By mid-afternoon, we were ready for an Irish coffee, and the Minaun View pub is happy to provide them. I first ducked into the Minaun View on a bitterly chill afternoon seven years ago. I took my seat at the bar, ordered my Irish coffee, and listened in to the local radio station broadcast death notices ("turn it up," urged one of the bartenders) when I took a look around. I noticed a poster praising the IRA hunger strikers of the 70s, an autographed photo of Gerry Adams, several copies of his books for sale, and a large glass jug for donations to Sinn Fein.
Half expecting a gang of balaclava'd Provos to burst in with Thompsons and Uzis ablaze, I considered leaving. But it was awfully cold, and the Minaun View was the only place I could find that served Irish coffee. So I stayed, lived, went in peace, and returned year after year. One time, the publican recommended a trip to the incomparable views of Minaun Heights; this year, a different barkeep wondered whether "they" were really going to burn the Quran. The regulars, none of whom looked especially different than the regulars in any other Irish pub, seemed to find the whole idea mystifying and silly.
The publican recommended a nearby hamlet and rocky beach as being the "real Ireland." As hard living as life in the village must be, it abuts a spectacular rocky beach, aching in its lonesomeness:
We're not sure where the labyrinth came from. It took planning, time, and effort to finish. It's condition is too good to be ancient, too well-planned and executed to be the work of kids, and no adult would put in the required time voluntarily. And yet there is no plaque or marker. Chalk it up as another mystery in a mysterious land.
From there, we drove to the village Dugort, perhaps the most remote place in the most remote place in Ireland. Perched along a cliff's edge, it's notable for the absence of a pub. We inched past a low-slung house advertising "Artist's Books, Photography, and Silkscreen Prints;" in our experience, the contents of such places rarely live up to even the most modest billings. But, we often stop just to make sure, and stopping in at Redfoxpress turned out to be the equivalent of sinking consecutive holes-in-one at Pebble Beach.
Francis Van Maele, the co-proprietor, turned out to be a world-class printer and bookmaker who sells his limited editions internationally and whose work is collected by museums. I bought Archives de l'oubli, a set of found photographs from the collection of the Luxembourg Jean Delvaux. T. discovered Booksbook, a "...collection of all different kinds of books -- accounting book, manual book, family book, cookbook...
I visit Achill Island every time I'm in Ireland, and I find something new every time. Years ago, a mainlander asked me if I had been there yet. I shook my head. "Ye have to go," he said. "The craic there is mighty."