I wonder what it says about us that after circumnavigating this entire country, our two favorite destinations have been a day spent on a quiet, magical back road in Southern Ireland (rolling uphill, hanging gifts on a fairy tree, and hiking off trail to a waterfall) and another spent at the northernmost part of Ireland, picking polished rocks alone on a secluded beach.
I suppose it says that – in our world anyway – simple is best.
It's not the big tourist attractions that speak to us, nor the bustling city streets, not the fancy meals or frothy pints out on the town, but the quiet out-of-the-way surprises that this trip has delivered, day after day since we set out.
Indeed, the day we first visited the pebble beach we also headed to the Giant's Causeway (shown above). There was no competition. The beach won by miles in our hearts and memories.
Yes, the Giant's Causeway was pretty incredible. (Also pretty crowded, as we planned poorly and accidentally rolled in on a Saturday!) And yes, it was also a good homeschooling opportunity learning about columnar basalt and Finn McCool stories. But there was so much more for our hearts and minds waiting for us on the beach at this quiet, solitary, magical spot at the end of a two-track dirt road.
"The pebble beach", as we call it, lies beside Malin Head, the most northernly point in all of Ireland. I'm not sure we would even have taken the detour, but our host encouraged us to have a look. On the drive there I happened to check our guidebook and read a small sidebar about the beach.
The directions in our book included "turn left on the unmarked lane toward the terra cotta colored cottage. Climb over the ladder style into the pasture." How could we resist? The cottage had been repainted somewhere along the way, but we still found our way. We parked and headed to the style, keeping one eye on the bull as we headed across the pasture and down to the sea.
After settling in and beginning our search for treasures, I wasn't sure we'd ever want to leave. Agates and jaspers and chert as far as you can see, and all perfectly polished by the sea. It was paradise. Games were played, art was made, and treasures were found.
In the end, we headed home with lighter hearts and heavier pockets as the sun slipped low over the Atlantic.
The next day we came back again – for one more chance to sit on these stones, search for treasures, and quietly look out over the sea.