Dispatches from Ireland: Killary Fjord

Killary Fjord–the only fjord in Ireland on the north side of Connemara

 August 18th, 2018

We woke to light rain and ate toast and came off the island across unhurried swells. On the mainland, in Ros a’ Mhil, I hear a last lilt of the Irish tongue in a group of fisherman smoking and talking around the quay. The only word I can remember is bainne—milk. Mary, the sweet, frail-boned woman who cared for us at the b and b would come out to the breakfast table and ask,

“And do you have the bainne?”

Yes Mary, we have the bainne. It is on the table in a glass pitcher. And then we’d ask her for the second or third time how to say “Thank you.”

“Guh,” she’d say and pause to make sure we said it back correctly.




All together, “Go raibh maith agat”—May you have goodness—repeated until it was to her liking.

Away from Inis Meain we have traded hardscape for softscape, low and sere for high and rounded. Granite is no longer the erratic but protrudes like knuckles from beneath the sedge and peat. Rock walls are present but lie further apart and are made of rounded squares and rectangles rather than slices of limestone. Sheep are now the grazing animal of choice. All the high ground is clear of trees.

We drive a narrow, bumpy road through boglands which locals are said to avoid at night. Peat has been cut out in rectangles from this landscape to burn in stoves.IMG_4668

We keep going, driving through Clifden and Letterfrack, around to the north side of the Connemara peninsula, to the only fjord in Ireland. Close to the fjord is the town of Renvyle, a place where the Irish poet Eamon Grennan finds inspiration for his words in Start of March, Connemara:

Rock and water have to be
our elements here, and today’s buffeting air—which these
rain-plovers pay no mind to, a little tribe rising as one, spinning
into the wind, whistling their shrill excitement in flight: glitterwings
making their mark against the green gape-water, then gone.        IMG_4670                              

It is succulent language, soaking its substance from the rock and water itself. Walking along Killary Fjord, rock forms the substrate and structure and water seems to be the only element around and upon it: the constant trickle of cascades tossing themselves down the steep green slopes; rain, arriving for the first time in steady measure, soaking us through; the still fjord, with buoyed rafts to grow mussels up and down its length; and the clouds giving a far-away, mystery-laden look to the V between the mountains at the foot of the fjord.

It is all goodness, and makes us smile in spite of our wet clothes.

Or even, because of our wet clothes.



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