A hidden village

Guided by a small mark on the map we parked along the coast road by a gate that opened to a gravel road leading up a steep hill. We know by now that such a setting is an invitation to the Escapees to put on our hiking shoes and see what’s up there.

We climbed and climbed, high above the coast road, around craggy outcrops and spongy meadows.

A half mile of thigh-burning hiking brought us to the hidden village of Galboly, a walled group of abandoned stone buildings left to crumble and overgrown with vines and wildflowers. It’s as picturesque a place as we’ve ever seen.

Lucky for us, one of the lineal owners of the village was tending his sheep and was happy to have a chat. Liam pointed out each building — this was Rose’s old house, that was Rose’s new house, this was Annie’s house, that was a shebeen. Liam explained that a shebeen (síbín in Irish) was an illegal pub where they sold homemade whiskey.

“My mother was born in that cottage,” Liam said, and he pointed to a crumbling building with a fine view of the sea. He happily obliged when I asked if I could take his photo in front of it, then regaled us with glee about the times visitors arrived boasting that their granddad or great uncle had lived there, not realizing that Liam was probably a long lost cousin.

Liam was particularly amused by the woman who told him her son was the first to discover the village. He said he asked her if the son was 200 years old and he howled with delight at the thought that his ancestral village was unknown before a young man stumbled across it.

We spent a good hour listening to Liam’s stories and taking photographs before starting the beautiful trek back down the mountain to the sea. The coast of Northern Ireland continues to deliver.

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