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Early risers catch the day's brightest sights and sounds


Grace McDonagh puts the final touches to C-more Cashel at the Connemara Pony Show 2015 in Clifden,  Co Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes

Grace McDonagh puts the final touches to C-more Cashel at the Connemara Pony Show 2015 in Clifden, Co Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes

Grace McDonagh puts the final touches to C-more Cashel at the Connemara Pony Show 2015 in Clifden, Co Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes

I love being up early in the morning, before the human world gets into full swing, especially on the bright sunny days we recently experienced to belatedly rescue the summer of 2015.

Having abandoned my husband Robin in the height/depth of the calving (he says we would just be in his way!), myself and the girls recently spent a fortnight in Caherdaniel, Co. Kerry with my sister and her family.

Whether it was up around Coomnahorna or down to Reen Beach, on most fine mornings, I was out on my bike before 8am as the sights, sounds and smells that time of day at this time of year are so special.

Vibrant, vivid and refreshed thanks to the dew, the natural world is already wide awake.

With little man-made noise for competition, sound travels far and clearly. Gushing mountain streams that later struggle to be heard over the traffic gurgle cheerfully as they rush over sparkling rocks.

The animal- and bird- life is busy having breakfast.

One morning, I passed a field of sheep that were bleating goody-o. It could have been lots of ewes calling to their offspring and vice versa.

Though there is also the possibility that their owner was giving them a shake of feed before heading off to a real job, having given up trying to make a living from farming.

On another, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of birds plunge-diving in Derrynane Bay.

Sometimes from a considerable height, they would shoot straight down into the water scarcely disturbing the surface and remerge moments later, sometime with a fish, sometimes not.

Superficially they looked like gulls but I know they swoop so, having consulted my trusty Collins Complete Irish Wildlife guide, believe that these birds were some kind of tern.

It was an exhilarating display of speed and grace.

But perhaps most special of all are the brief encounters with the people you might meet.

A lot of drivers, who are mostly locals, give you a salute.

There are only a few sparse souls up and about so there is a sort of camaraderie, that you are all part of the same thing.

Or could it just be that they are wondering who, in their right mind, would be out at this hour of the day by choice?

One morning, I was taking a breather down at Derrynane Pier when a number of fishermen drove in and I watched them get togged out, quickly and efficiently, all the while chatting softly.


Open the back of the jeep, lift out the characteristic yellow dungarees-over-wellies waterproof ensemble and stand it on the ground.

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Toe off one shoe and step into the matching leg unit, then the other, hitch the braces up over the shoulders, pull on a coat and, hey presto, they're ready for action.

I am interested in photography and the early morning light is a great time for taking snaps.

However, though tempted, I try not to take a camera with me all the time as I feel they have become a barrier to experience; that we miss out on the living of a moment at the expense of capturing it.

But one time I was sorry I didn't have a camera to hand was on a cycle out along Lamb's Head when I could see in front of me a small tent perched high on a sliver of rocky island just big enough to hold it, with the open sea swelling beyond.

In reality, it was only feet from the mainland but, on approach, it looked so isolated and vulnerable, like a last outpost. Next stop America.

This wasn't even the best part of it, though. On my way back, what did I see only a Collie at the front of the tent, stretching proudly skywards, as if he had just unzipped the flap himself and stepped outside for a pee.

It's a mental image that's both homely and slightly surreal which I will cherish.

Irish holiday homes never cease to surprise

Having rented several holiday homes in Ireland over the past 15 years, I am constantly amazed at the variation in how they are furnished and stocked.

Some are barely functional, with few well supplied.

One had loads of cupboard staples left by previous tenants, including rice, pasta, teabags and spices. Others don’t have salt and pepper. One had no tin-opener or chopping board. Another had no teapot. One lovely house had a wide range of books and a PlayStation, another just a 12 inch TV with a wonky rabbit ears aerial.

Another had a telescope. Some now even provide a welcome pack, with perhaps some milk and scones. Many have wi-fi.

There are often lots of beer glasses. But, for some presumably different reason, there are hardly ever enough kitchen knives, which are surely the most commonly used domestic implement.

Some have no outside tap which is a pain when you have wetsuits. But at least it’s better than the time we had to draw water to the toilet by bucket for almost our entire stay.

This year we stayed in Abbies’ Cottage and it was one of the best we have ever had. Towels were provided, there was a filter coffee machine, a radio and even a Tiffany style lamp. There was also a seaview, which is a big plus, and outdoor seating to enjoy it.


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