To Ben Bulben
by the Sea
the Horse Holiday Farm
There are still
smidgens of snow, sparkling geometric shapes, up on Benwiskin,
Ben Bulben's mountain neighbour. Although the late spring sunshine
has coaxed out primproses along every bank, down on Cliffony
strand you can see the wind is swirling in from Donegal Bay
and unsettling flocks of oyster catchers. It's midday and down
in the village of Grange, a little more than a mile away, the
Angelus is marked by a taped rendition of "Ave Maria" with
bells, relayed through the local church's tannoy system.
"Grange is a great village," says Tilman Anhold as we walk from his house to
the stable yeard. "Everyone here pulls together."
There is little trace of a German accent. 28 years ago he came here from
Celle, near Hannover, and married Colette, a local Irish girl who spoke
a little German. He never went back.
The sound of a blacksmith's hammer on steel rings all around us. It's
the day before Tilman and Colette open for the 2000 season; tomorrow
they're expecting an influx of Germans and Scandinavians to their quaintly
named Horse Holiday Farm, the enterprise to which they've devoted their
lives. Yardmen direct power hoses to sluice down the last signs of winter
from the stables and walkways. Charlie McNulty, the blacksmith from Donegal,
whose noble face looks as if it were fashioned on an anvil, is shooing
a large number of the 103 horses that make up his establishment. He stoops
and picks up a hoof and lays it upon his leather apron. Then he files
down the hoof in deft, rasping strokes until the horse's foot is flat
and even to receive the metal shoe.
Tilman's farm - everyone around here refers to "Tilman's" - is found
in a setting of exceptional natural beauty. His house over the great
Donegal Bay looks out to the Slieve League peninsula. To the distant
right, looking over Mullaghmore Castle, are the crowded peaks of the
Blue Stack Mountains. To the left is Sligo Bay and beyond it, in the
distance, the primal hump of stones that is Queen Medb's tomb on Knocknarea.
Directly behind Tilman's is Ben Bulben, flat headed, timeless, enthralling.
Directly below Tilman's is Streedagh strand. Cliffony strand is a mile
further on. If you're a walker or hiker, this is heaven. If you ride
horses, then it is truly kingdom come.
Tilman gives me a leg-up on Beaker, an eight-year old gelding. Sun is
drenching down as I leave the yard and am met by Elke, Tilman's neighbour,
a Cologne girl who is married to Tommy Wymbs, a local man. Elke has volunteered
to be my guide for the morning. She is riding Stonepark, a grey gelding,
on its toes. We trot down the lane past a cottage whose colour scheme
and plastic window flowers somehow manage to make the term kitsch appealing.
on the Beach
Beach to Beach at Low Tide
"You've got four strands," Elke says, "starting with Mullaghmore, then Cliffony,
Streedagh and Lissadell. At low tide you can ride on all four, from one to the
The place names, spoken in Elke's lilting Cliffony accent, sound like
blank verse. I remember how Yeats used these local place names:
Under bare Ben Bulben's head
In Drumcliffe Churchyard Yeats is laid
The strand at Cliffony provides the horses with irresistible
open space. Snorting in the ozone, they take off through
the incoming white caps. Beaker is stretching out, trying
to let me give him another inch of rein. The sound of
our hooves in the tide is curiously muted. Gulls on the
sand ahead cling to their territory until the last minute
as we thunder towards them. I can taste salt and sea,
feel sun, hear water and gulls, smell horse. We pull
up and trot in a circle, catching our breaths. We've
cantered about a mile. Ahead is the gothic starkness
of Mullaghmore. Sand dunes roll back from the high-tide
mark, great, towering craggy hills of sand and pampas
grass. There are no other humans in sight.
Horse Holiday Farm Ltd.
Grange County Sligo Ireland
Telephone : (071) 9166152
Fax : (071) 9166400
From Europe Telephone : 00 353 71 9166152
Fax : 00 353 71 9166400
Anfrage und Reservierung
zur Horse Holiday Farm
The Horse Holiday Farm is Bord Fáilte (Irish Tourist Board) approved
a member of A.I.R.E., the Association of Irish Riding Establishments.