Many Americans caught their first glimpses of the Irish countryside in
director John Ford's romantic comedy epic, "The Quiet Man." The 1952
film, starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, was a lush and rollicking tribute
to the land of Ford's ancestors. Much of the film was shot on location in the
County Mayo village of Cong, which was called "Innisfree" in the
movie. Today's visitors to Cong and the nearby Ashford Castle estate can see
many of the sites of the original film.
Love At First Sight
For those who remember the film, it's hard to forget the scene in which Wayne's
character first lays eyes on O'Hara's character. Mary Kate, her red hair
flowing and crimson skirt billowing, is tending sheep on a grassy hillside. Her
barefoot, brazen presence is so stunning that our hero believes her to be a
sort of mirage at first. Today, the hillside across which Mary Kate and her
sheep frolicked is part of the fairway of the 5th hole at Ashford Castle's golf
course. It's a worthy spot to visit, with breathtaking views of Ireland's
largest lake, Loch Corrib, and the castle itself, parts of which date back to
the 12th Century.
For those who are true fans of the film, however, a visit to the museum
makes sense, as it is also a place to see faithful reproductions of the
circa-1920s furnishings Mary Kate/O'Hara tended in the movie: the four-poster
bed, the tables and chairs, and the emerald green half door.
Squire Danagher's House
The hero Sean Thornton's nemesis in the movie is one Squire "Red
Will" Danagher, played by Victor McLaglen. Danagher is the over possessive
brother of Mary Kate and has his eyes on the same piece of property Thornton
aims to purchase.
I highly recommend watching (or re-watching) this classic film before
visiting western Ireland in general, and Cong in particular. The plot is
standard, overblown romantic comedy fare, but charming all the same. And the
scenes of the Irish countryside will whet your appetite for the adventures
Sally O'Neal -- an Irish lass by heritage -- visited Cong in May of 2009. She
writes weekly for sportsmansguide.com.