I am in Bantry, West Cork, attending the West Cork Literary Festival where this afternoon I am In Conversation with the Irish writer, Alice Taylor, talking about gardens and the healing powers of the earth, and throughout the week I am teaching a workshop on Memoir writing. I was here for the same workshop last year and the fifteen students and I had a very memorable time working together. It certainly inspired me, listening as they read from their work and we shared our stories with one another. Sometimes, it is inspiring to sit in a room and listen to ‘new voices’ whether they are intending to attempt to get published or not. So, I will be having great fun this week with a new group of students.
If you don’t know West Cork, then I recommend a visit. I have been here many times and always find a new place that offers me the ‘Wow’ factor all over again. This time, I hired a car at Cork airport and took two days to drive along the Wild Atlantic Coast Route just as far as Bantry. There are hundreds of miles to drive beyond this little fishing town but, alas, on this trip I cannot stay beyond Saturday.
This photo is Henry’s, a traditional stone cottage with a modern extension transformed into a small guest house. It is where I stayed on Saturday evening, in the middle of nowhere, high on a bluff beyond Clonakility. If you are looking for a place to retreat to, to read and walk, I thoroughly recommend it. Marie and Pat Henry, owners of the establishment, will give you a real Irish welcome and a very hearty breakfast. I was sorry I did not have a few days to spare to stay on and walk the beaches and proceed with my novel, but that’s life and I was thrilled to have found this retreat.
In this second photo, you can just about see Castle Freke in the distance. I took this snap from the beach, but had visited the park of the castle the night before after dinner in Clonakilty. The castle is part of Ireland’s Anglo-Irish history. Built on the site of an older castle by Sir John Evans-Freke in 1780, it had been burned out in a fire and until recently had fallen into ruin and was listed in the Ruins of Ireland but, I understand from Pat and Marie, is now being renovated. Some say, it is one of the most haunted estates in Ireland! It is certainly a substantial old pile and cries out for a story. As we drove through the park late at night we came across a blazing bonfire on the edge of its woods. Squatters or travellers were enjoying an illicit midnight barbecue in the grounds… I had fears of yet another fire!
Well, to work. My first morning of the workshop. So, I am both nervous and hugely looking forward to this busy week ahead.