Friday, September 22, 2017

The Burren

Farms and Rock

We drove north and stayed in an odd sort of inn. The views were beautiful - across farmland to the rocky hills - The Burren.

The Waters

The hotel takes its name from the wells - the natural springs that bubble up from limestone caves. You can hear water run in different parts of the property.

Poulnabrone Dolmen on the Burren

Our first stop on the Burren was at the Poulnabrone Portal tomb. From Wikipedia:
 It dates back to the Neolithicperiod, probably between 4200 BC and 2900 BC...With its dominating presence on the limestone landscape of the Burren, the tomb was probably a centre for ceremony and ritual until well into the Bronze Age period. It may have also served as a territorial marker in the Neolithic landscape on the important north-south route from Ballyvaughan bay to Kilnaboy. It is possible that the inhabitants of extensive settlements near Kilnaboy erected the structure to delimit the northern border of their territory. 

Limestone Pavement

The area near the tomb is wide open. The limestone pavement was exposed partly from the last ice age and partly from the removal of any trees by the long ago inhabitants to build homes and burn as fuel. The rock that is left looks like jigsaw puzzle pieces

Naturally Sculpted Rock

Some of it is sculpted by weather and water.

Growing in the Cracks

Small flowers grow in the spaces - each area a mini micro-climate.


We stopped at Caherconnell - a ringfort or enclosed farmstead. It dates from some time in the 10th century and was probably inhabited by a high status family. It was used right into the eighteenth century. The surrounding wall still exists.

Stone Wall Building Techniques

Stone walls in Ireland are built in a number of different styles. This was the first time we encountered walls built with vertical stones as well as horizontal stones.

Newtown Castle not so new

Near our hotel the remains of Newtown Castle are situated. While the base is square the tower is cylindrical. It probably dates from the late 16th century.

Through the Castle Door

I liked the way its doorway framed the surrounding countryside.


A number of farms are located nearby. Sheep and cows inhabit the pastures.

In the afternoon and evening we could hear them lowing. (Make sure your sound is turned right up).

Heron at Low Tide

We were staying not far from the coast (Galway Bay). At low tide, this heron was hoping for a tasty dinner.

In Ballyvaghan

As everywhere else in Ireland, pubs abound.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Travelling around the Dingle Peninsula

Walking the Beach

Roads on the Dingle Peninsula are narrow. We were warned to travel clockwise - in the same direction of the buses so we would not have to pass them. Our first stop was in Ventry where we took a lovely walk along the long beach. We were luck that the tide was out and the sand provided a nice solid surface on which to walk. We shared the beach with people on horseback, people with dogs and lots of birds.

Neatly Divided

Every part of the peninsula seems to be neatly delineated except where agriculture of any sort is impossible. Stone walls and hedges climbed hills.

Two for One

This sign intrigued us and we decided to stop.

Fairy Fort or Ringfort

This is from the paper they gave us
The early pre Celtic inhabitants of Ireland known as Tuatha Dé Danann and Fir Bolg were associated with stories of fairies, fairy forts. Folklore asserts that ringforts like this one were "fairy forts" imbued with "Druids magic" and believers in fairies did not alter them. "
Is this a fairy bush

"Cutting brush especially the whitethorn (also known as a fiary tree) on fairy forts was reputed to be the death of those who performed the act. Legend also has it that anyone who enters a Lios (ring fort) like this one between the hours of one and five in the morning would not leave the Lios alive."
Happily we were there in the day time and so did manage to leave with our lives. Though a ram in the centre of the fort did make us a little wary.

Building of Stone

There is so much stone in Ireland - stone walls, stone barns, stone houses...

Life as a Sheep

And many sheep.

Famine Cottages

These cottages were Famine Cottages. During the famine in the mid eighteen hundreds the population decreased by over two million due to death and emigration. From a flyer given to us The main cottage was built in the 1840s by the local landlord. The Earl of Cork ... had the roof changed to slate making it one of the earliest slated cottages in the area. The outhouses (not the loos but the cow house and stable) were built in 1880.


The peasant's cottage was lived in by a man who had been evicted from his own home. His main source of food was potatoes and fish. It is known that his daughter emigrated to the United States.

Many Irish came to Canada in coffin ships. Montreal welcomed many resulting in a typhus epidemic that spread from the immigrants to the city. You can read about it as well as Irish Montrealers' attempts at creating a permanent memorial park here. 

Beehive Hut

This is a beehive hut. They were human dwellings in ancient times but were later used to house the household pig.

Beehive Huts, Fahan, Dingle Peninsula

These are a form of beehive hut. They were built round like a beehive and taper towards the top.  There is no mortar used in the building. This group is made up of five structures. The whole group is surrounded by the remains of a stone wall.
Stone Hut

This one still has the roof; the others are open to the sky. It could have been occupied by a family with some of the area used for farm buildings and storage. According to information we received, they may have been inhabited from ancient times to 1200. This grouping (cashel) is called Cathair na gConchúireach (Caher Conor).


These builders knew what they were doing. The stones have a downward tilt in order to shed water.


The views along the coast are breathtaking.

Waves Coming In

Looking down at the beach at Coomeenoole.

At the Tip of the Peninsula

At the tip of the peninsula you can look out to the Blasket Islands. Once inhabited, they were abandoned in the early fifties when the population dropped to 22 after the young people had emigrated.

Gallarus Oratory

The Gallarus Oratory is about 1300 years old. It, too was built without mortar. The sides slope inward until they meet to form the roof. It is believed to have been built by early Christians. The only light comes from the door and a small window on the opposite wall.

Fuchsia Lined Path

This path near the oratory is lined with fuchsias. Their bright colour adds to the Irish landscape.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Colourful Dingle

The town of Dingle / An Daingeanis is very colourful with brightly painted shops and pubs. It's a delight to wander the streets.

In Dingle

This is a seaside town complete with an amusement park at the waterfront. It is in a part of Ireland where Irish is spoken (Gaeltacht). We stayed at a B&B and were told that once the tourists leave, Irish is the main language spoken. On the Dingle Peninsula, particularly the western part, Irish is prevalent in homes and schools. In fact, to qualify for social housing and new building permits, you must be able to speak Irish.


Like most of Ireland, the bulk of people are of the Catholic faith. Since Ireland has been a member of the EU, there has been an influx of people, particularly from Poland. This has led to an erosion of the use of Irish in Dingle as these immigrants have come with some skill in English, but have not learned Irish.

On the Menu

There is no shortage of pubs in Dingle and, of course, music. The time it starts is flexible: "ish" covers a range of starting times.

Pub Sign

We were told which pubs had more local music.

Music in the Pub

At O'Flaugherty's the bar tender doubles as musician. He kept changing instruments from accordion to mandolin, guitar, tin flute, bodhrán as well as singing. A cello provided the bass line. Again we were struck by how passionately, songs about Irish history are felt and delivered.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Killarney National Park

By the Lake

Driving in Ireland, the countryside is quite lovely, but usually very orderly with fields delineated by stone walls or thick hedgerows. It was delightful to spend some time in Killarney National Park, hiking through woods near a lake. The day was overcast and mist hung on the mountains.


There was a freshness to the air.

Walking in the Mist

And a wonderful sense of peace. Although we only hiked for part of an afternoon, the path led through changing scenery.

Growing in the Rock

In this area, trees seems to grow out of rock; there didn't seem to be soil to hold them, yet the trees thrived.

As We Walked

I enjoyed the wild flowers.


We passed swaths of heather.

Thick Moss

And areas with a thick coat of moss over everything


A little animal (vole? mouse?) scattered across our path and stopped under some leaves. There is felt protected and nibbled away at something it had found to eat, unperturbed that we were so near.

Muckross House

The hike was near Muckross House, an imposed building. We did not go in, but it served as quite a contrast to the natural woods nearby.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


Never Run Out of Beer

Back to my impressions of driving in Ireland. Roads are labelled M (motorway) N (national) R(regional and L (local). It seems that no matter how narrow and curvy and N road is, the speed limit is 100 km/h except when going through towns. R roads are 80 km/h. If these roads were one way, you could manage that speed on some stretches. However, at two ways and in spots very narrow, the suggested speed limit would be suicidal. My admiration for drivers of big trucks and buses has skyrocketed as I saw them maneuver around bends and passing cars with centimetres to spare.

We spent a few days based in Adare, a village that prides itself in being a "Tidy Town." We passed signs announcing a Tidy Town several times. There is quite a list of criteria to qualify. I loved the colourful buildings.

Executed in 1916

History even comes into the pub. Inside Bill Chawkes was this row of busts of the men who were executed in the Easter Uprising of 1916. The Irish take their history seriously. They also see the importance of "shopping Irish." At one store our sales' receipt listed the items which were Irish.

Thatched Cottages

There are a number of thatch roofed cottages in Adare. They date from the early 1800s and were built by the Dunraven family as staff houses for those working on the Adare Manor estate. Unfortunately a few of them burnt down in 2015.

Thatched Cottages

Those that survive are nurtured to preserve their charm.

Church in the Evening

In the centre of Adare is the Holy Trinity Abbey Church. The Trinitarian Abbey was founded in 1230 by Geoffrey de Marisco as the order’s only Irish house. It was destroyed during the suppression of Henry VIII and was restored in the 19th century.

Dovecote Behind the Trinitarian Abbey

Behind the Abbey is this Dovecote. To the back of the Trinitarian abbey is a dovecote, or columbarium. It is a circular building in which doves and pigeons were housed. There are no windows in the structure but there is an opening in the roof through which the birds could come or go as they please. The internal walls are lined niches where the doves rested and where their food was provided. A door at ground level was the entrance for the monks.

Desmond Castle in the Evening

The ruins of Desmond Castle are nicely lit at night.The castle was erected with an ancient ring-fort around the early part of the 13th century. It became a strategic fortress during the following turbulent years. It was the property of the Earls of Kildare for nearly 300 years until the rebellion in 1536, when it was forfeited and granted to the Earls of Desmond who gave the castle its present name.

Basket Weaving

As a last activity in Adare, we went to the weekly craft fair. This gentleman was weaving willow baskets (the finished ones were for sale at the fair).