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Sunday 17 December 2017

West Side Story that should never have been staged

The sweet smell of turf wafting to my nose is surely one of the most gorgeous aromas ever. I try to sit up straight, but I'm far too comfortably ensconced in a well-worn armchair.

This old Chesterfield might have posed a similarly pleasurable dilemma for Sherlock Holmes or Charles de Gaulle.

You can imagine them puffing on their pipes as they plotted from the cosy confines of this blood-red alcove.

Indeed, de Gaulle did ruminate in this very chair.

Thankfully, one does not need to be presidential to share the experience. Cashel House Hotel is not cheap in any sense, but nor does it cost a dignitary's ransom.

It is a serene oasis amid the desolate beauty of Connemara. In the library, cameos of long-gone patriots surround the inlaid fireplace. One is of the wonderfully named author and artist, Samuel Lover.

And this is a place for lovers of old. The turf smoulders within a magnificent black marble fireplace, the centre-piece clock festooned with cherubs.

Maybe they shot golden arrows into me, because it feels like I've stepped back in time.

For this house is largely devoid of modern paraphernalia. And all the better for it.

As I clutch my brass-ringed key, I wonder about the 'improvements' of modern hotels. Do they enhance our experience?

Take credit-card style door keys; don't they remind you of the transactions in daily life from which you're trying to take a break? Or heating systems usually too smart for their own good, their endless glitches leaving you baking to death in the middle of the night, unable to change the temperature?

Many of us use leisure centres to keep fit. But do you need the so-called luxury of one on holiday, or the accompanying odour of chlorine?

Connemara reminds me of the Bedouin settlements I saw in the Sinai desert. Their way of life respected the delicate ecosystem of a similarly arid landscape. Now tourist resorts like Sharm El Sheikh are destroying it.

Much the same thing is occurring here. We leave the Cashel House to self-cater in a tiny cove in Ervallagh, sadly dominated by newbuilds.

Green roads compete with fake grass put down by the latest holiday home eyesores. All the time. men in suits talk construction in O'Dowd's of Roundstone.

This is not my kind of West Side Story.

Sunday Independent

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