This Wonderful Little Place … Barrow House, Tralee

Author EMER MARTIN on why she’s decided this CORNER OF KERRY is her favourite place on earth …

I am a restless soul, who loves not only to travel, but also to uproot multiple times and hurl myself across the globe to reinvent, discover and open doors I never knew existed. I didn’t go to college until I was 26 because I was hopping around the planet living in France, Holland, England, Israel, and the US. All of the novels I have written have been about wandering and have included many countries. I don’t own anything anywhere. Right now I live in California in Palo Alto, where necessity and children have anchored me but which leaves me in a dilemma. Now I have to spend all my spare money travelling back to Ireland every summer to see family. So Ireland has to suffice as the place I get to explore and find new nooks and crannies to satisfy my appetite for unique experiences.

This year I released my fourth novel The Cruelty Men. It is a novel that encompasses many of the displacements that took place within the small island of Ireland. The O’Conaills are a family from the congested areas of Kerry who are planted in Meath to create a Gaeltacht in order to bring the Irish language to the East. I set the novel in Cill Rialaig because it was a part of Kerry I was familiar with, but the more I explore that county the more it offers up. Despite having been all over the world, Kerry is my favourite place on earth and I often make the long trek to the outer edges of the Ring of Kerry in order to shed my tensions; it’s where I immerse myself in the magic of the mountains and the wild Atlantic ocean.

Barrow House,

Last year one of my old school friends, Daragh McDonogh, fell under the same Kerry spell and made a bold move to sell her home in London for a 1680’s house, formerly belonging to Cromwell’s tax collectors, which she had seen on the internet. She got her brother to buy it at auction, on her behalf, and since then she has turned it into a luxurious B&B. Her bold move enabled me to discover Barrow House complete with the resident chickens – Hillary Clinthen and Henrietta – as well as two goats, Margoat and Jean Paul Goatier, who keep the grass under control.

Jade and Margoat.

As soon as I arrived, the setting made me smile. The house faces the beautiful bay where you can walk to an old castle when the tide is out. When the water was lapping against the walls of the house, we pushed out kayaks and paddled around, framed by mountains. We spent lazy days walking goats, hugging chickens, riding horses on the beach as the sun set late into the night. There were the sixth-century abbey of St Brendan The Explorer, drives to Dingle over the Connor Pass, and lakes so far into mountains they looked like almost-remembered dreams. Tralee was a stone’s throw and Daragh booked dinner for us at her friends’ new restaurant Croí with all ingredients locally sourced and foraged from the bay so I could taste the sea-marinated samphire as it exploded on my tongue. Daragh acquired one of my paintings of the Sea Hag for the house, she is also hoping to have writers use it as a retreat. There is a sequel to The Cruelty Men which follows the characters up to the present day that I would like to start getting into shape there. I doubt I’ll be allowed to come on my own as my 15-year-old Jade will follow me just to hold Hilary Clinthen. I don’t know how I’ll ever get her back to Silicon Valley. She said she would consider it if we can get a chicken.

The Cruelty Men by Emer Martin, Lilliput Press, £15.95, is out now.

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