Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ceide Fields and Dunbriste

A totally duded-up Cooper S right there on the coast road; nobody home

6,000 year old stone wall at Ceide Fields

Downpatrick Head and the sea stack, from Ceide Fields

The blow hole on Downpatrick Head, 100 meters or so from the cliff edge, enormous...

The sea stack, Dunbriste; it separated from the Head in 1393; two families were isolated, later rescued

After lunch, we drove on to Ballycastle, just beyond it, to the Ceide Fields. In the last couple decades, archaeologists have discovered, surveyed, and partly excavated a neolithic system of fields encompassing many hundreds of acres—all bounded by stone fences, structures—that date back to the 4th millennium BC, 6,000 years. It is the largest neolithic site yet discovered, anywhere. Relatively little has been excavated, but there is a good modern museum and brief guided tours. The Ceide Fields lie beneath an enormous blanket peat bog, 1-2 meters deep generally, and thus their preservation. (No decomposition in bogs, where there is little oxygen.) Ireland was heavily forested in neolithic times, pine, hazel and elm. Clearing the forests made herding and grain-growing possible, but it eventually led to super-saturated ground that becomes the bog.

The Ceide Fields run right down to the cliffs and the sea, and not far from them is one of County Mayo's most famous sights, Downpatrick Head, and the sea stack there, Dunbriste. Finding and walking out to Dunbriste, past the enormous blowhole in the middle of the cliffs, was another incredible treat and a fine way to end the day. We camped, under gathering rain clouds, at Ballina.

No comments: