Diary of a visitor
"Day one, woke at nine, an hour later than hoped, and glanced out window from bed. Gorgeous sunny morning, sun beating down on shimmering sea, hills all around. Went down to Dooneen Pier. Too glorious. Spectacular scenery - the peninsula across the bay, the glittering sea, the brown hills. Down at the pier, the water was gushing about, and roaring in a natural cave just under the road. Tuesday was cloudy and dull, but not a bad day, so I got stuck into work about ten.
Later I went for a walk to the headland below in search of the sandy beach I had been told about. I followed the road, which then became a track and then disappeared into the long grass, but sure enough there was the beach - a lovely grey sandy beach about twenty metres wide, facing towards Durrus. It was covered in seaweed, but in the summer would be glorious, not least because of all the rocks around it. Perfect for a day out with the kids and completely private and deserted. I started climbing in the opposite direction - the headland is T-shaped, so the beach is under the armpit of the T and huge rocks go out towards the Atlantic in the other direction. Great climbing. Then I found a wonderful sweep of smooth rock running down to an inlet, opposite which was a big sharp rock, like the bow of the Titanic. Two seagulls were sitting on the top of it. The big rock was like a giant armchair, and further along the ridge, near the sea, there was a flock of cormorants, peppered by a few seagulls. Gorgeous, black, long-necked, sleek, standing around passing the time of day. I couldn't believe all this was within a stone's throw of the house, and on the first visit, William and the girls had missed it. I sat there on a flat slab of rock, like a bench, and watched the cormorants, who had decided I had come too close and had slipped off into the sea, where they were paddling around. The sun tried to come out. It was just beautiful.
Later in the afternoon, Carol arrived elated by the very drive which is fairly spectacular from Durrus, and she couldn't believe the house. Great night's sleep at last. Woke during the night and realised I'd been ten fathoms deeper in sleep than the previous two nights. So got up at 8.30 and made tea and wrote my diary for yesterday, but I forgot the most important bit, which is that last night, when I got to bed, I noticed the moon shining down on the darkness of Dunmanus. I was able to lie in bed and look out at this sheen of light on the still water. Lovely.
We went for a walk after breakfast and came upon the cormorants and the smooth sweep of grey rock. It is actually like a wave - a great big wave - of rock. We also found a lake up at the top of a crop of rocks, perfect for Tamzin to float her yacht in. The sea looked wonderful. Funny that something so cold and deadly and deep should be so restorative to look at. Carol left next morning after breakfast and having worked through for four hours I treated myself to what I had planned to be a short walk. Towards the rocks and the beach I came across a little goat path headed up a bit of grass hill, so I took that, veering off to the right. And then I heard it. I couldn't believe it at first, so I followed the sound, and sure enough, there it was - a blow-hole. But this blow-hole is nothing like the one Carol showed me on Downpatrick Head in Mayo. It is slightly smaller, but the growl out of this thing was the most terrifying sound I have ever heard. I walked over to it, and it was like walking towards a monster, such were the howls coming from it. I sat on a rock as close as I could get, and allowed myself to be terrified by the noise. I only wish I could describe it. An enormous explosion; an underground train coming off its tracks; a fire-blowing dragon; a mammoth dying, the earth growling, howling. Not the sea. It barely sounded like the sea. There is an occasional sound of sea splashing against the rocks, but then the growls come and you can't even think straight. It's wonderful because the sound is so hellish, and yet completely benign as long as you stay clear. It would take nothing for you to slip and disappear. But that is what makes it compelling. It was so awesome and frightening at the same time that I eventually had to walk away.... and guess what, found another one! But this one was very different, even though closer to the coast. The rumble was negligible, and it was shaped more like a shaft than a hole ... quite a stunning piece of air/sea sculpture, but so tame and quiet, although you could hear the great monster roar further along the shaft.
So that was my afternoon/evening walk. Mind-blowing. I got back to the house, and worked more. All day, the sun had thrown a big spread of shining light across the sea, like a great glinty carpet that moved gracefully across the bay. I could barely look at it, it was so bright. But later in the evening, it had moved so far to the West, that this golden strip of light was hugging the coast - so Ireland, and its headlands, looked as if it had some kind of halo, this rim of golden light all around it, as if Ireland really was a blessed isle! I kept standing up to look at it again and again. Ireland's halo. Really don't know about staying tomorrow, the family needs me, and truth to tell, I miss them.
Here at Dooneen, the walks are so wonderful. I can't get enough of them, and it is lovely to work in this entirely different environment. Leaving the sea will be the hardest. Looking out first thing in the morning, and last thing at night, makes me want to stay here forever. Or somewhere near the sea. On my way home, near Durrus, I was coming around a bend when I looked right and caught the most spectacular view. The mountains on the peninsula opposite, and the sea they dropped into, were glowing, caught in an absolute downpour of sunlight. I had to stop the car. You can't really grasp views like that. They're almost too much to take in. In the haze of yellow I could see the shadow of another headland beyond the nearest one. It was just unreal, spectacular, breath-taking".
From the author, Denyse Woods...
Denyse Woods's first novel was "Overnight to Innsbruck" (2003). See Spectator review (18th January 2003); Denyse has been and is artistic Director and Programmer for the West Cork Literary Festival in 2011 and 2012.
"The book I was writing at the time was Like Nowhere Else published in 2005 by Penguin Ireland. The novel in which Kilcrohane and particularly its cormorants feature is currently titled Hopscotch and was due out in June 2006. The character refers to that area as the place where she keeps her soul."