In search of light on the edge of Ireland

In a window between lockdowns, we discovered the cinematic coastline of Louth, Ireland’s smallest county, with its wide, empty beaches and rare wildlife

At the very beginning of our first lockdown, I copied a line from US poet Maggie Nelson’s book Bluets and stuck it to my wall. The words are about aiming to be “a student not of longing but of light” . In these oddly boned days, that quote guides me onwards. Now that travel of any form has shape-shifted so vastly – as we’re held so firmly in one place – how might we navigate those delicate paths between longing and reality? Travel, for many of us, has long been a way to keep our creative flames lit. Seeing new places, experiencing unfamiliar things, meeting people different from ourselves: these are the kindling for our fire. Here in Ireland we are once more locked down to within 5km of our homes. Rather than giving in to the ache for all the places I cannot go, I’ve been gazing back at when I discovered the east coast of this island for the first time.

In summer, as soon as we could leave our county, my partner and I decided to visit the smallest Irish county of all – Louth, north of Dublin on the Northern Ireland border. We packed the dog, swimming gear, books and a picnic and headed off: in search of light. There is something quite ancient in feeling about setting off from the exact centre of a piece of land in search of one of its edges. I wonder if our views on pilgrimage might now shift a little, as we become more measured and mindful in the places we seek out, and the ways we interact with them.

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