We started a family tradition last Sunday, one we are sure will be remembered with fondness by our little girls when they’re all grown up. “Family day” will provide memories of walks in the mountains, visits to crumbly castles and ice-cream cones at the beach.
Actually, I’m not sure doing something once qualifies it as a tradition, and judging from the fact that we’re busy for the next month of Sundays, there may be loose rules governing when “family day” takes place; but it’s a nice thought. A day when we hop in the car to explore wherever we end up.
Before we took up our post at Roundwood House, we had decided we would investigate every local point of interest, in order to have an intimate knowledge of the sights we would be sending our guests to see. Then, life got in the way. It is now four years later. Better late than never.
Part of the way through our first (only) family day, I added another tradition within the tradition and decided that every “family day” we would stop at a pub we had never been to before.
If I had just said, “We’re going to the pub,” it may have been mistaken for a sign that our first day out was wearing on my nerves and I needed a pint; but by making it a pub we’d never been to added to the sense of adventure.
Not just any pub, either. It has to be a pub that time had passed by. A pub that requires a peak through the window to determine whether it’s open or has been closed for years.
And so, armed with a vague and ever-evolving notion of what should happen on family day, we piled into the car, hours later than we had planned, and set off for our first great adventure. It was fantastic.
We decided to ease ourselves into the waters of quality family time by choosing a few sights close to home. First stop was a walk across the blanket bog on the Ridge of Cappard, about a 10-minute drive from Roundwood. It’s a suggestion I’ve made to many who have stayed here and having experienced it myself, it was an excellent suggestion.
I had found it difficult to describe to curious guests, having never seen it, and I now know why. I’ve never seen anything like it. Somehow, a 4-kilometre boardwalk has been plonked on top of the blanket bog covering the mountain, offering those strolling along it a stunning view that would have previously required a wet-suit and an effort likely beyond my desire and time constraints.
Truly amazing, and closer than the nearest bowling alley.
Next we headed for an obvious choice on a day out with the kids: a cemetery. The family that built Roundwood are buried in a small Quaker graveyard not far from here, and we had always wanted to visit it. So it’s a pity we went to the wrong one; but it was still lovely. It was at this point that another rule was added to the Family Day Handbook. It doesn’t matter where we are as long as we’re together, which is the same as, “We’re not lost; we’re sightseeing.”
Graveyards provide for an interesting Q&A with a 3- and 3/4-year-old.
“This is a place where people go to sleep… and never wake up.”
“Are they dead?”
“When they stop being dead, will they wake up?”
“I think it’s time to go to the pub.”
En-route to the pub, the heavens opened up as we turned down a tiny country lane, into the path of a horse who had broken free from the farmer who was frantically chasing it.
I can’t think of a better way to sum up Ireland.
We chose the pub based on the decided criteria. Was it open? Was it someone’s house? The answer to both those questions was yes. After opening the door and quickly closing it again, as the three men on the only stools at the bar spun around in shock, the owner came outside and coaxed us in for a pint.
They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.
Every move was a squeeze; there was a piano with one working key; a GAA match was on the tv; and nothing matched, perfectly.
I have random memories of days out with my parents when I was young. As memories go, these could be an amalgam of several days out squished into one or one day splintered into many. They could be the result of my own family day tradition or the one day that was meant to start it off.
Either way, here’s to the next big day out.
Paddy Flynn is a Canadian musician who with his wife Hannah runs Roundwood House in Mountrath, Co Laois. He can be contacted via www.roundwoodhouse.com.
Ireland is really a beautiful place to visit.