Going wild in Ireland
Walking along a rough trail adjacent to Kenmare Bay on the west coast of Ireland, Vincent Hyland stopped and grabbed a handful of brownish-green foliage hanging from a tree branch. It looked like shrivelled leaves or even a fungus, but Hyland was holding a forest talisman.
A type of bromeliad, tree lungwort has no roots and gets its moisture and nutrients from the atmosphere, so it needs the clean water and air to survive. “It looks like lungs, so they used to crush it into a paste and rub it on people’s chests to help with breathing,” Hyland said.
Though its historic use was most likely a placebo, tree lungwort is a kind of medicine for modern forests; a gauge of their health. Farther down the path we saw more signs of a healthy environment — blooming sea pinks, native holly and mature oak trees, plus otter poop, which Hyland encouraged me to smell. Casting aside the ew factor, I inhaled and was pleasantly surprised by the aroma of seaweed and crab meat, the critter’s meal. In addition to otters, the offshore water harbours seals, humpback whales and basking sharks.
Situated on 500 acres in County Kerry, Parknasilla is just one stop along the Wild Atlantic Way, a driving route that hugs 2,600 kilometres of the country’s rugged west coast. It would take weeks to complete the entire drive, so our group focused on some of the wildest bits in County Kerry, which boasts a national park, international dark sky reserve, and most recently a Mission Blue Hope Spot.