Friday, November 28, 2008

2008 Ireland Trip - 9 Sep 08 - Part II

Our tour of the Burren included some other church ruins in addition to what we had seen at Kilfenora. First up was Carron Church, which you can read about by clicking on the next image.

It's really nice to have these information signs at the major sites.

I'm sure Michael was getting rather bored with touring church ruins, but there's something about these sites that speak to me. I really enjoy seeing the contrast of old and new grave sites and the competition of human dwelling with nature.

The old grave stones are covered in lichen, and most of the inscription has weathered away. Some details of the celtic weave design are still apparent, though.

Inside the chapel is the modern grave yard with grave sites well tended by survivors of the deceased.

I'm curious as to how permission, if any, is given to residents to add a grave inside an historic site.

Here's a detail of nature vs artifact.

A modern grave stone.

The other end of the grave yard within the chapel.

Looking beyond to the surrounding fields.

This looked like a small stone circle adjacent to the church. I'm sure I read something along those lines somewhere, but I can't find my resource.

Oh yeah - it's on the sign! Go and read all about it. . .

Another church ruins - poor Michael!

I think this one was built much earlier than Carron church, which dates to the medieval period.

The heavy cloud cover lends an element of drama.

One of the things I find interesting about Ireland is that ancient sites are relatiely undisturbed. In the states, old is out and places would be leveled to make room for progress.

Now, this is Poulawack Cairn, which dates to the Bronze age. This isn't a major tourist site and so Michael and I had the place to ourselves for the hour and change we were there.

Of course, we were soaked in the rain, but that made it all the more memorable.

As you approach the cairn, there's a small tomb built into the hill.

You kind of have to watch your step as you get closer to the cairn itself. There are a lot of these hidden holes to find.

A closer look at the tomb.

The cairn at the top of the hill. There are a couple of smaller structures to either side of the cairn.

The limestone pavement gives a stark contrast to the vegetation. The Burren is famous for the edaphic endemics that occur here. I wish I could come back in the spring to see the diversity of plant life in full bloom.

The Burren limestone

That small dot left of the cairn is Michael.

A couple of other landscape images of the cairn.

Typical limestone of the Burren

A close-up of one of the structures adjacent the cairn.

A view of the surrounding area.

Back down the trail to my rental car.

This site was pretty special and I'm glad we had it to ourselves to explore. All the other sites we visited were crowded with tourists coming off of buses. I have so many more pictures to process and post. I can't believe it's taking me so long to get through the posting, but I've been very, very busy since September. Stay tuned for more to come.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2008 Ireland Trip - 9 Sep 08 - Part I

We spent the 9th visiting some of the tourist sites in The Burren, beginning with the Burren Centre in Kilfenora. There is a nice gift shop here and lots of information to learn. The water had just been cut off when we arrived and so the facilities were a bit challenging, but the people there were very nice.

There are some archeological displays in the building.

Most of this stop was for a visit to the Medieval church next to the visitor's center.

As usual, there is a mix of recent and old grave sites in the church yard. There is also a more modern building and the ruins of the medieval church.

These old church yards have lovely high crosses sprinkled amongst the recent grave sites.

These Celtic crosses have been there for a while if the lichen growth is any indicator.

This one has a lot of detail.

A tomb effigy from Medieval times.

You can see our wet footprints in the entryway.

The back yard of the grounds.

The view out the back gate.

The back gate. . .

The remnant of the medieval church is near the street.

The ruins are protected by a glass roof. This is one of the original high crosses. They were richly decorated with Celtic symbols as well as bible stories.

The bases of some of the medieval crosses

This one is very simple by comparison and it has mostly Bronze-age symbols.

One of the chapels

A close look at the arch detail

And some info about the high crosses.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2008 Ireland Trip - 8 Sep 08

It seems as if it's taking me forever to finish processing my Ireland pics. The past two months have kept me oversubscribed in other duties. How about that election, eh? I, for one, am breathing a sigh of relief that a gun-toting-creationist-ignoramus is not going to be our next VP, but don't get me started on politics. What were the Republicans thinking????? I have high hopes for the Obama administration.

Whatever. Back to the travel report from Ireland. September 8th was a travel day for the most part. We left the Dingle Peninsula to go up to Doolin for the music, the Cliffs of Moher, and The Burren.

Michael needed to sleep in and so I went for an early morning walk. I saw some interesting birds, including this Cormorant down by the bridge of the stream that ran near our guest house.

I came back from my walk just as the cows were being moved from the barn to the pasture. The border collie was having a good time working the herd and it was a real treat to see a dog who loves his job. The farmers wear Wellington boots - just like the herders in Lesotho do, except their gum boots tend to be brightly colored. I need to do a posting on my 2003 trip to Lesotho sometime. . .

After breakfast, we headed out. Our first stop was the Prehistoric Museum shop in Ventry to drop off a couple of my CDs to Harris Moore, the owner and proprietor of the shop. He has an interesting and eclectic assortment of goods in the shop and it was fun to poke around in here to see what was for sale.

Harris is a fantastic hammer dulcimer player and we traded CDs. I've enjoyed both of his CDs over the past couple of months. Look him up on CD Baby!

We stopped in Adare for a bite to eat. The main road is chock full of pubs - we decided onO'Sullivan's Bar & Restaurant just because it looked like an older establishment.

The place was full of locals and the decor was about what I expected for an old Irish pub.

The food was ok, but nothing to write home about. We didn't get food poisoning - about the only positive thing I can say about it. On the other hand, I was in for a huge shock when I went to the back to use the toilet. The ladies room needed a HazMat team. I've seen better facilities in Africa, and this place was missing all of the toilet seats to boot. Yuck! This is on my list of places to avoid in the future.

There weren't very many stops between Dingle Peninsula and Doolin that I wanted to take the time to visit. We did make a side trip to Bunratty Castle because it was in all of the tourist brochures. It's worth a snap shot, but I didn't see anything worth paying an entry fee to hold us up for any amount of time.

The place is tailor-made for tour buses, including the few restaurants in this complex. We went into the Creamery to see the interior of the place - a very old barn that had been converted to a pub/restaurant.

It had a modern flair superimposed on the old buidling aura. It kind of reminded me of how the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain feels in the states - trying too hard for that country charm.

We arrived in Doolin late in the day. After checking in at the Aran View Hotel, we drove down the coast to see the Cliffs of Moher. The good news is that we arrived after closing time, so I didn't have to fork over a bunch of money to see the guest shop and stuff we didn't have any interest in seeing, but we could still go over to the cliffs to get a view. The lighting was really dim, though, with the rain and heavy clouds.

Here are the famous Cliffs of Moher. I enjoy playing the Irish jig by the same name. It was cool to see this site, but, after seeing the coastline of Oregon and South Africa, I have to admit that this was a teeny weeny bit of a let down. I did see some new birds for my life list, though, and that was pretty cool. I think if the weather had been nicer, I would have been more enthusiastic about the site, but it's hard to tell if one has goose bumps when it's so damn cold outside!

The other site at the Cliffs of Moher is this castle. It was really hard to get a good photo in the low lighting conditions, but this one pic turned out ok.

This is the coastline on the other side of the castle, looking north. I did some birding here despite the chilly wind. I had some great views of fulmars.

A closer look at the castle at the Cliffs of Moher.

The site is really developed and there were walls lining the cliff to keep foolish people from getting too close to the edge. There were also suicide hotline phone numbers posted every 100 feet or so. I guess it's a popular site for jumpers.

A closer inspection of the wall reveals that they are made from shales that are covered in fossil tracks. That got my heart rate up - way cool!