Ireland Day 4: A Breath of Fresh Air in Howth
I'm writing this post almost a week after the day in question, but strangely, I can still see every minute of the day clearly. Perhaps, this is because our excursion to Howth played to each of our senses.
Immediately after disembarking the train, we were hit with a sudden pleasant silence; a melodic hum of waves crashing punctured every-so-often by the oddly harmonic call of seagulls - an auditory break from the constant buzzing of the city.
Visually, Howth was a pleasure as well. For me, it was the colors of the town that struck me most. Ireland itself is a very colorful country, so I wasn't entirely surprised by the lush green landscape - that I didn't even have to edit to look saturated - patterned with yellow flowers and accented with many, multicolored buildings. What did surprise me was the blue of the water; a blue that was my exact favorite color and one that I've never personally seen in nature before. Not aqua, but not teal, this hue resides somewhere in the middle, pushing the subtle tones of both the blue and green parts of the spectrum just to the point of vibrance while remaining just restrained enough to retain an air of sophistication. Oddly - or, perhaps, importantly - we couldn't see this magical color in the town itself, but had to hike up to the top of the cliff and away from civilization to enjoy the hue.
In keeping with the rest of the trip, we had no plan when we arrived in Howth. We acquired a map, saw that there was a 6km loops including clifftop views, coffee and a castle, and set off uphill. We got the first taste of Howth at a roadside grocery, where each order of coffee merited a fresh brewing. Actually, that seems to be an Irish trait because everywhere we went, each order of coffee was freshly brewed rather than ready-made and a little old (as with some places here.) Apparently, the Irish take their coffee very seriously!
This wild walk was as tactile as it was beautiful, with the constant squishing and squelching in the mud literally keeping us on our toes. After a while of walking on the lower path (and getting stuck behind some rather slow hikers so that I began to get lost in my own thoughts rather than pay attention to where I was stepping), I heard my dad and brother calling for me to join them up at the very top of the hill. I really got in touch with the Howth landscape as I half-ran, half-fell up the steep moss-lined path, occasionally grabbing at stones or sticks to keep me from sliding down.
Did I mention that I was behind Dad and Jake? Ah, yes, well, I have a habit of stopping at random [frequent] intervals to take photos, so they were long gone by the time I realized that the path went in multiple directions. I enjoyed the quiet walk solo, stopping whenever I wanted to capture the indescribable landscape, enjoying it through my lens while still taking plenty of time to live in the moment and soak in the clean salt-and-earth-smelling air and the soothing silence and the beautiful view.
I've found that whenever I travel - or, really, whenever I do anything outside of my routine - I tend to compare places and activities to other places and other activities that I've previously experienced. For example, "This clifftop walk reminds me a bit of the Max Patch path winding over the mountaintop." It did, at first. But I was really only grasping at straws. I think we - or at least I - do this in an effort to remain comfortable amidst new surroundings; new places and things can't be so scary if we've experienced them before, even tangentially.
However, the clifftop walk at Howth, in fact, was unlike any place I have ever been. It was wild, but not untamable (proven by the hundreds of people placidly traversing its trails), colorful but not overwhelming, quiet unless you were really listening. I was transported to an imagined version of this land hundreds of years ago where no tourists roamed but an ancestral version of myself sat and painted the scenery with pigment made from the nature itself. In this, the land appeared more dream than reality, even as my feet were firmly planed a couple inches deep in mud.
But, I did realize I should rejoin the group and texted Dad to see where they were, right at the same time that that they saw and called out to me. Once at the top, we cut over the mountain towards the Bog of Frogs (no really, that's what it's called) en route to the castle. I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting in the bog given all I knew about it was that remains from the Iron Age were so well-preserved there that they were still distinguishable today, but it wasn't as spooky as I expected. Actually, it provided a rather pleasant nature walk despite the mud-skating.
Once we bogged, we took a few wrong turns and a couple "short cuts" before reaching the castle in question. In comparison to the castles I've toured in France and Scotland, it was a minor affair. However, we didn't want to pay to go inside so I can't entirely pass judgement. As an avid Merlin (BBC television series) lover, I did get some serious Camelot vibes with the tree and the now-closed arrow holes, but that was merely fantastical thinking.
Once we'd completed our trek, we made one last stop for food, to savor a bit of the sea town before departing. We chose Beshoff Brothers, which seemed to essentially be a fish and chips focused fast food joint, but were surprised with arguably the best fish and chips I have ever tasted.
Overall, this little excursion provided a feeling a peace and calm that the few days in the city had made us crave. I love both bustling city and quiet town, so getting to see both parts of a new-to-me country provided a fuller picture of Ireland.
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