One thing I love about books is the way they transport you to places of magic. No sooner had I placed my bookmark in Peter Rabbit in Beatrix Potter’s front room at Hill Top Farm, than I found myself here, the Long Room in the Trinity Library, Dublin. This is the largest library in Ireland and holds some of the world’s most famous ancient illuminated manuscripts including the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow. I like that word – illuminated (it lights up my imagination) – and I’ve always thought books light up my mind, so I definitely want to see these two manuscripts, even if they are precious.
Do you think they’ll let a wee little possum take a peek?
Xanthe and I were delighted to find ourselves here – so much to see and read. We particularly liked the Long Room Hub because that’s where they catalogue children’s literature and digitise their wonderful collection so we can all have a read. We were so happy to visit, it was hard to wipe the smile from our faces…
From Dublin we started our circuit of Ireland – mostly along the coast. First, we headed for Blarney Castle in County Cork. On the way my companions were teasing me because they said I must have been here before – what with my winsome ways with words… I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered or offended.
Here we are approaching the castle which is actually the third castle to be built here. The first one was made of wood and built in the tenth century – I think I would have liked to see a wooden castle – wood’s more my style.
While we were there queuing for ages to kiss a stone that was supposed to make us ‘eloquent’, I overheard someone talking about a local library! I started getting impatient with the wait and asked if we could leave…
‘After all, you all said I already have the ‘gift of the gab’ didn’t you?’ I argued.
Apparently, my way with words wasn’t so winsome. We stayed in the queue. Eventually, we left the castle and went in search of the Blarney Library.
Here I am about to enter the library. The door is open – I hope they allow possums (perhaps if I’m really quiet they won’t notice me).
Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway was our next big stop.
The abbey was founded in 1920 by Benedictine nuns who fled Belgium in another of those World Wars. The Abbey is now well known as a place of learning. The building is much older than the 1920s of course, and is tucked away in beautiful gardens beside a lake and mountain. Despite the impressive size of the Abbey and castle, I preferred the outside to the inside so I set out to explore!
Here I am practicing my wall walking by the Lough (which I’m told means lake) and not falling in! (Yet another example of excellent possum-balance!)
On our way to County Donegal (heading as far north west as we can), Xanthe’s mother told us that Lonely Planet described County Donegal as the ‘wild child of Ireland’. This got me very excited because my family always referred to me as a ‘wild child’. Simply had to be my kind of place!
…And it is.
Even the castles have that wild feel about them and this little river is far from gentle or quiet (even if it’s a nice break from the windswept coastline of the Wild Altantic Way). I think I like this the best so far.
An arch greeted us at Londonderry (or Derry) in Northern Ireland. I was almost afraid to approach the walled city in case I wouldn’t be able to leave.
It took a while for Xanthe to convince me to enter, especially after she said it was completely walled.
‘Don’t be such a baby Blossom! Walls have never stopped you in the past, have they?’
No, I had to admit that was true – especially when there was an apple tree on the other side! However, just to be on the safe side, I decided to climb one of the walls and take a look.
Well… I supposed it was okay – ish… but I still wasn’t convinced and insisted I take another look, ‘…from a different perspective.’
…Well… I can’t see any apple trees, or parks, or possum-friendlies… I don’t think so thanks – but you guys go ahead!
After Londonderry we headed back to the coast and I insisted we stop to look at what I had decided was my special ‘wild place’ – County Donegal.
There it is, across the water – so near but so far! I just have to look a bit longer before we head off… I think its too far to swim…
We were now heading along the northern coast of Ireland along the Causeway Coast.
There are some amazing things to see along the way and we were stopping every few minutes.
As we were traveling, Xanthe started telling me about the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), and his fight with Scottish giant Benandonner. Apparently, they made a causeway (a land bridge) between Ireland and Scotland just by throwing rocks at each other!
I’m not sure I believe her. It’s just a story – but I love stories.
‘Don’t stop Xanthe!’