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Life Along the Wild Atlantic Way - Travel Blog from CIE Tours

Life Along the Wild Atlantic Way

CIE TOURS - July 20, 2018

 Life Along the Wild Atlantic Way

Life wasn’t always as romanticized in rural Ireland as you might guess from such films as “A Quiet Man.” Our intrepid social media concierge Caroline  journeyed into this rugged area of Ireland with her group and shares her insights below!

Welcome back! This week, I joined my second tour called “Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way” which features magnificent views of Ireland’s west coast. Throughout the past week, our group has made its way from Clare all the way up to Donegal, the northernmost county in Ireland, with the guidance and superior driving skills of our guide, Frank.

This journey has been an eye-opening experience because it’s allowed us to glimpse into the hardships people faced while living in the countryside. We had the luxury of traveling through steep, rocky mountains in the comfort of a coach bus, but many before us were not so lucky. Visits to the Deserted Village at Slievemore and the Museum of Country Life in particular gave us details of rural life in Ireland that would be hard to find elsewhere.

Achill Island

 

Members of our group exploring stone cottage ruins at the Deserted Village on Achill Island
Members of our group exploring stone cottage ruins at the Deserted Village on Achill Island

To this day, there is little known about the inhabitants of the hillside village overlooking Keem Bay. The Achill Field School has organized archaeological digs and has found that people have been living on the site since the 12th century. The ruins seen today, however, are from cottages built during the 1800s and were most likely abandoned during The Great Famine (1845-1849) or when the tenants were forcibly evicted soon afterward.

I think what shook our group the most was how small the cottages were and how large families would’ve had to live together in just one tiny room. We also wondered why the houses had been built all the way up on the steep hillside instead of the flat ground below, and Frank explained that these were tenants who most likely had no say on their living conditions. As we walked through the ruins, we tried to imagine ourselves in the former inhabitants’ shoes, but it was certainly a challenge.

Museum of Country Life

 

Despite the stunning landscape, the villagers’ lives would’ve been anything but idyllic
Despite the stunning landscape, the villagers’ lives would’ve been anything but idyllic

The next day, we continued north for a visit to the Museum of Country Life. The museum provided a very realistic description of what life was like for everyday people in the countryside. There were exhibits on the roles of different tradesmen in the community like tailors, carpenters and blacksmiths. We also learned what went into producing crops each year and raising livestock.

 

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Almost everything had to be made by hand! Back in those days, people made do with what they had. Examples in the museum included chairs, baby cradles and cottage roofs. A family back then might not have access to wood. They might have to rely on reeds if they lived in a coastal area.

 

 

A replica of the simple interior of a working class house
A replica of the simple interior of a working class house

Besides learning the many hardships people endured, there was another main takeaway from the museum. The difference between the reality vs. romanticized version commonly believed is stark. One example was the idyllic village life depicted in the movie “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. The film tells a love story against the backdrop of a quaint rural town. However, it fails to address the poor living conditions and difficult work many people had to do just to survive.

Overall, travelling along the Wild Atlantic Way has been amazing! And not only because of the scenery, but also because of the history and culture we’ve experienced along the way.

By Caroline Bartholomew

Caroline was one of our 2018 Social Media Concierges. 

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