I’m not big on Irish castles. Too many of them. And they’re pretty much the same, don’t you think? Cold, damp, and cramped. Lovely to look at but really not very interesting to tour. Worse than castles: military forts. Like Charles Fort, which Mr. Lynch is anxious to visit. It’s quite impressive, says he, buttering his toast at the Presbytery Inn. I pour myself some tea. Such a lovely morning, say I, maybe we should do a walk around the harbor out to the end of Pier Road to see what the fishing boats are bringing back this morning.
Mr. Lynch wrinkles his nose. You want to go look at dead fish when you could learn some Irish history at perhaps the finest star-shaped bastion fort in Europe? I don’t say anything, but, yes, that sounds preferable to me. Followed by perhaps a dish of mackerel and a pint along the water. But I don’t put up a fight. After all, we’re headed for Blarney later just so I can kiss the stone, something Mr. Lynch will not do. So after we check out of the hotel, we drive along the water’s edge pass Scilly and Summercove, up the hill to Charles Fort.
Do you need a jacket? asks Mr. Lynch. Not at all. It’s gorgeous out. Quite warm. Mr. Lynch shrugs and grabs a raincoat out of the boot. Bernard has told us to ask for a Karen Healy at the ticket counter. Which we do. Ah, Karen’s just gone out with another tour, says the woman, but if you don’t mind, you could just run out and catch her going down the hill. Fine with us. But a young gentleman comes out before we can get out the door. You must be the journalists, he says. They’re going to catch Miss Healy’s tour, says the woman behind the counter. She’s just started.
Not a problem, says the young man. I’ll take them myself. But they’re supposed to be with Miss Healy. I said I’ll take them myself, says he. The young man leads us out to an open space with a tile map of the fort. Fine example of a star-shaped fortification he says. Do you know why it’s star-shaped? No idea but I’m sure he’s going to tell us. And he does. Something about rammed earth and defenses and William of Orange. I’m not listening to a word. Just taking in the view back across the harbor, wishing we were walking along Pier Road just now looking for a place to lunch.
The young man has an encyclopedia’s knowledge of the fort. All the comings and goings. Who got paid how much and what sort of uniforms they wore. Parade grounds and barracks and officer quarters and powder houses and chapels. Something about men being whipped and something else about hangings and such. Can’t keep it all straight. Sounds fascinating, though. Not really. Still rather be tucking into a nice piece of mackerel. And just then it starts raining like god’s own. Coming down in buckets. Tour over. Back to entrance to stand around and wait for the showers to pass. God how the weather does turn quickly in this country.
Our tour guide departs, apologizing for truncating things. Not his fault. Rain slows and Mr. Lynch dashes out to the parking lot to bring the car up to the front so my camera doesn’t get soaked. Awfully nice of him. Maybe he’s feeling guilty for insisting on this stop. Never mind. Hop in the car. Thank god for the showers, I say. I was quite enjoying the tour, says Mr. Lynch. Really? Yes, really. Well, each to his own.