Sunday, March 24, 2013


This is my second stay at the Fairylands B&B just outside the City of Armagh, and I see a third stay in my future. Four or five years ago, I had chosen the B&B for the sole reason that Maureen’s last name was Oliver, one of the family names that I have been researching near here. It was close enough for me to be able to hike in from the City of Saints and Sinners - my family included both – otherwise known as Armagh. My great-aunt, Blin Brown, used to walk into town for groceries from Killynure, a townland still known to the locals as Brown’s Hollow, and that townland is even further out from where Fairylands is. I had reckoned that if I couldn’t walk in Blin’s shoes, I could at least follow in her path.
Francis just in from working outside with the cows, and Maureen is at her post in the kitchen
 During this recent visit, walking the five mile or so round trip was not an option. The rain and sleet were blasting straight at me, horizontal to the ground, and I was still barking like an old sheep from a virus I had picked up weeks earlier. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that hiring a cab was only £4 per trip out from the centre of town. Yesterday, the roads were sufficiently flooded that we had to come in from the back of Ballycrummy Road, the usual access being several feet under water. This is unusual and extreme weather, so there was no way that I could have waded in with my bag and backpack.

How bad has it been in these early days of Spring in Northern Ireland? Bad enough that both Belfast Airports had to close on account of the snow. Although it may inconvenience travellers, it has been hell on wheels for farmers. The cows have not been able get out on the fields all winter. Rain, rain, and more rain. Stored feed is running out.
Headlines on all the Irish papers yesterday

As for me, I am ensconced in bed as I write this, savouring my morning coffee, and knowing that after I have luxuriated in a good hot shower, that a full Irish breakfast awaits. Sausages, rashers, egg, mushrooms, tomatoes, and bread three ways. Each day, when I head into Armagh to work at the local Irish History Library- a jewel in itself, I can ignore the need to break for lunch. It all works like a hot dam.
Everything you could want - and more. Usually, there are four kinds of canned fruit set out, but I told Maureen that prunes were my fave rave, and no need to also put out the grapefruit, orange, and peaches.

I plan to return in a week or so, after the weather gets its act together, and I do too. This countryside is all rolling hills with roadways and pathways that cut through the kinds of lush fields that give the Emerald Isle its name. The people are friendly, and the hostile divisiveness, that made so much of the latter part of the 20th Century here a misery, is a thing of the past.
The view out my window - a working farm, and the milk truck is picking up the day's milking.

Navan Fort, a short stroll down Navan Road from Fairylands is a site not to be missed. In past visits, I have stood atop the mound that covers thousands of years of history dating back to the time of the Bronze Age and continuing on through to the Iron Age. The view is a perfectly unimpeded 360 degrees, north, south, east and west. And yes, it feels as if it is one of the more powerful places on earth to take the time to set there awhile and ponder.

It is when I take time out in places such as this that I mull over the many ways that we humans craft a life. People have fought here, have loved here, have been born here, and have died here. Yadda, yadda. Plus ca change. The great human adventure. In the meantime, breakfast awaits.


  1. Wonderful article and very informative. Do take care and continue the search. Carolyn

  2. I want that breakfast - phish to the arteries. With weather like that you gotta get some rashers & sausages inside you. Looking forward to hearing more over a glass of merlot.