There's no better way to appreciate the power of a village than to visit our own home-grown beauties...
Last month in IMAGE magazine, I wrote about being newly office-bound and the power of being part of a village, aka the office team.
Over the past two months, I’ve seen the power of this IMAGE village as everyone worked together to launch Ireland’s first ever beauty festival. Over two days, we hosted more than 30 speakers and 17 sessions, as well as countless moving parts. The energy was as inspiring as the ideas were rich.
The event, of course, was incredible and the feedback as glowy as Patrick Ta’s signature make-up look.
A beauty festival would not be a natural fit for me (hold the giggles, ladies who know me), but my thirtysomething self found myself, again, strangely comfortable. This was something I planned to reflect on as I took a boat to Cape Clear Island the following weekend.
I say “planned” because the reality was a hilarious rollercoaster-like transit that left no time for reflection.
"After eating our way through Ballydehob and stocking up at Schull’s Sunday farmer's market, we were bound for Ireland’s most southerly island."
I spent many childhood summers in Schull, Co Cork. I couldn’t tell you what we did during those days, but I remember rock pools, eyeing up French students and trips to all of the islands close by.
So, it was the perfect place to land, with the added benefit of the West Cork foodie scene.
Related: East Cork's Ironman beauty
We ate our way through Ballydehob, where a childhood favourite – Annie’s – is now a delight as Budds, making sure to have an essential stop-off in Levis before being summoned into the town hall at 11pm to pull that week's lotto winners (all in a Saturday night's work for me).
We sang with a band in Hackett's, chatted to neighbours in Kitty's (official name: Newmans, but I remember mum and dad always greeting Kitty Newman behind the bar) and ate lobster and chips with a bottle of Sancerre and the (then foster) pup under the table in the fish shop, L'Escale, in Schull harbour.
And then we stocked up at Schull’s Sunday farmer's market and were bound for Ireland’s most southerly island.
Cape Clear is a Gaeltacht (Oileán Chléire), with a winter population of 130 people that triples in summer. I recalled hilly walks, goat’s milk ice-cream (still there, still yum) and views to Fastnet Rock. All in all, a much more natural fit for me... Irish language aside.
Cape Clear ferry
"Our skipper cast a laughing look at our optimism and even slowed the vessel to give us a chance to relocate before we hit open water."
As we stepped aboard the ferry, I savoured the smell of the sea as I tucked the unsure foster mutt under my arm. On this new vessel - which recently had the Dutch royal family aboard for a tour of Cork harbour - there’s a sheltered indoor area downstairs, but we chose the top deck, along with a new friend and his Newfoundland dog.
Realistically, he probably just couldn’t get the giant dog downstairs.
Our skipper cast a laughing look at our optimism, told us it was going to be an unusually wavy passage and even slowed the vessel to give us a chance to relocate before we hit open water. But where would be the fun in that?
We sat tight and then whooped, shouted and laughed as the waves cascaded over us. We felt that almost-rollercoaster buzz as the vessel paused for just a moment before dipping with the swell. My mouth was full of salty water just because I could not stop my full-on belly laughs. My photographs are non-existent because, well, there was no time for that.
The three adults (all children were wisely on the lower deck) and two dogs came ashore soaked-through, with runners squelching and tummies tired from the giggles.
At Cotters Bar, we de-robed as much as it was decent to do so to dry off and warmed up with hot whiskeys.
The Cape Clear Ferry crew – namely Niamh - arrived with a spare hoodie and T-shirt for me. I meant every word of my enthusiastic thanks.
"For years, I’ve taken every opportunity to jump on a plane. Happy to travel in company, delighted to travel solo, travel is, for me, a joy."
The laughter followed us as we crossed the island, exploring, chatting and making new friends at every incredible view. We stopped at Chleire Haven, chatted to the owner and marvelled at their business. From their yurts, you can rise to views that will rival anywhere in the world.
We explored towers, walls, trails and picnic-ed in a gateway. It was bliss.
Jump on a plane
Travel – everywhere and anywhere – is a natural fit for me. For years, I’ve taken every opportunity to jump on a plane. Happy to travel in company, delighted to travel solo, travel is, for me, a joy. It is the chance to connect with nature and communities, to awaken senses, taste new flavours and seek new experiences.
Three years ago, I started dating a man who showcases Ireland to tourists. I had always been proud to be Irish, but suddenly, I was exploring regions I’d only, embarrassingly, read about.
Cape Clear was my chance to show him somewhere new and to feed our desire for new experiences and community connections.
View this post on Instagram
It's time to repeat this: I LOVE islands 💞 We had all the craic on our adventure from Schull and that was only the start of it. I adore visiting islands (Sao Tomé é Príncipe, Sicily, Corsica, any of the many in SE Asia... you get the idea) and I absolutely loved returning to a childhood favourite Cape Clear Island. Get on board people and enjoy our bounty. It took me way too long to get back here and we laughed, hollered and made friends on the journey. And that was before we even stepped off the Cape Clear Ferries swanky vessel. #lovetravel #explore #waw #westcork #ireland #outdoors #islandlife #laugh #love #adventuresofafosterpup
I might not have given the self-reflection the attention it deserves, but I certainly had a giggle and fed my soul.
And I came back to the office armed with a new travel guide and a chléire appreciation for our incredible Irish villages.
I see a summer of adventure ahead.
Read more: Shedding imposter syndrome
Read more: Ireland's best-kept towns
Read more: 'West Cork' the podcast