The west of Ireland is a place that has inspired writers and artists for hundreds of years. If you have any sort of creative inkling in you at all then you can’t spend any amount of time there without drawing an abundance of inspiration from its stunning natural beauty and cultural heritage. I was lucky enough to grow up and attend university here and after a few years working in Dublin, I returned and spent the first ten years of married life in a small, renovated cottage on the shores of Lough Mask.
It was during this time I had the opportunity to acquaint myself with a number of the historical houses of counties Mayo and Galway. Many of these properties became the ultimate status symbol during the Celtic Tiger and others became the targets of developers, as featured in the storyline of Remember Me. Practically all of these houses were designed by the most talented architects of the day and all of them are built in stunning locations. They are beautiful testaments to a bygone era and as the general architecture of Ireland continues to evolve they stand as eternal links to the past.
Two of these houses in particular served as the main inspiration for Carra House, in Remember Me. Carra House is a fictional amalgam of these two houses, which I’d like to share with you.
The first one is Partry House. It was built in 1667 by Arthur Lynch as a dowager house for his widowed mother. It’s a stunning property with a wonderful feeling of warmth in it which is missing in so many historical houses. It also has a beautiful gate lodge, which is the inspiration for the gate lodge in Remember Me.
The second one is Cloonee House, built in 1775 as a hunting lodge for the Brown family of Westport House and nestled on the shores of Lough Carra, one of Ireland’s best fishing lakes.
During my time living nearby, it was owned by the local vet, who very kindly looked after my dog whenever I was away. I always loved dropping him off and collecting him from this amazing property. The private road up to it is hairy, as described in Remember Me but the drive is well worth it when you round the last bend and arrive at this stunning location. The scene where Flynn arrives at Carra House and makes a dash up the front steps and opens the ancient door, is a scene straight from my own memories.
I arrived one very dark evening to collect Rock and there didn’t seem to be anyone home even though lights glowed all over the house. The rain was monsoon-like and I didn’t fancy getting out of the car as I usually did and wandering around the property till I found someone. So, I decided to use modern technology to solve my dilemma and phoned. George answered and told me they were in the kitchen at the back of the house, just finishing their dinner and that I should come in the front door and go into the drawing room and wait for them there. So, just as Flynn does in Remember Me, I dashed up the front steps, opened the huge front door and let myself in. A beautiful, antique brass umbrella holder stood just inside the door and the entrance hall was decidedly chilly. However, I’ve never forgotten the warmth and intoxicating smell of the log fire that enveloped me as I opened the door to the drawing room. The fire spit and crackled, an old leather armchair stood empty in front of its flames and the room was full of antiques and history. I stood there and breathed it all in as I imagined a man sitting in that chair, a man with a past, brooding and plotting as he stared at the flames and fuelled his plans for revenge with a glass of one of Ireland’s finest whiskey’s.
It’s taken me a while to bring that man from the dark depths of my imagination into the bright light of reality but I’m so glad for those few minutes in the drawing room of Cloonee House where the idea of him was born.
As an interesting footnote, I’m not the only writer to have found inspiration at Cloonee House. D.H. Lawrence availed of its peace and tranquillity to write part of his novel “Women In Love” there.
As I said – the west of Ireland, a magical place that never fails to inspire.