A cloud-covered day with an occasional ray of sun qualifies as gorgeous weather for the Emerald Isle. On many mornings of our two-week stay, we awaken to bright light streaming past the curtains, dust motes dancing, and think, ah, today’ll be a sunny one. But then all goes dim and we realize with disappointment it’s just a slice in the clouds that allowed fleeting rays of sun to shine through. We stuff layers of clothing in our packs and don slickers each morning, never sure which way the weather will turn, but certain it will include some rain. And as we head out for the day, we’re wished well by those who serve us morning coffee: “Oh, surely it’s lookin’ to be a lovely day.” But alas, the weather “will break your heart,” as they say.
Ireland’s brooding skies and morose cloud-cover make me want to hole up in a cozy stone house on a hill and settle in by a fire with a cuppa hot tea and scones. I now understand why there are so many celebrated Irish authors and pubs on every corner: the elements are conducive to contemplation, writing and locating the closest bar stool. But these are the very same conditions that yield roses as big as melons and waxy calla lilies like trumpets (witness the blooms at the Dunraven Arms hotel where we stayed on our first night in Adare), and the miles of green farmland forever munched and trimmed by omnipresent cows, goats and sheep. Every inch of Ireland has been farmed, walled in, claimed. Yet all appears wild, driven by ocean winds and colored gray and green by clouds and rain. In contrast to the landscape, Irish villages are a child’s palette of tidy storefronts in vivid reds, blues and greens, with carefully enameled trim and gilded signposts, fitting antidotes to the harsh, rocky, striking landscape.