Enjoying the Sights, Sounds and Smells of Ireland at Christmas Time
There’s a reason that so many fairy tales include castles and that kids dream of having their own fort. Castles and forts, they are the sparks for imagination and the beginnings of great stories. We are staying near Kinsale and have walked around the grounds of James Fort and Charles Fort – two stone historical structures guarding either shore at the port of this small town in West Cork. You can walk around the premises and enjoy the beautiful harbor views looking out onto the endless Atlantic or back in towards the colorful town. There are stone tunnels that would have provided access points to the fort and down by the water a walled tower blockhouse remains where the prisoners were once kept. Staircase remnants show how people once maneuvered the old structures and purposeful gaps in walls provided visibility to incoming threats. On the blue-sky Saturday that we visited, families were walking with their children and dogs around the grounds. Kids kept wandering off to explore around another corner or crevice only to be called back over and over by their parents. These grounds provide a magical setting and one where you try to transport yourself back in time to understand the events and people that walked the land long ago.
Surrounded by so many ancient architectural structures, rocky coastlines, and rolling hills, there is something lyrical about Ireland. My imagination starts to run wild at various times throughout the day for some reason. A stranger walking by on an isolated road makes me question what is their story? Where are they from? Where are they going? Why? Sitting in our rental one day, my wife and I saw a man and a woman coming up over a large grassy hill in wetsuits, barefoot, and holding hands. Had they been swimming and got pulled out to sea only to recover by grasping to the rocks and successfully pulling themselves to safety? Were they kayaking when a huge wave took their paddles and left them bruised and stranded? Or had they just murdered someone in a remote cottage and were now walking away to their escape? (C’mon, we’ve all read Hansel and Gretel!) Similarly, while out for a walk, we can come across an out of place item tossed along the roadside and we can create a whole short story as to how that arrived there! Surprisingly, we are (mostly 😉) sober during all of these discussions!
You start to understand why so many great story tellers have come from Ireland. The scenery, people, and culture feed your imagination and provide vessels for songs and books and poems. Perhaps it is also the quiet or solitude of being somewhere else that allows our imagination to percolate. We all know that the busyness of life provides little time for creative thinking – or even just thinking sometimes! Perhaps it is also why children can make an empty box into any fort or castle they want it to be as they are alone in their thoughts and can allow their inner creativity to be released.
As my wife and I walked along one of the coastline cliffs on a foggy morning recently, past large stone pillars, a cemetery, and a beautiful country house with horses that overlook the forts down below, she got out her phone and played Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill”. “What are you doing?” I said to her. She smiled and asked if I could imagine growing up here, running around these hillsides. Playing near the forts. Looking at these views. That feeling of no responsibilities, living large, laughing, and enjoying the sunsets. We were doing it (kind of – we still had work and responsibilities!). We agreed we need to remember this feeling and carve out time for forts and castles and creative storytelling just like kids do. Time to escape reality, tap into our imagination and write our next fairytale adventure!
Christmas is a great time to do just that. There’s a reason the kids were nestled with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Enjoy the sights and sounds and smells of the holidays. Perhaps some Celtic Christmas music will allow you some time to let your mind wander to far off forts and castles!
Sláinte - Cheers!