Blackwater Valley, Ireland

Irish Coastline

The first view of the coastline raises a sense of excitement and anticipation for visitors, but for centuries, the last view of the coastline was etched with sadness in the memory of our emigrants.  We don’t leave Ireland, “we leave our native shores”.  The coastline is in our language, it’s in our psyche, it’s in our genes.

Nearly everyone of Irish descent knows the shape of our coastline, “just like a teddy bear”.  But it goes much, much deeper than that.

About 16,000 BC, the whole of northern Europe, Eurasia and North America was covered in a vast, thick blanket of ice.  So thick was the ice and so much water was bound up in it that sea levels were over 100 meters lower than today.  What are now the islands of Ireland and Great Britain were part of a great North European Peninsula, jutting out into the Atlantic.

There was a line running across this peninsula that crossed Ireland roughly from Limerick to Wexford that marked a border, across which the great northern ice sheets never encroached.  But there was lots of ice on the MacGillycuddy's Reeks, due to their height above sea level.  This left a warm, green belt, which ran diagonally across the peninsula that included the Blackwater River System, The Avondhu.

Iberians were migrating slowly up the Atlantic coast.  So low were sea levels that they could walk across the Bay of Biscay and the Celtic Sea to eventually arrive on this great peninsula.

What sights they must have seen along the way.  Maybe, possibly, the confluence of the Lee, the Blackwater and the Barrow, Nore and Suir.  Coastal regions would have looked very similar to Northern Spain and Atlantic France, swathes of fragrant gorse, heathers, great forests of Oak, rivers, crystal clear, stocked full with fish.

Some migrated inland up our rivers, but the coastline was so bountiful, with fish, shellfish and seal, that here was a place of plenty for these fishermen and beachcombers. 

As the Gulf Stream warmed the coastline, these first explorers made their way up the west coast, around the north side and into the land that was to become Scotland, avoiding the still frozen interior of the peninsula.

Then, about 6,200 BC, disaster struck.  As the ice continued to slowly melt, an enormous lake, Lake Agassiz, which had built up in North America, burst through the ice dam and disgorged 150,000 cubic km of water into the North Atlantic. 

The effect on our North European Peninsula was devastating.  All on the coast would have perished, save the very few who managed to flee to higher ground and those who migrated inland earlier to settle on the banks of our rivers.

Eventually, when all the ice had melted and the waters were redistributed around the globe, the islands of Ireland and Great Britain were all that remained of this once great peninsula, but they were now colonized by the survivors of the flood.

When these Stone Age settlers looked out over their new coastline, they had stories and legends, for their children, of great islands, indeed continents off to the west, now under the sea.

They had stories of great floods.  They had stories of people who ruled kingdoms beneath the waves.  They had stories of Tír na nÓg.

There are no archaeological artefacts, no burial places, no art on the land formations that mark the eternal home of these first Irish.

There is a spiritual uaigneas, standing on a headland or a cliff, high above their water world, their resting places of untouchable beauty.

How else can you explain this emotion seeping out of cliffs and rocks pounded by heaving white seas or a bay caressed by gentle waves? 

We gaze out to sea through the mists of first light; through the dazzling sparkles of midday or through the last warm golden rays of sunset, expecting a sign, a trace from the deep dark pool of our genetic memory.

The coastline defines who we are, what we are, distinctly Irish.

"Our Irish Coastline", that warm cuddly teddy bear, welcomingly reaching out, telling our story to the world.

Avondhu Heritage Archive is a repository for all information relative to the history and heritage of the Avondhu. The Avondhu can be best described as the Munster's Blackwater river system. It includes the rivers Bride, Awbeg, Araglin, Funshion and of course the Blackwater itself.
Audio-visual information on the following Eccleasiastical Sites
 Aghern,  Ardnageehy (old),  Atha Cross,  Ballyclough,  Ballydeloughy,  Ballyhooly,  Ballyhooly, Ballyhooly Conva,  Ballynoe,  Ballynoe Corrin,  Baunnanooneeny,  Boherash,  Brigown,  Britway,  Carrigdownane,  Carrignavar,  Castlelyons Abbey,  Ceall Danain, Christchurch,  Cill Cromglaisi,  Clondulane,  Coole,  Coole Abbey,  Coolroe,  Curraglass,  Derryvillane,  Doonpeter,  Doonpeter,  Dunbulloge,  Dunmahon,  Dysert, Farahy,  Fermoy Abbey,  Glanworth,  Glenville,  Gortroe,  Kilcoghlan,  Kilcrumper,  Kildinan,  Kildorrery,  Kildrum,  Kilgullane,  Kill St. Anne,  Killacluig, Killakane,  Killally,  Killamurren,  Killaspugmullane,  Killathy,  Killee,  Killeenemer,  Killshanahan Abbey,  Kilmaculla,  Kilmagnier,  Kilmore,  Kilphelan,  Kilquane, Kilshanahan,  Kilworth,  Kingston College,  Knockmourne Abbey,  Knockmourne Curaheen,  Labbamologga,  Leitrim,  Litter Castlehyde,  Macroney,  Marshalstown, Mogeely,  Mourneabbey,  Nathlash,  Rathcormack,  St. George Mitchelstorn,  St. Peter Ballinterry,  Templeboden,  Templemichael,  Templevalley,  Watergrasshill, Whitechurch,  Whitechurch,  See Sites

Contact information and brief description on the following Accommodation Providers Abbeyville House, Annesgrove Gatelodge, Ballinwillin House, Ballyvolane House, Blackwater Valley Caravan and Camping, Coolacunna, Croughmore Thatched Cottage, FIRGROVE HOTEL, Grand Hotel, Harkaway Cottages, Mountain View, Old Train House, Palm Lodge, Riversdale, Riverside, Throughstone Self-Catering Coach House, Trien, Virginia House,  See Sites

Download information and brief description on the following Archaeological Sites Ballyoran Bog, Gortore 1B,  See Sites