Castles, Follies and Four-Leaf Clovers
by Rosamund Burton
Allen and Unwin, $29.99
Only in Ireland could a half-forgotten route be named the Way of St Declan or the way of St Patrick's Cow.
It's one of many tales Rosamund Burton uncovers as she explores the story of St Declan, lesser-known than his contemporary St Patrick, but apparently more likely to have been the actual bringer of Christianity to the Emerald Isle.
The quest begins when she finds a map of the saint's travels from Cashel to Ardmore in Waterford County many centuries ago, and decides to follow in his footsteps.
Her adventures, undertaken during the wettest summer in 150 years, lead her through fairy glens, fields of stinging nettles and curious bullocks, past ruins and into the homes of well-to-do friends who knew her as a youngster.
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She also meets a host of entertaining people along the way - some helpful, others not - and hears grand stories of miracles attributed to the saint, of legends and fairies, of ill luck and curses.
St Declan's Way is no path to follow. The author frequently gets lost and is wet through a lot of the time. But her descriptions of the Irish countryside with its wild flowers and glowing foliage lift the book into a charming travelogue and an easy read.