I spent the week without Internet, on tours of the north coast of Ireland, where steep grassy pastures plummet into an azure Irish sea. We were accompanied and guided by my sister-in-law, her husband and lovely new baby—it was mind clearing and moving. There was a lot of craic, which in Ireland is the most important of all activities and translates into “having a good time with friends or family.” It requires a sharp wit and hopefully, a good cup of tea. Nothing is rushed in Ireland, and lingering over a cup of tea is almost an art form. Nothing compares to an Irishman’s wit, and sitting for hours talking is a welcome change from our faced-paced New York life.
The blackfaced mountain sheep, triplets are common for this mountain breed.
View down into one of the Glens of Antrim
Visiting Northern Ireland with my Dublin-born-and-raised husband was moving and sometimes difficult, and ghosts of the past were everywhere. Ballycastle and its surrounding areas are predominantly Catholic, and the impossibly steep pastures with minimal topsoil became a haven for Irish Catholics who had been forced off the good land to settle on rocky country that is good for little else than grazing. It was a hard place to live, but it is impossibly beautiful, and smaller breeds like the black faced mountain sheep excel in this area. You don’t see as many cattle grazing here, or even lowland sheep like the Suffolk, which require better feed and do not excel on a grass-fed diet. This area of Ireland is sheep country and there were thousands of sheep grazing all around us on small pasture-based farms. Ironically, this bad land where Catholics were forced to live is now prime real estate for tourism, and attracts thousands a year because of its spectacular natural beauty. As an outsider to the troubles, I felt ill equipped to understand it all, but the fault lines didn’t detract from the profound natural beauty and the deep Gaelic culture that was present in Ballycastle and surrounding glens. It is possibly the most beautiful place I have ever visited and I recommend it to anyone.
More pictures of sheep! I am flirting with putting together a book proposal about lamb with essays on the culture and history of lamb in different countries and found Country Antrim to be the perfect place to research sheep and find inspiration.Pin It