If you looking for an authentic Irish experience that includes farming, animals, history, and amazing views when you visit Ireland, look no farther than Molly Gallivan’s Cottage and Traditional Farm. Molly Gallivan was a widowed mother of seven children and had to find a way to keep her house and land while providing for her kids. She survived by being an entrepreneur, starting her own “Sibheen”, illegal pub selling Molly’s Mountain Dew. Molly’s “Poitín” Irish Potato Whiskey was a huge hit. Her story is inspiring that over 200 years ago, single moms were fighting to keep a roof over their children’s head just like today and they were incredibly successful!
Preserving the Past
Stephen and Frances along with their family run the farm. They bought Molly Gallivan’s when they heard a developer was going to raze the farmhouse and put up modern houses. Good thing they stopped them! I can’t imagine all this beauty being erased. They wanted to preserve the farm’s original character and the history of living off the land and cultivating it by hand. Take a look at how well they did….
When you pull up to the parking area across from Molly’s the scenery is breathtaking. Get your camera out and start snapping! Amazing Irish countryside of Sheen Valley right outside Molly’s front door. Ireland is sooo green. I love it!
Making Soda Bread
My tour to Molly Gallivan’s Cottage and Traditional Farm was through TBEX & Fáilte Ireland. Our first surprise on the tour happened inside the cottage. Frances demonstrated how to make Irish Soda Bread so quickly. I blinked and she was already done making it. This is all done without modern conveniences where the bread is cooked over a Peat fire for 45 minutes and churning butter takes 2 hours.
Lighting the Fire
Dried Peat which is used for fuel to cook and heat the cottage. Stephen showed us how they dig up the Peat and let it dry before they can use it for fuel. The Peat Bogs are all throughout Ireland. They take about 700 years to grow and when they cut out a portion it is twice the size of the bricks in the wagon below. Each peat brick takes about an hour to burn in the fire lending its distinct aroma to the home.
Touring the Farm
After the kitchen demonstration, Stephen gave us an extensive tour of the farm. First stop is by The Well. This is the fresh spring source for the home’s cooking and drinking water through the gate below.
The Animals are Taking Over
The animals throughout Molly’s have quite the personalities just like their owners. Black Pudding, the pig, is a star in his own right. With as many pictures and videos taken, I’m surprised he doesn’t have a bigger head. I see you sticking your tongue out at me.
The chickens, ducks, sheep and all the other animals freely roam the farm. You can pet them but, don’t feed them. Remember that you have to watch out for little surprises while you are walking around the farm. Those aren’t rocks!
The remains of this house is an unfortunate reminder of Ireland’s Potato Famine. This particular ruin is typical of the size that would have housed a family of twelve. One room with a fireplace to burn Peat for warmth and it would have had a half loft for the children to sleep in. As the famine struck the families that could not pay their rent were forced out of their homes. The landlords would burn their roofs so, they wouldn’t be able to return. Most families either died from starvation or managed to emigrate to America which was a huge detriment to Ireland. If you have a roof over your head tonight, you are better than 70% of the world!
Another folktale Stephen shared is that in Ireland, you do not build homes along fairy paths. You will not see homes at the end of straight paths, which is how fairies travel (straight paths). If you block a fairy path, sickness, and troubles would fall upon the family. To prevent this, people would build stones 3-4 feet high around the corners of the proposed home during the full moon and if they were undisturbed the next day it was ok to build on that site.
Druids and the Sun Calendar
The Druids are some of the first settlers in this area and left amazing sites of their ingenuity and knowledge of the stars. The Neolithic Stone Row is an alignment of two very large flagstones positioned to show the exact location of the sunrise on the Summer Solstice. Stephen joked that females laying on the stones would be pregnant within a week. There were no takers on that one in my group.
More of the Farm
Feeding Time at the Farmyard
Feeding time is an experience you have to see to believe it. Stephen starts with setting food out for the chickens, ducks and Black Pudding at the Farmyard. The funny thing is that Black Pudding does not like to share. He got so angry with the chickens and ducks that he squealed and stormed away to follow Stephen who was feeding the sheep and donkeys. But, that wasn’t the funniest thing to see, the winner was watching the sheep ram Stephen in an unfortunate area because he wasn’t dumping out the food fast enough. Animals have a mind of their own and when they are hungry, they are Hangry!
Tea Room & Barn Restaurant
What can I say about this amazing craft shop? They have all sorts of authentic Irish gifts and souvenirs from hand-knit Aran sweaters to pottery. I choose a beautiful Irish hat to keep my head warm during the Michigan winters. You can even order online.
Last but, not least Poitín
The illegality of making Poitín since 1661 hasn’t stopped this thriving business in the hills and valleys of Ireland. Poitín pronounced “potcheen” is made by fermenting potatoes and barley with sugar and baker’s yeast in a large barrel. Then it is heated over an open fire then flowing through a tube that is coiled through water where it drips out at the bottom. Then it is poured back into the barrel to be fermented again for 3 weeks. This process repeats two more times to produce Molly’s Mountain Dew, a very potent whiskey. Believe me, it is!
Molly Gallivan’s Cottage and Traditional Farm is a wonderful place to step back in time to experience living on a farm over 200 years ago. You can schedule demonstrations of sheep-shearing, spinning, weaving, learn how to cut your own peat turf, or Poitín making and of course tasting. Stephen and Frances are excellent hosts. Stephen is also an amazing storyteller and one energetic and amusing man. Molly Gallivan’s is a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon exploring true Irish history.
Molly Gallivan’s is a wonderful spot to visit halfway between Kenmare and Glengarriff on scenic Caha Pass, N71 if you are visiting the southwest area of Ireland. Plan to spend approximately 1.5 hours to see everything. Molly Gallivan’s Cottage and Traditional Farm is open from March to November and upon request for groups during offpeak times.