1) Treacle bread @ Atlantic View B & B
After arriving at Kerry Airport late morning, the guy (excellent at driving on the wrong side of the road and shifting with the left hand) drove through villages, and ferries up to the Cliffs of Moher, about a 2.5 hour drive. We arrived at Atlantic B & B ready to capture the light in the day and trek up to the Cliffs, about a 15 minute walk from Mary’s home. The house itself feels older than its 16 years, with dark wood and traditional farm house lace and leather chairs. Our room felt airy, and the windows overlooked the ocean in the distance. A lovely, rural and quiet setting, with gracious hosts who chatted with us for over 15 minutes in four different bouts, and truly, made me feel welcomed and easy
After a long hike along the cliff’s edge (see below) we returned to Mary’s home with the smell of yeast infused spice welcoming our return. Immediately, I beamed, and stepped out of demure guest mode and sought education: “what wonder are you baking?” Mary immediately showed the beautiful round loaf, cooling on a rack and announced “Treacle Bread.” Showing us the tin, it became apparent that the substance is likened to molasses, or a golden syrup. Historically, she informed me that for years it was considered “healthy” and a balm for the spirit (looking it up later, the sweet substance is all over Irish and UK culture…Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter). All I know is that during a 5 mile jog in the fog, my thoughts kept going back to the anticipation of the bread. And sure enough, heavy laden with nuts and fruits, it didn’t disappoint. Mary packed us 4 more slices to take with on our hikes later, which we ate with gusto. I requested the recipe, and Mary faithfully started listing it on the spot. I loved how easily she shared, and how it felt that it made her feel good to share. (recipe below!)
2) The Cliffs of Moher
The images we carry, that we visit despite time or distance or weakening of nerves, they define us. This path, lovely, alive, marking my sense of brevity and longevity and so so so grateful. I belonged to this lovely hiking path and I doubt I ever will again call something mine. Considering that in the past year I’ve trekked the Great Wall of China and Plitvice Lakes, this is a monumental statement. Something about the coolness of the weeping wind, the sound of the heavy crash of the tides against the rocks 400-700 feet below, muffled into gentility by the distance, and my softening perception. Something about how my nose leaked, my eyes stretched against the teals,
azures, hazels, ambers, heathers, the sand, the grave. Something about
the smell of autumn-in-the-present meeting ageless rock, meeting woman,
man, walking. Talking. Being silent. Marveling. Working. Accepting.
70% of the Irish weekend was spent a walking…and half of that near the
cliffs in a field populated by sheep and cows and mud. And lucky for me,
I had these lovely ladies to keep my feet dry, and peppy. Sure, they
weighed my legs down. But after the 3rd note of appreciation from Irish
locals, I think I sort of had a crush on them. Walking over 40K probably
in these beauts, well, they did me right, they did.
4) Walking through Ruins
Ever been out on a walk when you come upon 1200 year old architecturally
sound ruins? Well, we happened to stroll through Oratories, Churches,
homes, and forts, spanning from 500-1300 years old. And still
functional. The sight walking up to this one church, the fog surrounding
it as if listening familiar, and a sense of being redeemed. The place
felt holy to me. Kilmalkedar church actually served as a monastery as
well. I wondered at the ohgam script, or ancient celtic writing, on a stone.
This stone, predating the church by almost 900 years, felt holy. Perhaps
it was because I had already read earlier that the hole in the top was
ceremoniously used in contract making. People would place their thumbs
to touch in the hole, and “seal” the deal. (and continues, sometimes to
come in “handy”)
5) The People
Every single Irish person smiled at me. Imagine walking into a pub, where a small group of 6 friends had already knocked back a few. They greet you warmly, before continuing to take turns singing songs to each other. The ambience of making strangers feel at home, while you comfortably relax with those you’ve known your whole life…well, that felt truly special.
There’s something powerfully awakening and calming about the lush quietness of the Irish Kerry County.
A place I am longing to get back to in 20 years, to say that I am alive.
And that I remember you.
500g/1lb Odlums Cream Plain Flour
2 tablespoons Treacle (Irish Molasses) heated in 3 tablespoons (fresh milk)
1/2 pint of Milk (approx) Buttermilk
2 tablespoons Sugar
4 ozs butter or margarine
1 lb sultanas
1 teaspoon Baking powder
1 teaspoon Bread Soda.
1 teaspoon of Mixed Spice
Pinch of Cinnamon (if you wish).
- Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas 5. Grease a tin with flower.
- Heat the treacle and milk over a low heat. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Rub in the butter or margarine and mix until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Then add the fruit.
- Add egg, treacle and sufficient milk to mix to a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface and lightly knead. Shape into a round and place in prepared tin, make a cross on the top of dough.
- Place into preheated oven and bake for about 50 minutes. Wrap in a clean tea towel until cold. Serve hot or cold with butter.