We visited here on our recent Newmarket Holiday and it far exceeded our expectations. It’s developed around the home of the owner, Pat, who lived in one of its thatched cottages with his family until 1984. We were taken into a gaily decorated tearoom and served hot drinks, biscuits and delicious brown bread and butter before going to sit in at a “Wake – well a recreation of one, an occupied coffin and life-size mourners, where we listened to Pat explaining the traditions and customs associated with the Irish Wake. He spoke about the potato famine and showed us the different types of seaweed people lived on, even how one variety was used to make a baby’s dummy.
Then a young lady led us into undercover walkways alongside realistic settings of how communities had lived in old turf dwellings and peat cabins. She spoke about how the famine and displaced people compared with events happening in the world today. There was a tableau of one tragic family being evicted by the landlords and a battering ram being used to break down their cottage door.
After the tour we had time to look round the cottages on our own;. a lot of the contents reminded me of things I’d seen in my grandparents’ home years ago. In one was a typical settle that had been used for sitting on during the day and sleeping in at night.
Then we carried on looking at the exhibits in the covered passages; so much to see. I really enjoyed looking at the memorabilia and reading about the Irish Travellers in the room with its full size model horse and old caravan. Obviously religion has played a large part in Irish history and in the Orange Hall I read how the Orange Order was set up in the late 18th century; further along we saw a Presbyterian Meeting House and then looked at a Mass Rock, used as an altar in the mind 17th century for Roman Catholic mass.
There was a fascinating section called the Safe House, a reconstruction of a place of refuge for people running away from the authorities. I went into it on my own and was reading about the civil rights movement, but having come in through one door realised I had to find a way through a secret passage into the next room. Luckily another lady visitor suggested pulling the fireplace towards us – and this revealed the exit! In each room were photos, exhibits and masses of information about the history of the Troubles but we didn’t spend very long studying it as were both anxious to work out how to get to the next part; would it be through the wardrobe, table or some other ingenious method? Among all the artefacts in the fifth and final room we saw Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley sitting side by side. The whole experience was a poignant reminder of Ireland’s road from war to peace.
We just had time to visit the Haunted Rooms where bodies rose from coffins and ghosts suddenly appeared, before making our way back outside into the sunshine. The Village is in the most peaceful spot imaginable and we gazed at the tranquil scene of rocks, blue water and pristine sweeping sands of Trawbreaga Bay, with its backdrop of green hills.
Being part of a group obviously our time was limited but I could have spent a great deal longer here – it really is an amazing place and well worth a visit. Also, because it was included in the holiday cost I’ve no idea of entry price, opening hours etc and didn’t notice suitability for disabled visitors – sorry.