Confession: To this day, I still have trouble remembering how to pronounce the name of the quaint Irish fishing village of Howth (Pro tip, it rhymes with "both"). Irish words can be a little tricky because they sound and are sometimes spelled so close to English words. In truth, the two are from separate language families, Celtic and Germanic, and the alphabets are pronounced completely differently. Take the Irish word for café, "cafaidh." It's still pronounced café. Let's just say it's easy to sound like an idiot when traveling in Ireland.
|Also, proud owner of the most unintentionally hilarious web address ever|
Howth! I came to this little peninsula on an excursion from Dublin and walked the entire perimeter on a free seven-hour walking tour. Yes, you heard me! FREE, I SAY! Hilly and verdant inland with sheer cliffs bordering the sea, this place is home to a medieval castle and one of the homes of William Butler Keats.
|Howth Castle, now with electricity!|
Once there was a farmer who snuck up on a leprechaun drinking beer by a cook fire. Quickly snatching him up, the farmer demanded that the leprechaun take him to his treasure. The leprechaun kicked and fought but when he tired, he agreed to show the farmer where his treasure was buried in exchange for his freedom. Leading the farmer into a thicket like the one in this picture, the leprechaun pointed to the bush that marked where the treasure was buried. The soil was hard and rocky and the farmer didn't have a shovel. He decided to go get the tool from home so he took off one of his red socks and hung it on the bush so he would remember the spot. On the walk back towards home, the leprechaun pleaded for the freedom he was promised. A man of his word, the farmer agreed and the liberated leprechaun ran away into the forest. When the farmer returned to the thicket with his shovel, he found a red sock hanging on every bush in the thicket!
This is a local fairytale told to me by our Irish guide.
William Butler Yeats lived here in his childhood. To celebrate, here is a poem he wrote about a place that is not here, but is still lovely.
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles mades;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
And evening full of linnet's wings.
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
This is the same hillside as the one in the previous picture. See those pretty yellow flowers up there? They belong to the invasive gorse plant, highly flammable thanks to oily stem veins. A massive gorse fire scorched this part of the hill a couple of years ago and this completely different vegetation is the result of the earth recovering.
See those tiny white smudges in the rocks? Those are a huge flock of puffins hanging out. Each speck represents three puffins.
And one more Yeats poem to say farewell to Howth:
Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet;
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Howth Castle History and tour
Book your own free walking tour of Howth
Kill two interests with one link and read more Irish fairytales edited by Yeats. DoublePlusWinning!
did you like these pictures of Howth? check out more on my flickr page!