Listen to the podcast by clicking here: The Fairy Village – Baltray
Majority of Irish villages remind me of a tunnel; you got one narrow enough road, both sides of which are tightly built up. Finding a parking spot along such road can pose a true challenge but often passing through such village where the cars are parked on both sides can pose an even bigger challenge.
Baltray, is different. Baltray reminds me of Poland or Holland, where villages spread a bit creating a little net of back roads.
It is like a true hidden gem of the area. Surrounded by waters of the Irish Sea and the Boyne River estuary, it used to be a fishing village in the times when salmon was so densely inhabiting the Queen of the Cows, that it allegedly could be cought by hands.
The times have changed though and now it is a “bedroom” for those working in the nearby port city of Drogheda or even further in Dundalk or Dublin.
Living on the opposite bank of the river, I often gave out about the lack of a little boat or a ferry that could take people onto the other side. This would take no more than 5 minutes.
As Drogheda port is an active business receiving and dispatching cargo boats on daily basis, there is no way of building a bridge that would link Mornington and Baltray beaches.
As such, after staring on the other side for weeks, Chloe and I one day decided to finally see what’s in there.
The journey, instead of 5 minutes, took us 30 minutes by car. Along the southbank of the river, all the way down to the first bridge in Drogheda center, only to then drive all the way along the north bank of the river, to finally, after seeing a pretty thatched cottage, then an old stone bridge, turn right, as per the sign posts.
On the left, row of old but well looked after houses, on the right, a bit of green ended with a long, over one meter high, stone wall built along the water edge. A few benches, ridiculously positioned in a way so that all you’d see when sitting on them would be a stone wall 10 cm away from your face. No wonder they are always empty.
And here pops the pub. Every Irish village has a church and a pub. And funnily, they are usually situated opposite from each other. It makes things easy for the Irishmen who, as the Danish philosopher, Soren Kirkegaard said “babtise their children, but just in case, never dip the heel in the holy water”. I guess the heel is what takes them to the pub after the Sunday mass. It’s a secret process of satisfying both gods, the religious and the pagan.
But here, in Baltray there is no church 🙂 Told ya this village is special!
We parked just by the pub where there are a few spaces usually available. We found ourselves in the center of the settlement.
Two dogs, one old, white and black, and the other one all black, popped over as if we were their friends since kindergarten times and simply accompanied us to everywhere we went.
A few pretty houses on the right, thatched cottage on the left, some more houses around the pub and a road leading to the back streetlets.
In front of us, green area, with a large tree just by the road. Last Christmas it was decorated with huge red lamps that made it look like from a fairytale.
Towards the end of the green, a few picnic tables with benches and something mesmerizing.
Chloe ran towards it like mad. Dogs chased her, knowing they were up for a treat. Fun treat that is.
Between the trees, neatly built and managed by the locals was a little Fairy Garden.
This garden changed greatly since the first time we saw it and now is probably 5 times its original size.
Locals collected the toys their kids no longer used and adding plenty of imagination and using what Mother Nature gave them, they created a masterpiece among the trees.
There are tiny Fairy houses and keeps, all hand painted and arranged by the kids. A mini trampoline built into the ground. Mini tables and chairs, painted tree stomps, doll size cutlery and crockery for the Little Folk, doll houses, secret hideouts, slide and a swing.
Last year, it even welcomed an honesty box with free range eggs sold here by a local family.
Balls and sticks are plentiful and therefore the dogs have already trained the children how to entertain them. Chloe receives her lesson too and soon is so busy that does not even know with what to occupy herself next.
It was a sunny day, quite an unusual occurance here and it hadn’t rained in a few days. The grass was dry, let’s say (never sat on a dry grass in 16 years of living in Ireland!).
Just by the Fairy Garden, there’s a world famous Golf Course ran by the Louth County Council. This award winning Golf Club hosted two Irish Opens.
We cross the road that leads to the Club and sit on the grass. As always, paper, crayons and markers get spread all over….
…. All over the moon, we commit a book, as we usually would, complete with made-on-the-spot illustrations. This one is about our new doggy friends that managed to tame us so easily.
But doggies, don’t you forget what Little Prince said: “you become responsible for what you have tamed”!
We went back to the car and drove past the golf course to the very end of a super patholed road, which now is closed off for the cars. Thank God because driving there meant a potentially last day for a regular car and the area is a nature reserve anyway. Must be protected.
That day we took the risk and drove down to the riverbank where the famous Fairy Mounds welcomed us. They grow in size and number as we speak.
A walk along the riverside is quite long, especially for a young child but it is worth it. You can either make a loop and return to the same spot, only walking among the cows and cow poops via a path that is provided by the land owner or you can go all the way down to the seaside.
Every year, between May and August, Louth Nature Trust runs a conservation project here to protect the nests of rare birds that happen to like this area – cute little terns and little egrets.
Walking on this beach is both pain and fun. It is so vast and long, as it goes all the way down to Clogherhead, that you feel overwhelmed by its size. But more than that, it is so rarely visited by humans that it truly is a nature haven.
The sand dune is kilometre wide and the fine yellow sand is so soft that walking is a struggle. Your feet constantly sink even up to 10 cm into the sand and therefore what normally would take you 15 minutes here takes at least twice that.
On a positive side though, when the water is warm and you walk there barefoot, the sinking feet release air bubbles onto the surface of the water as you brood in it. It not just sounds and looks funny but most of all tickles 😀 It is the only place where I have experienced such a phenomenon.
And finally, once you walk about one kilometre towards Thermonfecking, which you may also do via mentioned dune, you come face to face with a shipwreck of the ‘Irish Trader’ which ran aground in 1974 here while caring crop fertilizer cargo to the port of Drogheda. On a low tide you can walk around it and take nice photos. Chloe adores this place.
Baltray is a village listed on the Scenic Seafood Trail, a County Lauth initiative to bring tourism to the seaside locations as well as to promote them in a fun way. There’s a list of places where you can obtain a passport and then collect special souvenir stamps from each of the places you visit along the way – Sea how it works here 🙂
There’s one more festival that can be enjoyed locally. It is called Vantastival and it takes place in the nearby beautiful Beaulieu House, situated by the riverbank, half way between Baltray and Drogheda town.
Every June Bank Holiday, campervanners and music fans gather here to share the time in a friendly atmosphere. The venue is more of a garden-party-with-neighbours type of a festival.
Kids activities, arts and crafts, food stalls and music. And all that in a surrounding of this wonderful House that is now fully closed for the public except for such events.
And it was once well worth visiting due to its Dutch architecture and one of the three cadavers in Ireland, located at its graveyard. But that’s more of a memento moris stuff and we wanted to celebrate here hence I’ll make sure to write about all that some other time.
As for Baltray, there’s one more thing here worth mentioning. Only 23 years ago, in 1999, local men noticed that on a winter solstice the Sun positions itself in the specific way between two stones that were considered quite unimportant till then.
You may find it interesting to indulge in an article about these Baltray Standing Stones here.
Baltray is in a desperate need of anti flooding measures, especially now with the growing risk of rising water levels. The Archimedes principle stating that:
any body completely or partially submerged in a fluid (gas or liquid) at rest is acted upon by an upward, or buoyant, force, the magnitude of which is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the body.
can sadly be oserved here each time a ship loaded heavily with the cargo containers enters the port of Drogheda. Thankfully not every boat is allowed and not always is a right time to enter either.
Dear Lauth CoCo, I know there are plans in place but nothing is being done still. Please review your budget and do priotitize this amazing place as it is a truly unique village. So tiny and yet so enchanting, with plenty to offer. And must I mention the people? They are welcoming and friendly. And they don’t even mind it that there is no shop in the area. They also love their tranquil peace, so let’s respect that. But at the same time let’s not let it turn into a fabulous… Atlantis.
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