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Book:Hungry Hill by Daphne Du Maurier
Destination: Beara Peninsula, County Cork Ireland
A new home for travelers is rising from the ashes, quite literally, of an historic country manor in a southwestern corner of Ireland.
Most of the books I read or movies I watch before I travel cover a whole country’s history or culture.However, when I visited American pianist David Syme and his wife Suzanne in their part-time home near Castletownbere, Ireland, I browsed through Suzanne’s travel library and picked up Hungry Hill a book that is set in the remote area where they live. The tiny town of Castletownbere does not even make it onto most maps, but Daphne Du Maurier knew about it. The Beara Peninsula in County Cork, fingers out into the Atlantic Ocean. Toward the end of the 19th century, the Puxley family got wealthy on copper mines in this area and Daphne Du Maurier based her novel on the family’s story.
The Puxley family’s estate, burnt down by the IRA in the 1920’s, is slated to be reborn as the luxury Capella Dunboy Castle Hotel. Historic renovation and financial woes have slowed the completion of the planned hotel, which as of January 2009, has no firm opening date. Although the planned Dunboy Castle Hotel will incorporate the remaining bits of the Puxley family’s mansion, it was named for an even more ancient castle whose ruins watch over the Bay a ten-minute walk from the new hotel. But the saga of one of the last of the Irish Chieftains is a story for another day.
Du Maurier’s story portrays the hard life of the Irish miners and the contrasting concerns of wealthy land owners who lived here in earlier days. Today’s economy subsists on fishing and tourism. I was happy to find a part of soutwestern Ireland that had not yet been overrun with tour buses even though the Ring of Beara is every bit as beautiful as the better known Ring of Kerry.
Have you been inspired to travel by period novels? Do you have other books to recommend about Ireland? Please share some examples in the comments section.
Note: Photo by Vera Marie Badertscher, all rights reserved. Contact for permission before reusing photo.
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