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2004-04-20 We enjoyed our summers at Tra Bhuí despite the weather

It was like a scene from Craggy Island  the whole family squeezed into a small caravan, rocked and battered by the elements.A loud knock rattled the flimsy door and in poured all my fathers aunts and uncles for the afternoon to see how we were coping on our summer holiday down at Trá Bhuí.

 

We sat sardine-like, nodding politely when asked a question. At one point during an infrequent lull in the conversation involving the invading and analytical relations, I decided to give my finest, and if I may say so myself, celebrated impersonation of an ancestors irritating catchphrases. During the ensuing embarassed silence, with only the sound of the wind howling outside, an elderly aunt enquired as to what I had said. My grandmother poked me firmly, with a scolding glare, and briskly changed the subject, saying : Dont mind the child. Hes just talking some rubbish.

 

The weather had been particularly awful that summer, inclement to the extreme, and yet, every day we had been determined to brave the driving sandstorms, torrential downpours and icy surf. After all, we were on holiday, and that is what you did on holiday.


 

Despite all of this, I was not put off, and Trá Bhuí remains one of my top-spots. By mid-childhood we had a boat, and on many occasions, we made the short trip from Raughley harbour out past the Wheaten Rock, around by the Punch Bowl, anchoring about half a mile off Trá Bhuí in Browns Bay. We dived off the bow of the Dolphin into the unknown deep and swam ashore, closely followed by our
parents in a dinghy with the tasty picnic.


 

The little hill at Knocklane is probably no more than 100ft above sea level, but it always seemed like Carrauntuohil as we scaled our way to the summit. The tiny ruined coastguard hut, now gone, had served as an important, yet neutral
watch tower during World War Two.

Later in the summer, the hillside was speckled in white with the finest and most flavoursome field mushrooms in the county.

In a welcome sunny spell last month I retraced my childhood steps , parking the car at the last corner before Knocklane, which overlooks the little stony beach curving across to Ballyconnell. Having received permission from the local farmer, Mr Bruen, and heeding the No Dogs sign, we made our way along the north coast of Knocklane peninsula. The cliffs at times are sheer and so, this walk is quite unsuitable for dogs and overactive children! Respect for the land and its inhabitants should at all times be foremost in the mind.


 

As we made our way out towards the old Promontory Fort at the tip of the peninsula , thousands of geese in formation high above were beginning their long journey towards the Pole, heading out towards Inishmurray. A sizeable gaggle paused just below us on Ardboline, transforming its green surface to a purply brown.

We sat for a while on top of one the natural boundary ditches on the headland, and watched a young father and his kids fishing in the rockpools below us, using green hand-nets  the kind we used to catch sticklebacks with when we were small. It was nice to see in this age of playstations and gameboys, that improvised outdoor activity has not been completely relegated to the past. On the way back we passed a deep lagoon guarded by steep cliffs and sloping rockfaces , like a smugglers cave, only accessible from the sea and inhabited by sheltering nesting seabirds.


 

The winter wave-shows at Ballyconnell are some of the most spectacular I have witnessed, and when walking around this coastline in calmer weather, the displaced stones scattered on the headland are proof of just how exposed the North Sligo coast is. Further around the coast, a natural stone wall guards the beach at Cloonagh (Trawbane). Green and orange rope fragments, possibly from lobster pots broken free in high winds, litter the stony grey shore. Cloonagh leads to Lislary, the nearest mainland to Inishmurray, and the location of many deserted cottages - a stark reminder of our countrys emigration history.

Windsurfing in this part of Sligo continues to grow in popularity , but with the exposed rocks and reefs all around the North Sligo coast, it is no small wonder that this is the coastline that scuppered the Spanish Armada all those centuries ago.