By gathering the seed remains in the bog we can tell exactly what grew in Ireland many thousand years ago. Passing from Castlebar to Newport great dried tree roots are revealed. They are the remnants of great forests. History is everywhere if you are looking for the right things.
The fair land of Ireland observed from Knockranny House Hotel may seem settled now but it went through much turmoil to settle into its present position of green drumlins where sheep can graze in springtime ease.
On a beautiful Easter Sunday, when the land is emerald and fair, one dwells upon the beauty of the place, looking out through the bow windows.
People come and go. Families gather, enjoying the excellent cuisine. Things drift into the mind when one studies a menu, or leaves it aside and looks out a bow window.
Mayo is drumlin country. These small hills run right across the country from Co. Down. They are whale shaped. They point like arrows the directions in which the ice sheets moved. They come to an end in Clew Bay where they are beached in the sea. All that happened some 20,000 years ago.
Westport is the most beautiful of towns.
It was not always the important site it is now. In Patrick's time and the time after it has never received an unfavourable notice and when I return from Dublin by train it is filled with retired people on their way to Westport. For them it is the perfect place. It is a place to be protected and not gaudily presented. There is no need to guild the lily.
Writers always write well of Westport. Visitors always speak well of the town. It is an ordered town, planned by James Wyatt, for Lord Sligo. The gentle Carrowbeg River passes beneath limestone bridges, and over small waterfalls. It is tree lined and in autumn the leaves are carried to the sea past Westport House.
Beyond the town lies great mountains with massive quartzite cores and the most impressive mountains in the west of Ireland; Croagh Patrick, the Sheeffry hills, Mweelrea Mountains, the Partry Mountains and further south The Twelve Pins of Conamara.
To the north west stand other ranges of mountains stretching to Achill and Erris and the imposing and singular Mount Nephin.
Westport is a seaport and its wealth was drawn from the sea. Great warehouses filled with grain and hides stood beside the quays. They had fallen into decay but were restored in a sympathetic fashion and today are apartments. It has brought vigour and life to the harbour side of the town and in summer time it possesses a Parisian gaiety. Westport is the gateway to some of the most spectacular scenery in Ireland.
They say there is one island for every day of the year but in reality there are less than a hundred.
It was the Third Earl of Sligo, or plain John Brown, who undertook the work of not only improving his stately home but the town itself. He engaged James Wyatt to desi's life was active and interesting and he was the architect of many fine buildings in England. He was born in 1746 and he was active in Westport around 1780.
This was an age of elegance and this elegance is evident in Westport. It has a dignified town centre in the Georgian architectural style, and is one of the few planned towns in the country. The Octagon in Westport is delightfully balanced and on one side stands a Georgian theatre designed by Wyatt. As Thackeray wrote in The Irish Sketch book.
Nature has done much for this pretty town of Westport; and after nature, the traveller ought to be thankful to Lord Sligo, who has done a great deal too. In the first place, he has established one of the prettiest, comfortable inns in Ireland, in the best part of the little town, stocking cellars with good wines, filling the house with neat furniture, and lending it is said to a landlord gratis, on condition that he should keep the house warm and furnish the larder and entertain the traveller.
Westport has entertained many travellers before the arrival of Thackeray and after his departure.
Thus we had slow time and pleasant food on a gently saved hill. I wish that all days were thus. But we do have to come down from the hill and return to the routine of life. Every day cannot be Babette's Feast but we do need such days.