I arrived in Dublin on July first, and was so thrilled to just be back in a city. To celebrate on the first night I got Thai takeout from around the corner and watched Netflix in bed. It was everything I needed.
In the following days I soaked up the city. At the encouragement of my Mom I went to the Trinity College Library, because she thought I would love it. She, of course, was right. Tall ceilings, rich wooden shelves, ladders, stacks of books. It’s like a little slice of Harry Potter heaven. There was a visit to the Irish Whiskey Museum, which included a delicious tasting flight. I walked through the General Post Office where you can still see bullet marks on the facade from the 1916 Easter Rising. The exhibit on the Rising in the basement of the GPO was excellent and gave a lot of context leading up to and following the Rising. I spent one morning in the National Library of Ireland seeing if I could add to any of my genealogy research. In the evening I took a dance class, the first one since I had started traveling in January. It felt so good! My last night in Dublin I went out for a decadent meal at an Indonesian restaurant named Chameleon thanks to a send-off gift card from my client in DC, Scout Bags. It was so much food and all so delicious. The following day I had lunch at the Shelbourne, the hotel on St Stephen’s Green where the English established a strategic position to assault rebels during the Rising.
Then it was time to head north. I spent a couple nights in the town of Dundalk, where some of my family had been from in the mid 1800s. It’s a nice sleepy little town right on the coast. My accommodation was a Bed and Breakfast, the only one I did on my trip, and I totally loved it. My room had a skylight and beautiful wallpaper. After lots of staying in hostels it felt wonderfully indulgent to have a room and bathroom all to myself. Last stop on this little leg was just over the boarder into Northern Ireland at the coastal town of Newcastle, where I spent a few nights and took walks in the countryside.
The month of June I spent on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands, just across from the Isle of Skye. I stayed with two musicians, Sandra and Lorna, and Sandra’s mom Mary, on the family croft 5 miles outside the tiny village of Glenelg. It is far and away the most remote place I’ve ever (temporarily) called home. After a half hour bike ride into town I would hang out at the local pub for their internet and the company of the resident dog.
The scenery in the area is beautiful. Along the road to town there are two ancient brochs; Iron Age circular stone structures. They are open to the public and you can climb around in them, which I did on several occasions. In town there is a ruin of an English military barracks, built in 1725 and used during the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The Outlander lover in me found this sight fascinating.
Sandra and Lorna played at the pub a few times while I was there which was great fun. They were wonderful hosts, and we had a great time together.
While spending more time in the Highlands I got to know a family that runs a croft outside of Inverness in Knockfarrel, with organic produce and pork. Crofts are small land holdings for farming that were created as a response to the population upheaval after the Highland Clearances. Jo and Lorna bought their croft, Ian Mhor, 8 years ago from a family that had owned it for 7 generations, since the creation of the crofting system in 1886. Lorna works for the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency but loves the croft and hopes to see it become productive enough to work there full time. Jo was originally an economist who studied the viability of community supported agriculture and decided to put his money where his mouth was. He said that he couldn’t just sit there and watch everyone else have all the fun. Together the two of them are implementing sustainable practices in their farming. They sell their produce and pork products through their own subscription box service and at farmers markets.
During my stay in Knockfarrel I did some little trips around the area. I visited the town of Cromarty right on the coast, which is lovely. The old stone houses have such wonderful charm and the views of the water are relaxing. I spent time walking in the countryside. The rolling hills are stunning, and there are ruins of an Iron Age fort on the hill overlooking the croft. There was a local wool festival that I attended, complete with a bagpipe band, of course.
More from the Croft
kaitlin k walsh
Adventurer armed with a camera.