Ohhhh, Achill island. I physically pine for the place when I've been away too long. There's a weird disparity about the places I yearn for - the place I live (Dubai) and my favorite place (Achill). Dubai is the desert, where life is fast, transient and sometimes very shallow. Achill is remote, green, good for the soul and full of wandering artists. It's a tonic for me, and re-fuels me to go back to real life when I've left.
Gareth was waiting with bated breath to get to Achill; I've spoken so much about it in our short time together and I think he was eager to walk some hills. After a stroll around Galway city and bemoaning the fact we couldn't stay there longer, we hit a rainy, windy road to Castlebar. There we stopped to stock up on groceries and the last leg of the road to Achill. As I drove the last 30km or so, I already felt the air seeping into my bones and the excitement building. We rocked up to the Valley House -
A historic building with a bar and hostel that I've been visiting and staying in for years. When I was young, it was Roger that ran the place and could always be found manning the bar; now it's his son Pat, and it's well renowned to be one of the best places to drink Guinness in Ireland, if not the world. It's always the first thing I do - order a pint of their finest and savour each creamy drop. Gareth claims he doesn't like Guinness and he didn't deign to try it that Friday evening.
After unloading our considerable amounts of luggage, I took a drive across to Keel, via Dugort. Slievemore was crowned with a cloud; a usual sight as we drove past the strand. Over in Keel, Gareth and I took a little walk along the beach towards the cliff. About half-way in the drizzle started so we headed back towards Keel to meet my parents.
We had arranged to meet Mum and Dad at the Bayside Bistro in Keel for dinner. Their specials looked absolutely delectable so we ordered a nice bottle of Sancerre and waited for the parents to arrive. Gareth had yet to meet Dad so I was a little apprehensive but not hugely; Mum was a fan so I'm sure she'd have laid the groundwork for me! They arrived, a little tired from their journey and ready to be fed. The restaurant did not disappoint. The scallops went down a treat, as did the sea bass. Everyone seemed to be getting along fine! After the meal we headed back to the Valley to catch up with some old friends and have a right old session.
The Valley is well known for nights full of music, anyone with a guitar, whistle or banjo pitches up by the fireplace and usually magic is created. Some friends and old bandmates of my Dad were there so the tunes started and the Guinness was flowing. I got into the spirit and did a few numbers myself, even singing lyrics off my Mum's iPad when people had requests! My oldest friend, April was down for the weekend too so I was up for a good chinwag. I introduced Gareth to April and bold as brass she said to him "You're a ride". I don't know what it is about him but the Irish girls seem to love him ;)
It was a great night, hazy in the memory but full of melody and smiles....A-chilling again.