A remote, scenic, and picturesque village located on the Ring of Kerry, South West Ireland. This is a simple definition of the spell-bounding beauty named Caherdaniel – a place I am fortunate enough to refer to as my ‘second home’. During the 1980s, my father departed from Caherdaniel’s rural yet booming village life to a complete shift in environment, having moved to the highly pressured, highly demanding, and highly hectic, London. However, despite his drastic move, Caherdaniel has assimilated into a ‘home from home’ for myself, as my Irish roots have moulded a large inscription within my identity. Thus, last New Year’s Eve, I returned once more to my ‘second home’, alongside my family, and enjoyed a truly fascinating evening, wrapped inside and out in true Irish culture.
As stereotypical as it sounds, there proves nothing more fitting in Ireland than the pub. It seems unforeseeable to consider a night which involves neither a well-poured Guinness nor a well-executed Irish Coffee; hence, it seems more obligatory, rather than a mere choice, to endure a night’s worth of drinking. So, it only seemed right on New Year’s Eve to endeavour upon a pub crawl, initially beginning in the village adjacent to us, Castlecove. Here, we went to two pubs called Staigue Fort and The Black Shop – the latter truthfully being the more eventful of the two. Considering it to be a special occasion, The Black Shop was a unique experience, and one I believe was a microcosm of traditional Irish culture. From the folk music played upon the open mic, to the drinks poured from every end of the bar and delivered to every corner of the pub, sheer merriment radiated from each individual.
Everything was quintessentially Irish. The welcoming greetings from relatives, family friends, or those I had met for the first time were from that point onwards imprinted upon my mind. Although it may not be strictly referred to as ‘tradition’, the customs and habits of the Irish are undoubtedly infectious, and a real rarity in the world around us. The committed community spirit, albeit spontaneous drinks with my dad’s old school friends or even our neighbours inviting us round for a true ‘Irish welcome’ in their homes, is a stark contrast from the relatively isolating experiences within big cities, and certainly a product of London’s vastness.
The committed community spirit… is a stark contrast from the relatively isolating experiences within big cities
Moreover, as it drew nearer to the New Year, we returned to Caherdaniel and our infamous local pub, The Blind Piper. A tourist attraction in itself, the traditional interior—formed by the low ceilings and open turf fire—awaited us at the end of the village road. As soon as my brother opened their front door, the roars and laughter echoed across the intimate building, as we then became part of the masses. The pub was heaving: I shuffled towards my aunts and uncles alongside my brother; Dad had reunited (again) with his old neighbours and school friends; and Mum was by far the friendliest, talking to those she has known for nearly 40 years now through my dad, and became particularly popular amongst the bartenders. (Mum always makes sure everyone knows her parents were Irish too, but from the ‘better’ counties Donegal and Clare).
My family, the Donnelly family, constitute an integral role in the village. This alone is perpetuated every New Year’s Eve, considering the fact my uncle organises and oversees the annual fireworks, as a momentum for the upcoming year ahead. Certainly, while the village fireworks were categorically less pompous than the London Eye’s yearly spectacle, our warm-hearted, intimate, and wholesome celebration at Caherdaniel Cross will forever reign supreme in my mind. Having removed myself from the London bubble, constantly suffocated by the incessant consumerist and city lifestyle, this Irish retreat reiterated once more my true roots and identity.
The daily pub trips, whether long or short, the strolls along Derrynane Beach, the spontaneous interactions with extended family members, my father’s old friends, and amongst the locals themselves, the undeniably breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, the constant hikes and cycles upon the hills of Coomnahorna. This is merely a small, yet never-ending, list of Caherdaniel’s unique beauty. However, they more importantly prove to be stark reminders of the very things I find most enchanting, exhilarating, and essential in life.
Caherdaniel’s New Years celebrations were more than just cultural traditions in motion. They were a way of life far removed from London’s lifestyle, and a place I am lucky enough to call ‘home’.
Photography by: Phil Champion, Espresso Adict and Ondrejk via Wikimedia Commons