Doohoma Ireland – A place I call home
August 15, 2020
Growing up in Doohoma
Nestled on the North West Coast of Ireland is a little village called Doohoma in County Mayo and the place I call home. This peninsula is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and some of the most incredible natural beauty on the West coast of Ireland. There are very few spots that do not have breathtaking views of the ocean and the surrounding hills.
I grew up in this village in the 1960s and ’70s. It is a small fishing and farming community which has changed considerably since I grew up. My Father owned a mixed farm which provided all our food from milk to fresh meat and poultry. Additionally, he fished during the Summer months as well as working the farm to supplement our food supply and sell the fresh salmon to the local fish merchant. When the crops were all saved, and the fishing season was over he would then go to England as a seasonal farm worker. That is what it took to survive during those times and some social security which helped with the cost of raising 15 children. I recall as a child eating fresh fish and when I say fresh, I mean from the ocean to the table on the same day. I am very fussy about fresh fish as that is what I was used to. Living in Arizona I do not eat a lot of fish as it is never fresh.enough.
I think my mother might have been a Saint she raised 15 children on an extremely limited budget, she made all our clothes, knitted our sweaters and baked all the bread and made the butter in a wooden churn. She baked bread in a skillet on open coals. She just knew how to do everything. It was not easy and at times it was extremely hard, it was all about surviving. The Grocery store was a big red truck which came twice a week, the butcher came in his van once a week and the baker delivered fresh bread twice a week.
There was a strong community spirit back then and neighbors helped neighbors especially at Harvest time the village would get together as a group and help each other save hay and turf taking it in turns to save each farmer’s crops one at a time. Turf was essential for fuel and it was the only fuel I knew as a child. The hay was the main type of feed for the animals during the winter.
As most Irish villages were back then our village was deeply religious, and I would say at that time practically 100% of the residents went to mass on Sunday and to confessions regularly. I have many memories of heading off to confessions on a Saturday and discussing with my brother on the way there what sins I would tell the priest about since I really could not think of any. The church where I did my holy communion, sang in the choir and went to mass every Sunday is still there.
The village had two pubs and a school, and it still does to this day. One of my teachers at the school had also taught my mother when she was young and all my brothers and sisters too. Her name was Mrs. O’Dononhue and she was one of those people you remember all your life as an angel who made you feel special. There was also a post office unfortunately now closed. The post office was the hub of the village on dole day the men would meet, and chat and Dad would come home with all the news updates, whose cow had a calf, whose family member was coming home for Christmas, what was the present price of a cow, who was going to the fair and on and on. When I was a kid there were only 3 phones in the village and the post office was one. Immigrants would call the post office and ask Eamonn the postmaster to go and tell their elderly parents they would call back in ½ hour. The post office provided a vital link between the Doohoma families and the family members who had to leave to make a living on far off shores, and that was many as there was no regular work until later in the 70’s.
I remember warm summers and very cold wet winters. We were surrounded by beautiful beaches, but we rarely went there as all summer days had to be spent working on the farm. It was a quite simple life but very male-dominated which turned me into a feminist!
Doohoma is a place I visit to forget about this crazy world. It is so quiet and peaceful; I dare you not to relax and feel the strong spiritual pull of the beautiful vast Atlantic Ocean. There are multiple self-catering homes to rent that are exceptionally good value for a family. You can pay as little as $100 a night for a 4-bedroom clean and modern house. The local pubs are called The Tra Bui and The Sea Rod Inn. The Sea Rod Inn is also a Bed and Breakfast and serves delicious home-cooked food at a great price. The owners of the Sea Rod Inn Bernie and Mick take a real interest in their guests and serve a great authentic Irish breakfast.
I would not recommend going here without a car as there are so many beautiful places for sightseeing that are worth a day trip, afterward you can return to your rental property to relax and enjoy the sea views, or stop at the pub for a quick pint or two, you will be very welcome. If you love seafood this is a great spot to find it. Ask the locals where to get lobsters and they will point you in the right direction. Your lobster will arrive live and fresh from the ocean. I eat fish almost every day when I am in Doohoma either in a restaurant or I cook it. The neighboring village of Geesala has a community center that serves food and they also have a launderette if you need it. Geesala also has a festival in August with sporting and family events culminating in a horse race on Doolough beach.
Doohoma also holds an event the same month called Crinnu na mBad (gathering of the boats). It is a fun family day with rowing competitions, freshly cooked fish, and lots of family fun. During that week there is a FREE seafood feast at the Tra Bui you will not want to pass up free lobster. It is advisable to bring your rain gear it does rain a lot but it is worth it. When the weather is nice walking on Doohoma beach is a great way to start your day, fresh air beautiful views and you may even come across a friendly local walking their dog or getting some exercise. They will always be friendly to you so say hello. Doohoma is also home to a 9-hole golf course right on Doohoma beach which overlooks the ocean.
If you stay in self-catering, you will have to travel to Belmullet the nearest town for groceries. Belmullet is a lovely typical Irish town, oozing with that Irish small-town charm. There are two main streets and you can still find a butcher, a baker, a greengrocer plus several other small family-owned shops. This article from the Irish times tells the story of Belmullet and captures what is so special about it. Belmullet is close to the Carne golf links if you fancy a game of golf on an original Irish links course. Belmullet is also a short drive from a beautiful beach called Elly Bay and if you like shellfish you can pick cockles on the expansive beach. Make sure you go when the tide is out the locals will tell you the times. Cockles are shellfish that are best simply cooked, shelled then lightly fried tossed in butter with a little garlic and served with Irish soda bread. The Sea Rod Inn has a small grocery store that sells all the staples, milk, sausages eggs, and bread.
Doohoma is part of the wild Atlantic way a 2600 KM coastal route with scenery to take your breath away. In a later article I will be writing about the sightseeing in Erris the area of County Mayo where Doohoma is situated. There are many great day trips and I will cover them in detail. I will also cover the best way to get there from the USA.
Give yourself the gift of a visit to this beautiful place I call home you will not regret it.