A Good Read: The House on an Irish Hillside

One of the silver linings in the cloud of a very un-festive flu is the extended reading time available to make an impression on the reading list. With its large readable format and easy prose, fitting the bill perfectly for propped-up- in- bed reading is Felicity Hayes McCoy’s ‘The House on an Irish Hillside.

This book is a true love story between Felicity and the spectacularly beautiful  Dingle Peninsula. From the day of her arrival  as a student of Irish at the age of 17, the magic of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, in the south-west of Ireland filtered into her heart and mind down the years, the incessant ‘pull’  culminating in herself and her English husband buying Tí Neillí Mhuiris – (The house of Nellie, daughter of Muris), a house built from stones picked from the fields and remembered with affection for its once smoke-filled kitchen.


Anyone who has ever crossed  the magical Connor Pass, and dropped down into the beauty of the Dingle Peninsula has experienced the unique sense of this place. Few who visit here are not enchanted by the  fabulous scenery, the friendly people, the history, the cultural tradition and  the wonderful food.

Dingle Peninsula

Patchwork of fields on the slopes above Coumeenoole Strand at the tip of the Dingle Peninsula ( Image Wiki commons)

Felicity’s book is beautifully written – flowing along with perfectly chosen words  building  the word pictures that pervade  every page. We are enticed by the ‘polished pewter waves’ and ‘rain-washed mornings with skies like mother of pearl’ and ‘waves shimmering emerald, turquoise and jade’. Dingle is a place that challenges those who wish to describe it, for we simply do not have the vocabulary.  My two abiding images are of red hens pecking at watercress and girls cycling to dances with their high heels slung around their necks! It was at this level that Felicity’s writing appealed to me so very much, but there is more.

gold boat Celtic hoard

The Gold Boat in the National Museum of Ireland, dates from the 1st Century and thought to have been an offering to the God Manannan Mac Lir (Image National Museum)

Felicity has an extensive knowledge and regard for Irish myth and local folklore and these together with the beauty of the place are the ‘weft ‘ on which she weaves a beautiful tapestry of stories of  her love affair with Dingle’s people and places. Manannán Mac Lir, the Celtic God of the Sea , Mrs Hurley, Danú the Fertility Goddess, Kath the London neighbour; Spot the neighbour’s dog and the Sun God Lugh – all woven  together to deepen the understanding of this place. On these pages you will find present day relevance of Imbolg, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain, the great festivals and turning points in the Celtic year; you will join in on dancing in the kitchen and music  by the fireside, celebrate Nollag na mBan and the ‘Wran’ boys.  The mythology, the folk-tales  the music, song and dance, the living friends and neighbours and the simplicity of things that matter to them, together with the memory of the dead,some of whom died  before the author came to live here and  some of whose coffins she followed, is all intertwined into a wonderful tribute to all that is Dingle.

This book will I believe,  appeal to anyone who has visited Dingle and has been smitten by it and who keeps going back.  It will also appeal to people with Irish roots, who have never stood on these shores as it will give them a sense of what it is to be Irish, what it is to be tied into the traditions and myths of our heritage and how these things impact on everyday life .  I heartily recommend it as an excellent read.


The House on an Irish Hillside by Felicity Hayes-McCoy is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is available in all good book shops and online.

Felicity Hayes -McCoy website

Felicity’s blog 

Dingle Tourism


January 5, 2013 · 6:06 pm

11 responses to “A Good Read: The House on an Irish Hillside

  1. Thanks for this lovely review – I’ve been interested in this book – saw an ad for it, I believe in Irish-America magazine and now will go in search of it. I’m also getting over the flu, but hopefully that’s not a pre-requisite for enjoying this book! Be well, and Happy New Year!

    • Oh you do not need the flu to enjoy this wonderful book – it was a blessing to me as I was able to read it all in one day! Thank you for your good wishes – and thank you for visiting. Happy New Year!

  2. I have great pleasure in nominating you for The Blogger of the Year Award 2012… you can read about it here
    Congratulations for your interesting and well thought out posts, Angela.

  3. Lovely review. I bought the book and before I had a chance to read it gave it away!! Dipped in though and realise now that I must get another copy! Congratulations on your wonderful blog, and thanks for your heartfelt comment, looking forward to getting to know you much better:~))

    • Hi there- oh you do need to get another copy as you will enjoy this wonderful book. I have followed your blog for some time and find you most inspiring and uplifting! Thank you so much for your very kind comments and you are welcome to drop by at any time. Angela

  4. After reading your review (and others) I’m most definitely going to buy this book. I fell in love with the Dingle Peninsula many years ago and it draws me back time after time. Excellent post SV.

    • Roy – It will be one of the best investments you make. This book can be enjoyed at so many levels- the main theme is discovering the things that matter in life, but you will love the beautiful language; the stories, the descriptions, the history, the folklore, the ‘ordinary’ things that make a difference to a life. It is always a great joy to read the craft of a true wordsmith. How fortunate you are to have discovered Dingle – you can rediscover it at so many levels in this book. Thank you for your very welcome and positive comment and for visiting my blog. Angela

  5. Susan Heiser

    I am reading The House On An Irish Hillside right now – taking my time, savoring each page, because I just don’t want it to end. Although I knew it was a book I would enjoy, I never expected to find, so gracefully captured in Felicity’s story, much of what my husband and I have also fallen in love with. What a gift she has shared.

    • Susan. Thank you so very much for your comment. It is a book that can be read again and again .. and I guarantee you will find something new on each reading. The text is so rich, the story going at so many levels – it will not disappoint! She truly has shared a wonderful gift. Thank you for your visit. Angela

  6. When my dad and I drove the Ring of Kerry and breathlessly toured the Dingle Penninsula, we were smitten, amazed, transformed and in awe. I live in Canada but will someday go back and relive the magic that is Dingle. This book sounds right up my alley! Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.