Portmagee: Gateway To The Skellig Islands Of Ireland

Apr 8, 2014 by

If the itinerary for your next trip to Ireland includes a visit to the Skellig Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’re bound to to wind up in the little seaside town of Portmagee.  Perched on the southwestern tip of the Iveragh peninsula in County Kerry, Portmagee (An Caladh, “the ferry” in Irish) once was the departure point for nearby Valentia Island. The island is now accessible by a land bridge, but the town has taken on a new role as the sign up location for boat trips to the beautiful and wild Skelligs.  In fact, in December 2012, Portmagee was awarded the Fáilte Ireland National Tourism Town Award, the first town to be awarded the accolade for the warmth and hospitality the residents show to tourists.


Rainy day at Portmagee, on the Iveragh peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland ©2013WildEyedSouthernCelt.com

Portmagee takes it name from an 18th century smuggler named Captain Theobald Magee, who fought for King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, then retired to the Kerry coast as a merchant shipper. He skillfully moved goods such as tea, tobacco, and spirits in and out of the many hidden coves and bays of the Atlantic coast line, avoiding capture and becoming a local legend. After his death, Magee’s wife and sons carried on the family business and the village carried on the family name, ensuring the captain’s place in Kerry history.


Sources and Links:
The Skellig Experience

Portmagee: Wikipedia

The Moorings: About Portmagee

Kerry’s Eye Online

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Easy Celtic Cookies For St Patrick’s Day

Mar 3, 2014 by

March 17th is St Patrick’s Day, one of the most well-known Celtic holidays of the year, especially here in the United States. Irish-Americans are fiercely proud of their familial connections to the Emerald Isle and enjoy putting their Celtic heritage on display in all kinds of ways.  One of the most popular ways to share that Irish heritage is with food, especially sweet treats designed to make a visual and culinary impression.

No doubt about it, this delicious and wonderfully simple Celtic knot work cookie recipe from SprinkleBakes.com. will make a beautiful Irish statement on the big day.


The rustic dough is one of my favorites to work with because it is very forgiving of mistakes and do-overs, plus it uses one of my Southern cooking staples, molasses—love that dark sweet flavor!

Even better, Sprinkle Bakes gives you step-by-step images to help you craft the Celtic knot pattern of the cookies.  The cookie design is easier to make than you might think, and I’m sure you’ll have plenty of volunteers willing to taste-test your trial runs.

You can find the complete recipe and how-to steps for the Celtic knot design HERE, at Sprinkle Bakes blog.


Éirinn go Brách!

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Grá mo Chroí, Irish Love of My Heart

Feb 10, 2014 by

In case you want to send someone a Celtic love note for Valentine’s Day….
Grá mo chroí–Irish Gaelic for “love of my heart.” Phonetic pronunciation is (roughly) “graw muh khree ” –the ch in chroi is pronounced like the ch in loch or Bach.


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A Place As Kind As It Is Green

Feb 6, 2014 by

20th century American poet Marianne Moore traced her heritage back to Ireland;  her fascination with those roots comes through clearly in her poem “Spenser’s Ireland”, a meditation on Ireland and the Irish from the perspective of an Irish-American who has never set foot on the Emerald Isle.   The Spenser of the poem’s title is Edmund Spenser, 16th century English author of The Faerie Queene, who wrote a highly inflammatory prose pamphlet called  A View of the Present State of Ireland ; in this 1596 work, Spenser urges harsh reforms be used against the barbaric native Irish , who refuse to conform to what he believes is proper, civilized behavior.

By contrast,  Moore speaks gently, if somewhat ironically, of her green ancestral homeland, a small country which has long resisted more powerful invaders rather than bend a knee to a foreign ruler.  The Irish man and woman’s bone-deep refusal to give in ultimately saved Ireland from famine and continued dependence on the English Crown.  It’s a stubborn streak familiar to Irish-Americans, whose forefathers and foremothers courageously crossed the Atlantic and brought that “no surrender, no retreat”  disposition with them.    As a result,  many of us with Irish roots proudly share Moore’s slightly tongue-in-cheek sentiment :  “I am troubled, I’m dissatisfied, I’m Irish.”



Spenser’s Ireland

has not altered; –
a place as kind as it is green,
the greenest place I’ve never seen.
Every name is a tune.
Denunciations do not affect
the culprit; nor blows, but it
is torture to him to not be spoken to.
They’re natural, –
the coat, like Venus’
mantle lined with stars,
buttoned close at the neck, – the
sleeves new from disuse.

If in Ireland
they play the harp backward at need,
and gather at midday the seed
of the fern, eluding
their “giants all covered with iron,” might
there be fern seed for unlearn-
ing obduracy and for reinstating
the enchantment?
Hindered characters
seldom have mothers
in Irish stories, but they all have grandmothers.

It was Irish;
a match not a marriage was made
when my great great grandmother’d said
with native genius for
disunion, “Although your suitor be
perfection, one objection
is enough; he is not
Irish.” Outwitting
the fairies, befriending the furies,
whoever again
and again says, “I’ll never give in,” never sees

that you’re not free
until you’ve been made captive by
supreme belief, – credulity
you say? When large dainty
fingers tremblingly divide the wings
of the fly for mid-July
with a needle and wrap it with peacock-tail,
or tie wool and
buzzard’s wing, their pride,
like the enchanter’s
is in care, not madness. Concurring hands divide

flax for damask
that when bleached by Irish weather
has the silvered chamois-leather
water-tightness of a
skin. Twisted torcs and gold new-moon-shaped
lunulae aren’t jewelry
like the purple-coral fuchsia-tree’s. Eire –
the guillemot
so neat and the hen
of the heath and the
linnet spinet-sweet-bespeak relentlessness? Then

they are to me
like enchanted Earl Gerald who
changed himself into a stag, to
a great green-eyed cat of
the mountain. Discommodity makes
them invisible; they’ve dis-
appeared. The Irish say your trouble is their
trouble and your
joy their joy? I wish
I could believe it;
I am troubled, I’m dissatisfied, I’m Irish.

from The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore, 1961


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