The 7 wonders of Fore

English: Photograph of tbe remains of Fore Abb...

English: Photograph of tbe remains of Fore Abbey, Co Westmeath, Republic of Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No childhood visit to Ireland was ever complete until we visited the tiny village of Fore in County Westmeath. The place held an absolutely mystical quality. The best bit was the old ruined Benedictine abbey which dates back to the 15th century. You could clamber all over it and once armed with a suitable stick, you could play out your own personal swashbuckling saga.

For a while, we thought the abbey was the sum total of the attractions in the village until one day, granddad took us on a walk around the place. He solemnly told us that we were going to see the wonders of Fore. All the mystical work of a 7th century Irish saint, there are seven wonders in total (although on the day, granddad couldn’t remember what they all were).

He showed us the wood that doesn’t burn, the water that flows uphill and the water that doesn’t boil. He told that the monastery built on the bog was one of the wonders as was the stone above the door which St Fechin raised with his prayers. The ones he couldn’t remember were the mill without a race and the anchorite in a stone. “How do you know the water won’t boil?” I asked him. “Can we take some home and test it?”

He looked at me in horror as if I’d suggested not going to church on Sunday. “You can’t test it – that would be bad luck! You’ve just got to believe it.” At our tender age, that was all that was needed and our scepticism evaporated.

When I returned to Ireland as an adult with my wife, brother and his partner, we told the girls that Fore was the one place we simply had to visit. On the way, myself and my brother excitedly relayed our childhood memories of what was there. We told them all about the abbey and the 7 wonders.

As we arrived, we noticed the transformation in the place. There was now a purpose-built car park and a map board showing the locations of all the attractions. There were nice paths linking everything and little signs by each of the wonders. The abbey was in the middle of a restoration and you could no longer get to the upper floor. The girls were completely underwhelmed by the wonders. Despite the only wondering being done was wondering what all the fuss was about, the place is still magical to me.