Off we raced through the countryside, up mountains of desolate, untamed land, through valleys quilted with verdant farms. A quick stop at Glenquin Castle, a 16th century tower house in intact form. Closed for the season, but we could peer inside through slotted walls and imagine the landowner and lord of this castle inviting us in for tea.
Which is nearly exactly what happened, except the landowners were none other than Con and Lily Greaney, Ger's parents. In another "this only happens in Ireland" story, two cars and seven people pulled up for an unplanned stop, were invited in for tea, homemade bread, cake, a farm tour, and hugs and an invitation to return. Incredible hospitality, openheartedness and, well, donkeys. It doesn't get better than this.
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Con Greaney is the son of another Con Greaney, the famous traditional Irish singer, whose vocal styling and good humor were legendary.
Let's pause here and enjoy a little "Nancy Hogan's Goose" from 1997.
Too soon, we sped away from our lovable host and hostess to our main destination for the day, Knockfierna (the Hill of the Fairies). A long hike in the mist and wind, up, up, up on a dirt trail where the footprints of cattle left mud craters and, um, patties.
We climbed through famine houses left behind in the mid 1800's, when families fled to this hill of common land to escape eviction and starvation.
Views to the left of us, views to the right. And dueling voices...Ger Greaney with history, folklore and anthropological observations and Damian Stack with show tunes, bawdy jokes and witticisms.
And then we were at the top. A 360 degree view of six surrounding counties. Ireland, in all her glory, as far as the eye could see. Birds floated on wind drafts below us. Hush and awe.
Our magical tour with skilled guides came to an end. Weary, mud-covered travelers were ready to end the day. Until Ger Greaney admonished us to get off our lazy butts (well, not those words exactly, but that was the gist of it) and get out for the evening for traditional Irish music. And so we did.
Trad music at Christy's was well worth the late night. Many thanks to Billy Keane for the recommendation! And now enjoy a little sample for yourself...