Saturday, 18 July 2009

Walks along the shore in Skerries and Loughshinny


Patrick Comerford

After spending half the week in hospital, I was determined to get out this afternoon and get some sea air into those lungs of mine.

Skerries has been a strong favourite since my schooldays nearby in Gormanston, and I wasn’t going to let either those jangly knees or a little onshore rain to stop me having a short stroll beside the beach, in the village and out along the harbour, before stopping in “Stoop Your Head” for a light lunch.

But the rain was persistent. Perhaps I should head back along the coast.

Heading south along the coast road past Saint Patrick’s Church in Holmpatrick and out towards Rush, it was a long time since I had been in Loughshinny. This is a quaint little fishing village, with a small cove that has two sandy beaches and peculiar coastline rock formations in MMM shapes.

It’s surprising that despite the rapid growth of housing in Rush, Lusk and Skerries, Loughshinny remains largely unspoiled. This is part of Fingal’s traditional fishing and market garden area, and Loughshinny has a unique, picturesque – almost quaint – charm. These little coves and beaches around the Fingal coast are as good as anything in the West of Ireland, and I’m almost reluctant to share the secret.

The local Loughshinny and District Development Association has designed a Millennium Historical Walk along three routes of equal length, each 3.5 km long. The themes of these historic routes include local lore about love, wealth, war, tragedies, murder, and the breath-taking scenery of the area – all the right ingredients for a creative writer looking for inspiration.

But my lungs and knees weren’t energetic enough to try any routes as long as these this afternoon. Instead, I had a pleasant to stroll along the sandy shoreline and up around the small harbour, listening to the small waves kissing the twin beaches in the bay. Looking out to sea, there were spectacular views of the Skerries Islands and Lambay.

Until the second half of the 17th century, the Anglo-Norman Delahide family owned this area, and their coat-of-arms is now used by the village for official purposes such as twinning.

At the top of a hill overlooking Loughshinny stand the ruins of an old Church and the last remains of Baldungan Castle. The church is said to have been built by the Knights Templar who dedicated it to the “The Sweet Mother of God” – a very Greek Orthodox dedication that they must have taken back from the Mediterranean during the Crusades.

Baldungan Castle later passed to the de Barnewall family, then to the de Bermingham family, and through them by marriage to the St Lawrence family of Howth in 1508.

The castle was sacked in 1642 after a three-day siege. It is said that over 250 people were slaughtered and two captured priests were hanged.

The castle was never repaired and has since fallen into ruin. But those ruins now add to the charm of this little corner of Fingal and have captured this priest.

The official website for the village of Loughshinny, maintained by the Loughshinny Development Association, is at www.LoughshinnyVillage.com