The second big surprise about Ireland was  the appearance of the houses – not just their amazing colours, but about their age. I discussed this with my fellow tourists but we didn’t come up with much. I remembered the brightly coloured fishermen’s cottages in Burano, an island off Venice, and saw the same in the coastal villages of the Outer Hebrides, so at first I thought it was related to fishing, but even as we travelled inland through miles upon miles of cow pastures there would be a bright yellow house looking like a lighted beacon in the midst of a sea of green. But the thing that intrigued me most was that all this painting looked brand new – as in, they all looked newly painted within the last year. This cannot be. And all the houses scattered along the roads and fields seemed to be quite newly constructed. The walls have a finish obscuring the building material. No stone, no brick is visible. It’s all a smooth finish and, as I said, brightly coloured.