This month marks my one year anniversary since leaving Ireland, and so I thought I would share another adventure I had while living there. In late winter/early spring, my friend and I went to a small town called Belcoo as the first of many adventures.
Belcoo is a small village in Northern Ireland only a few hours by bus from where I lived in Belfast, and it is the stopping place when visiting the Marble Arch Caves. It is about 10 miles from Enniskillen in County Fermanagh.
The name, Belcoo or Béal Cú, is Irish for “the mouth of a narrow stretch of water” and its name is derived from the river that passes along the village. The surrounding towns also have names derived from their topography; Drumcoo, the town immediately north of Belcoo translates to “the hill of the narrow strip of land.”
The village name also has mythological origins; in the “Massacre of Belcu Brefne,” Belcu (Belcoo) was a chief killed by his own sons in a trap he had set for the Ulster hero Conall Cernach. Its name is believed to originate with this mythological chief as the place/village where the tale took place was named in his honor.
A third interpretation of the name is “the mouth of the hound.” In Irish, Cù can also be translated as “hound,” and in ”The Festival of Lughnasa,” Máire MacNeill claims that the village came out of a hound’s mouth before it was killed by St. Patrick.
The village still hosts a few buildings that were damaged during the World Wars – I was granted the pleasure of photographing one such building (it was on private property). This village was also where I had the best shortbread cookies I have ever tasted; they were so delicious that my friend and I dubbed them “magic cookies.” It is an inside joke we continue to this day whenever we idealize about the way a certain place may be.
In reality, our trip to Belcoo was a complete misadventure and in some ways I wish we had stayed in Enniskillen. For the most part, the entire village is located on one very short street. Its population was only four-hundred something in 2001 and it didn’t seem that much larger when we were there.
During our trip, only three places were open: the bar, the hotel and the equivalent of a 7-11. We were attempting to go to the Marble Arch Caves, but they were closed. The bus only went to the village twice each day, so we were stranded there for several hours without anything to do.
At the time we were both quite unhappy with the results of our trip, but looking back on it now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.