of my late grandaunt’s vivid imagination.

In 1576 Grace O’Malley tried to call upon Lord Howth at his castle only to be informed the family was at dinner and she was not a welcome guest.

 

Dublin Ferry From the Beach in Howth

This rejection did not sit well with the bold Grace. The Lord of Howth soon felt the full brunt of this pirate queen’s wrath, when she abducted his grandson and heir.

The terms of the child’s release included a promise from Lord Howth to keep the gates of his castle open to unexpected visitors, and to always set an extra place at every meal.

This pledge is still honored at Howth Castle to this very day, with an extra place setting laid at table.  I wonder if Grace’s ghost ever inspects the distance between the knife and fork.

This ferry passed as we roamed the shoreline, following in the wake of pirate vessels from years gone by. What a day, imagining ghosts and pirates roaming around searching for treasure.

199 Steps in Howth

And so, after an energetic day playing on a secret pirate cove in Howth, the long trek upward and homeward began. There are no cable cars or lifts to take treasure hunters back to the cliff top. The only way home is to shift one foot after the other until all 199 steps are finally surmounted.

For anyone interested in a stiff climb to a secret (or not-so-secret anymore) cove, access to the 199 steps lies on the left hand side of the cliff as you walk out the headland towards the Bailey Lighthouse. That’s all the information I’m willing to part with, and if you can’t find it, perhaps you’ll find the way on an old pirate treasure map.

Wishing you all happy trails, discovering your very own hidden Ireland.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom

 

Irish Cottage Kitchens Of Days Gone By

In traditional Irish cottages of days gone by, the kitchen was the central hub, witnessing the busy comings and goings of daily life. The turf-burning hearth was the focal point.

I have lovely, peaceful memories of my own granny’s kitchen. When I was a very young child a black kettle was constantly boiling, hanging from a pot hook over the open flames.

I remember the day the old hook was removed to make way for a brand new stove. I was only five or six years old at the time, but even then I knew this great change marked the end of an era.

Irish Cottage Kitchens of Days Gone By

In Granny’s kitchen the cuckoo clock chimed on the hour and half hour. Willow pattern plates stood proudly on the shelves of her dresser.

A red light burned beneath a picture of the Sacred Heart. An oil cloth covered a large oak table surrounded by old straight back chairs, some with wicker seats.

I wrote the following short poem to commemorate the loving memories I hold in my heart of Granny’s cottage kitchen.

 

Return In Thought

by Mairéad Geary

 

Return in thought
To granny’s cottage kitchen,
The dresser
Neatly stacked
With blue and white delph,
Ready and waiting
To supply
Endless cups of tea,
With currant cake
Slathered in creamy butter,
And sweet, red jam.

 

Irish Dresser

Return in thought,
To the scrubbed oak table,
Surrounded
By rickety, wicker chairs,
Ready and waiting,
To support,
Friendly players of forty-five,
Drinking tea and whiskey,
Pennies and shillings,
Neatly stacked ,
To wile away the hours.

 

Table In An Irish Parlour

Return in thought,
To flickering flames,
And turf sod fires,
Blackened pothooks,
Ready and waiting,
To support,
Boiling kettles.
Sweet soda breads,
Baking slowly
In the cast iron
Bastible.

 

An Irish Hearth
Return in thought
To well worn wash boards,
The rhythmic routine
Of clothes lines,
Ready and waiting,
To support,
The daily toil,
Of laundry.
White shirts,
And colored frocks,
Fluttering outside the window.

 

An Old Irish Washboard

Now let your thoughts stray
As summer breezes,
Swell those old
Lace curtains,
Ready and willing,
To transport,
The spirits,
Of our ancestors,
Back to the hearth and home,
That once,
They loved so well.

 

Lace Curtains In An Irish Cottage Window

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

Lingering Irish Twilight

Twilight is a mystical time, especially during summertime in Ireland. The sun struggles to set on the western ocean horizon, casting supernatural light across the waves and land. Here twilight is not measured in minutes or hours, but by magical, timeless moments.

Sunset and Twilight In Ireland

For most readers the word ‘twilight’ conjures up images of vampires and Stephanie Meyer’s saga. Not for me. Twilight reminds me of Ireland, where magical half-light lingers. 

American twilight is different, shorter and more business like, except I suppose in Alaska. In Kentucky, the sun heads for the horizon and achieves its goal in spectacular fashion.  Here in America we even praise the “twilight’s last gleaming” in our National Anthem.

In Ireland, the summer sun takes a little more time to finally set, lingering on the verge of the horizon, shedding mysterious half-light across ocean swells and patchwork fields.

Apparently Ireland is further from the equator than the lower 48 US states, lengthening Irish twilight hours in summer.

IMG_4135

The slow setting Irish summer sun creates a time when the faeries, the gatekeepers of the Celtic Otherworld, can spirit humans away to a land beyond time.

William Butler Yeats was inspired by twilight’s mystical light. His book The Celtic Twilight is a collection of Irish folklore. Here Celtic queens visit humble housewives, dead warriors spring to life, and blind storytellers share the secrets of our mythical past. This is Irish folk art at its finest. Yeats helped ensure these ancient tales would persist in the perpetual twilight of folk history.

When I was a little girl, my grandaunt Nan loved to read poetry. On the wall of her living room she had framed the following verse by Yeats. I read it over and over again as a little girl, enthralled by the magic of his words.

IMG_2565

He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven

W.B. Yeats

 

“Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

 

photo

James Joyce also used his talented pen to describe the beautiful colors of Irish twilight.

Chamber Music

by James Joyce

 

“The twilight turns from amethyst

To deep and deeper blue,

The lamp fills with a pale green glow

The trees of the avenue.”

Howth sunset

 There are a few words in the Irish language that refer to this time of day.

“Coimheascair” (pronounced kwiv ashkur) refers to twilight, but it also means struggle. Was the word applied to the end of day to highlight the struggle between sunlight and moon light? I like the poetic origins of this connection.

“Clapsholas” (pronounced clop hullus) means “last light”.

IMG_2870

Another word is “idirsholas” (pronounced idur hullus) meaning “between light”, or “idir an dá sholas ” (pronounced idur on daw hullus) meaning between the two lights.  Once again, beautifully poetic.

IMG_2859

The Donegal poet Cathal Sharkey writes of this time of day in the Gaelic Language. Here is a little excerpt of his lyrical, descriptive verse.

 

Níl Aon Ní

le Cathal O Searcaigh

 

“Níl aon ní, aon ní, a stór

níos suaimhní ná clapsholas smólaigh

i gCaiseal na gCorr,”

 

There is nothing, nothing, my love

More tranquil than a twilight of thrushes  starlings

In Caiseal na gCorr (pronounced Cashel na Gur)

 

This is my best effort at translating these beautiful words – any Gaelic scholars out there, please feel free to assist with the correct meaning in the comment section.  It’s many years since I studied Irish in school.

IMG_0903

And so, I hope these few thoughts about my fond recollections of Irish twilights will help you end your day on a positive note.  No matter how hard your day may be, I hope twilight is a reminder of all the wonders of life that lie ahead.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom