There are two things I did not expect on my recent visit to Ireland.
1. Meeting Bono
The first was about as likely as getting the man himself to take his sunglasses off. The second, well given my previous experience with Irish weather, not to mention its global reputation for being bloody awful, I would have thought that was also as likely as an accessory-free Bono.
It started with blue skies and matching ocean as we sailed from Holyhead in Wales to Dublin. Even in the hour I spent walking around Holyhead (which may just be one of the most depressing towns I’ve ever visited) I was furious at the timing of misplacing my sunglasses last weekend. Still hopeful they had to be somewhere I refused to invest in a new pair.
Day 1 of our road trip and I was wondering if my previously realistic decision not to pack summer clothes was a mistake. By lunch time I concluded it was. On our drive west we pull into a highway service station for mid-morning cold drinks and ice creams. By the time stopped at Ashford Castle, I could stand being outside for only minutes at a time. My legging-less thighs were sticking to chairs. My water bottle was warm. Back in our green, and thankfully air-conditioned, Paddywagon bus, we drove through the Connemara region. After a quick photo stop at Lough Carrib, U2 started playing from Mike’s ipod playlist.
“It’s a beautiful day,” Bono chorused as we drove away from this:
Damn straight I thought.
The weather was the topic of conversation with anyone I met. It seemed the only people more surprised with the weather than me, were the Irish. No one could remember the last time there had been so many rain-free days in a row. “It’s been years,” they all said. The arms of two peat farmers we met in a Connemara paddock were heavily marked by the sun. Their bodies may be accustomed to being outside all day, but not in these temperatures.
As we hit the coast near Galway, we saw Salthill beach and what I imagine is the rare sight of people at it. People were swimming and sunbathing on a stretch of sand that I’m sure is normally a grey, almost miserable excuse for a shoreline. The Salthill Promenade, sung about in the popular Irish tune Galway Girl, was busy and parking was almost non-existent.
In Galway, the banks of the River Corrib were just as busy with people sunbaking and drinking. I strolled around Galway at night with only a light cardigan and got dressed the next morning again cursing my pessimistic packing.
I kept waiting for a change to come: for the sky to cloud over, for a breeze to turn into a strong wind, and for rain. I wouldn’t have minded – as long as it all happened after the Cliffs. Given my very depressing visit to the Cliffs of Moher two years ago, I had my fingers crossed for seeing them in good weather. Although the sky stayed blue through the morning, I couldn’t get my hopes up. I’ve spent too long living in fickle climates. Even over lunch in Doolin, barely 15 minutes from the Cliffs, I was apprehensive. Then I was standing at the start of the path to the cliff edge putting on sunscreen. Two years ago I couldn’t even muster the energy to complaining about the rain, wind and fog. This time I was almost tempted to moan about the heat, but I couldn’t really now could I?
In the bright sunlight it was easy to see why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle. Although given how rare such brightness is, perhaps that was a rash decision of a nickname.
I’ve never really heard Irish people complain about the weather. They will talk about how crap it is, but as a matter of fact, not with any regret. Unlike the English, who complain when it rains and when it’s sunny (oh you should hear them), the Irish didn’t complain about the heat. They embraced and appreciated it. My Irish friends were wearing dresses that hadn’t come out of the wardrobe in years and made plans to go to the beach. Shirtless men – quite red in colour by the end of the day – were seen with disturbing frequency. Everyone was hot and bothered, but just as I wouldn’t and couldn’t complain at the Cliffs of Moher, no one was going to speak ill of this meteorological miracle.
The good weather continued until I returned to The Lake District. Home to the wettest part of England, I could hardly be surprised when it rained while I walked home from the bus stop.
I represented Travel With A Mate at the Stena Line Gathering 2013 hosted by Stena Line, Tourism Ireland and Paddywagon Tours. All opinions expressed on Pegs on the Line – and my friends will tell you I always have a lot – are my own.