FLAGGY SHORE

The Flaggy Shore  Photo: © M. Brogan

The Flaggy Shore Photo: © M. Brogan

A friend who introduced me a year ago to the beautiful Flaggy Shore walk near the Burren in County Clare texted this morning to say that the walk had been ‘wiped out’ owing to storm damage in the last 48 hours. They had enjoyed a walk there just after Christmas but found the path along the shoreline from which you can look across to Galway Bay had been covered in stones and pebbles and seaweed, washed up by the high waves.

The facebook page for the Flaggy Shore reported yesterday that they had “just heard from the Fahy’s of Linnalla Ice Cream fame that the road near the Marine Research Station on the Flaggy Shore has been destroyed by wave action. The combination of a spring tide and storm surge together with high waves caused extensive damage. Massive boulders used to protect some land between Lough Muree and the Martello Tower have been dislodged and fields flooded with seawater. County Council workers are trying to deal with the damage as best they can. More harsh weather is expected“.

Flaggy Shore January 2013  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Flaggy Shore January 2013 Photo: © Michael Fisher

This time last year it was a very different scene and the weather was relatively mild. However the storm in recent days has badly affected parts of County Clare, especially Lahinch where major damage was done to the promenade area.

Seamus Heaney portrait by Colin Davidson 2013 Photo: © Michael Fisher

Seamus Heaney portrait by Colin Davidson 2013 Photo: © Michael Fisher

The stretch of shoreline at the Flaggy Shore, Finvarra near New Quay was mentioned by the late Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney in his poem Postscript (1996). He refers to a flock of swans at “a slate-grey lake”  at Lough Murree. Hopefully the walk will eventually be restored as it is one of the nicest I have ever done. Thankfully it appears that little damage has been done to any property in this sparsely populated area.

Swans at Lough Murree beside the Flaggy Shore, January 2013  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Swans at Lough Murree beside the Flaggy Shore, January 2013 Photo: © Michael Fisher

Meanwhile as the storm rages on, it is reported that the popular Moville shore path alongside Lough Foyle leading towards Greencastle County Donegal has also suffered damage.

TRAINS BOATS & PLANES

Titanic Belfast New Year's Day 2014  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Titanic Belfast New Year’s Day 2014 Photo: © Michael Fisher

Welcome to 2014 and as travel in its various shapes and forms is very prevalent at this time of year I am starting with trains, boats and planes, as well as Shanks’ mare. On New Year’s Day 2013 my friends introduced me to the delights of a walk along The Flaggy Shore in County Clare and it inspired the development of my (almost) daily blog. Weather conditions were very different this time for the New Year party with the same group of friends, this time gathering at our house in South Belfast. A late brunch today was followed by a card game (gin rummy). The rain kept on coming down but by 3pm it was clear enough to go out for our annual New Year walk. Rather than heading for the Lagan towpath where we walked in the snow four yeas ago, we headed for Holywood along the North Down coast and began our walk on the promenade beside the railway station.

Blackford Dolphin oil rig at Harland & Wolff with plane coming in to land  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Blackford Dolphin oil rig at Harland & Wolff with plane coming in to land Photo: © Michael Fisher

On our way home we went for a drive in the Titanic Quarter where the Titanic Belfast visitor centre had been lit up for the holiday period. We also saw the 360-ft high oil rig Blackford Dolphin which is being re-fitted at the Harland and Wolff yard, having been towed here from Brazil. It has become Belfast’s unofficial Christmas tree!

THE FLAGGY SHORE

Flaggy Shore

Flaggy Shore

A New Year trip to Kinvara County Galway gave me the opportunity to explore some of the beautiful scenery around the Burren in County Clare. Our host brought us for a walk along the Flaggy Shore at New Quay. The final section of the loop gave us a good view of the limestone flag stones along the shoreline. Across the bay in the distance we could see Galway, Salthill and the Barna Road leading towards Spiddal. In the distance you could spot the martello tower at Finnevarra. But on this occasion we did not have time to visit the tower. After parking the car at the beach, walking westwards, we took a left hand turn and started a gently uphill ascent past Mount Vernon.

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

Checking the origin of the property on my return home I discovered the building was once the summer home of Lady Gregory of Coole Park and it has a place in Irish literary history. Among those entertained there were WB Yeats, AE (George Russell), Synge, O’Casey and George Bernard Shaw. It is now part of Hidden Ireland’s Historic Houses, offering upmarket accommodation and dining. There is a more recent literary connection. This stretch of shoreline was mentioned by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney in his poem Postscript (1996). He refers to a flock of swans at “a slate-grey lake” and  sure enough when you walk over the hill and along the other side you come to Lough Murree. There as the path continues along the lough shore, a group of swans was busy ducking and diving at one end of the lake.

Lough Murree

Lough Murree

This is certainly a scenic spot but underneath the beauty there is also a story of a tragedy over 40 years ago that claimed the lives of nine schooldchildren. Looking at the short distance across the water from the harbour at New Quay to Aughinish Island it is hard to imagine so many casualties occurred here. But a more close look at the tide will reveal just how dangerous a spot this is, with currents from different directions meeting in the middle and clashing with each other. Here on June 29th 1969 nine schoolchildren lost their lives when a boat on its maiden voyage overturned in the choppy waters. The disaster was covered by Kerry photojournalist Padraig Kennelly and pictures of the search operation can be found in his archive.

Shoreline near New Quay

Shoreline near New Quay