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The Southern Star's alternative guide to St Patrick's weekend

March 15th, 2022 8:00 AM

By Elaine Desmond

The Southern Star's alternative guide to St Patrick's weekend Image
Kick your long-weekend off right with a walk to Three Castle Head

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Not a fan of standing around watching St Patrick's Day parades? Elaine Desmond's alternative guide to St Patrick's weekend in West Cork could be just what you need!

Find your own shade of emerald with The Southern Star’s alternative guide to St Patrick’s Weekend.

Revel in green pride minus the parades. Shine a light on Irish culture and place by going your own green way.

Maybe you’re still crowd-shy? Parade through these activities following your own route.

Three Castle Head Walk

Like Patrick, a man on a mission, The Young Offenders mission was equally zealous. Double up on missionary eagerness by following the trail of those intrepid bargain hunters on Three Castle Head.

Follow the well marked path uphill. Step around the sheep (no shepherd like Patrick required here) – a recent walker hurried past fazed by ewe-stares. Shades of Sally O’Brien mingled with Tony Soprano.

An infinity pool of Atlantic Ocean hangs down to your left, you might totter with vertigo and realign your sight and footing. Continue on over the spur of the hill where first views of the Castle ruin dripping into the lake will swipe you sideways.

Other West Cork walks have similar drama

Leave here as if you have not been – private land demands respect. These sheep will come for you otherwise. Capiche?

Or in keeping with St. Patrick’s weekend.....Tuig?

Cape Clear

Practice your cúpla focail by ferrying 8 miles offshore to Cape Clear island for an alternative St.Patrick’s weekend.

Like the English Patient’s Cave outline resembling a woman’s shoulder, Cape’s hazy silhouette is supine and heavily pregnant from a distance.

This island is packed with activities to keep you marching throughout St.Patrick’s weekend.

Visit Ed Harper’s goat farm where arriving at milking time might mean your assistance is borrowed.

You will give it gladly, listening to Ed while he croons and pacifies his beloveds. He knows each one individually by touch and personality. Ed is blind.

These lucky animals strut their stuff on the hillock edge overlooking Roaring Water Bay. Try their cheese and ice cream following the views as you walk further around the island.

Pass the Heritage Centre, it opens in June but if you call 028 39119 special opening arrangements might be made. Exhibition items gloriously fill every inch.

A replica of the Cape Clear stone is also displayed with markings similar to Newgrange.

The shipwreck panels include the Lusitania with one of its deckchairs washed in to Cape, open and ready for reclining. Someone who lay there might have been one of the bodies caught in nets by local fishermen.

Stop by the southeast of the island at the disused lighthouse built in 1818 but too often shrouded in fog.

Its light dimmed in 1854 when the first version of the Fastnet replaced it. More views spill about on all sides here.

The horseshoe shaped South Harbour is worthy of a quick dip, wetsuit or skin inclined.

If the sun shines on your visit here, the turquoise sparkle like thousands of splintered blue-green mirrors might lure you in whether your skin protests or not.

Wipe off your binoculars at North Harbour’s bird observatory, established in 1959, Cape is one of Ireland’s premier bird watching locations. Peaceful air attracts many bird varieties, artists and writers also.

Discover where to spot Meadow Pipits, Little Grebes, Willow Warblers, Choughs and many, many more.

Maybe your heart will stir for a bird like Hopkins: 'the hurl and gliding Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding Stirred for a bird,'

A few wagtail hops away from the observatory, whisk yourself back to the 4th century at the pier front.

A well attributed to Ciarán, Cape Clear’s own patron saint, faces the harbour below the ruins of a 12th century church.

Allegedly Ciarán was born in the 4th century and credited as the first person in Ireland to preach Christianity.

Maybe this St Patrick’s bank holiday is really rooted in a West Cork man. Just sayin’ . . .

Rossmore Drama Festival

Add to the drama of St. Patrick’s weekend with a trip to Rossmore’s amateur dramatic festival.

Audience clapping will be even more enthusiastic this year after a two year hiatus.

The tradition of oral story telling, seanchaí, lengthy ballads and scoraíocht could be why most towns and many villages in Ireland boast an amateur drama group. We love to tell and we love to listen.

A good line well spun is a great days work.

Any pithy one line response garners respect, pub stool repetition the ultimate accolade. And great plays have great lines.

On March 17th Ballyduff Drama Group performs ‘Rabbit Hole’, the 2007 Pullitzer Prize winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire.

March 18th is the final night and prize giving ceremony. Brideview Drama from Tallow will stage Martin McDonagh’s masterpiece The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

Why not extend your alternative bank holiday weekend by attending from the first night on March 11th to see John B. Keane’s Sive’or Synge’s classic Playboy of the Western World on March 12th.

The latter is a perfect introduction to St Patrick’s weekend  – isn’t Christy someone who becomes someone else in another place, like a transformation from shepherd-slave to saint?!


Ballyvourney and Coolea are villages in the Gaeltacht area of Muskerry.

Include a visit in your alternative St Patrick’s weekend as a tribute to Gobnait, patron saint of bees and healers (keep the gender balance on the saintly front), composer Seán Ó’Riada and poet Seán Ó’Riordáin. A parade of Irishness.

Legend states Gobnait left Co. Clare with instructions to stop at the place of nine white deers, spotting these by the River Sullane where she built her monastic site.

Today you can visit her monument by sculptor Seamus Murphy and her well in Ballyvourney, leave a token, drop a bee bomb.

Ó’Riada also moved to this region, (albeit the 1960’s). Influential in the revival of traditional Irish music he also created evocative compositions and scores for several films, including Mise Éire.

The latter’s emotive horn solo could be the theme for your alternative St Patrick’s weekend.

Poet Seán Ó’Riordáin born in Ballyvourney in 1916 was the most important and influential Irish-language poet of modern times, revitalising poetry in Irish.

All this stress on Irishness however does not mean this green-fest weekend isn’t multi-coloured. It is a celebration of past, present and landscape, we’re simply chuffed to live here and everything fits.

Everyone fits. We are of the world. Parade us together an Riordánach.

there’s not a single spot anywhere we’re not a part of. We issue from everywhere

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