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July 8, 2014 / Tina


Written by Geralyn Rownan


Suffering from creative block? Plain exhaustion? In need of a holiday? Having ticked all three boxes, I found the perfect answer for it all; The Old Deanery, Killala, Co. Mayo. Self-catering cottages and a Creative Centre beside the sea, in a picturesque village in the west of Ireland…what could be better? And as unofficial researcher of places-we-can-go-and-write-as- well- as- have- a- good time, it seemed perfect for the getaway my Writers’ Group were seeking.

I knew the minute I ‘phoned to enquire and spoke to Liz, it would be just perfect and it was.

I and two colleagues from our Writing Group arrived on a Saturday morning after a very straightforward drive from Dublin. We were greeted at the door of the Deanery by Maebh, Liz’s Irish wolfhound named after the legendary Queen of Connaught, rumoured to be buried on one of the islands the Old Deanery overlooks. As befitting her status, Maebh’s manners were impeccable. She merely came to stand beside us and wait for us to fuss over her.

Next we were warmly welcomed by Liz and her family before Liz and Maebh escorted us to our cottage. On the path to our cottage Liz pointed out the organic herb beds and told us to help ourselves. The term “cottage” usually denotes a fairly small dwelling; our holiday cottage was extremely spacious and in the lingo of self-catering, very well appointed. It was also, literally, across the road from the bay. The views were spectacular. A lot of time during the week was spent just looking out at the bay and the islands.

Attached to the Deanery is the Frank Keane Creative Centre. Crafts, yoga, art classes, special events, seminars, you name it are run there.   Lots of room to sit outside and admire the even more spectacular views.  Apart from scheduled classes, there are five professional writers in the area who will mentor individuals or groups if desired.

The village of Killala has history and lots of it, abbeys down every country road and a blue flag beach approx. 4kms away. The village is also home to pubs with food as well as drink, a supermarket where they make you pizzas or burger and chips to order, and a fabulous bistro, “The Open Door”.  Which meant there was very little cooking done in the cottage.  In fact there was very little writing done also. Due to the good weather we found ourselves obliged to spend a lot of time on the beach, talking about writing in between swims in the crystal clear Atlantic. We also felt obliged to visit abbeys and the Holy Well, on the basis that artists need to feed their imaginations and souls with nature and spirituality.  I personally felt obliged to have a biodynamic massage- again a contact supplied by Liz. She could not have been more helpful or hospitable.

Of course in the evenings we felt obliged to engage with the locals, listen to their stories, play pool and watch discuss the World Cup Football matches.  We also waved off an American bride from the cottage next door, as she left to marry her Killala beau.

We went there to rest a bit and write a bit. We did.  I came back with a fresh approach to a story I’ve been stuck on for a while. My companions also wrote and came back with clearer heads. In short, we had a wonderful week.

The final verdict of “The Writers in Cottage Number 8” on our stay in The Old Deanery?   Ten out of ten, and a constellation of stars.


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