Thursday, May 14, 2009

West Coast Ireland

Evening of May 12th: there's been way too much to account for the past several days. I'll have to let the pictures in subsequent posts provide most of the description.

May 9th we began the day with a tour of the 6th-7th century Gallarus Oratory, a small but impressive stone-roofed church structure that was adjacent to our campground. Gallarus is often pictured in the guidebooks. (A larger but newer stone structure, with stone roof, was a restaurant at Slea Hand, the previous day.) From Gallarus we crossed the mountains again, via Connor Pass, drove to Castlegregory and had lunch at the end of the spit near there, a place called, I think, Rough End. And from there we drove on to Tralee and its nice campground. After dinner, we did the town, first taking in the National Folk Theatre of Ireland's Sam Am Fado, “The Long Ago,” a musical and dance celebration of traditional Ireland (rural), structured around the four seasons. All live and in a small but very plush theater, it was a treat. All in Irish too. From there, we did the pub thing, again, at Sean Og's Drinking Consultants in Tralee. It was Saturday night and the place was mobbed but good-natured and fun. More Guiness, too. I've been drinking mostly Murphy's when on my own. Much cheaper at the grocery stores.

From Tralee the next day we drove on through more of County Kerry, then into County Limerick and the ferry across the River Shannon estuary (18 euros for the car and us). Our goals for the day were the Cliffs of Moher and later the Burren area. The cliff were impressive, and crowded, one of those obligatory Irish sites. The Burren was also interesting though not so dramatic. They are a huge limestone over-lay, mountains and valleys covered by limestone, where little grows but the flowers-- some not seen elsewhere in Ireland--that can survive in the crevasses. In the Burren we found a road-side silversmith who made Vicki a pendant with her name in Ogham/Irish. See illustrations. From the Burren we drove on to pretty Galway, settling for the night at a campground in Salthill. Our site was right on Galway Bay, and before dinner we enjoyed a late afternoon promenade on the Promenade.

(I should mention that ever since the Ring of Kerry the weather has been fine, sunny, still a bit cool for us who sleep outside (down to 39 degrees last night), and windy, but few clouds and no rain. We're making the most of it).

May 11th, Monday, we drove the short distance to Rosaveel and caught the 10:30AM ferry to Inishmor, the largest of the Aran Islands ("The Big Island” they call it), out beyond Galway Bay. The Arans are famous isolated communities; famous also for their hand-knitted sweaters. We joined a small tour and did the island, the very impressive pre-Christian cliff-side Dun Anghus stone fort, the seven churches area, the end of the island, and the town. Our guide, a life-long Aran resident and former fisherman, was a talker—come to think of it, we've encountered no Irish who did not want to talk—and we learned much about the history of and contemporary life on the island. Vicki could not withstand the temptation of buying a sweater and gloves. After returning on the 5PM ferry, we drove on, had a look at the Connemara country, the Twelve Bens (mountains), and ended up in a campground near Clifden.

Today, Tuesday, the 12th, we drove past Westport to Murrisk at the foot of Croagh Patrick, popularly known as “The Reek,” the national mountain, which I climbed in the afternoon. That will be a separate post, too. Vicki spent the day relaxing and reading. We are camped in Castlebar.

Gallarus Oratory, a 6th-7th century chapel

Potato fields high up in Dingle, never re-planted after the

One of many interesting Dingle town storefronts

At the National Folk Theatre of Ireland's Sam Am Fado,
“The Long Ago"

Sean Og's Drinking Consultants, Tralee

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