Ireland '99: Day Thirteen

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Galway Shopping
The Burren
Poulnabrone Dolmen
Cliffs of Moher

Day Thirteen -- September 8th, 1999

In the morning, we were able to meet our hostess (her husband was the one that showed us the room last night). She reminded me vaguely of an older Daphne from the TV sitcom Frasier, she was quite charming and very beautiful, especially for surviving six children.  

Throughout the night, a storm blew in, and in the morning the weather vane was continuing to circle repeatedly with the strong coastal wind gusts and heavy sheets of rain. It became quite clear that our planned trip to the Aran Islands was increasingly unlikely. Given the meteorological conditions, we elected to spend the early afternoon shopping in Galway.

Galway’s downtown proved to be rather quaint and charming. The city a set of cobblestone and brick streets that were dedicated to the pedestrian shoppers, with their sides lined with a cornucopia of small shops. We braved through the shops (and a neighboring American-like indoor mall) despite the strong rain that was pouring down. In the end, Jenn had bought a beautiful hand knitted wool sweater, an antique Santa (for her mom), a pendant and a ring. I bought three sheets of hemp paper for myself and a Celtic cross pin for Jenn. Emerson came away with some wooden toys. I also searched endlessly for a good Aran sweater for a friend, but came away empty handed.

Thatch roofed cottage with Dunguaire in the distance

Outside of town, we drove past Kinvara’s Dunguaire Castle and then headed on to The Burren, a curious area where limestone rocks covered the land. The Burren proved to be both desolate and rich at the same time.

One of the first things we noticed in The Burren was the endless lines of well-kept stone fences. With so many rocks available from the large hills in The Burren, all one had to do was load up a cart and roll it down the mountain to build the fence. The rock walls had a wide variety of construction techniques. Some were stones piled horizontally, others (rather peculiarly) were built by placing long flat stones vertically up and down. There were even a good number of rock walls that were built simply randomly, with rocks wedged in just enough to not fall, leaving walls that could be seen through and miraculously durable.

A Stone Fence
The Burren
Stone, stone...
... and stone

Because The Burren was composed of limestone rock (which dissolves with liquids of high enough acidity), there were many caves and wells in the area. By the time we reached The Burren, the rain had stopped and even a bit of sun was peeping out in between the clouds. The heavy rainfall from the night and morning, however, caused for quite a bit of flooding. Evidently, there are underground caches of water from where the limestone has dissolved faster that, when filled quickly by rainwater, will cause spontaneous springs to erupt in the landscape. I took a picture of one such place, where water was briskly flowing out of the ground at a rapid pace from a spot that clearly did not seem to be use to such flow. I also had a great deal of fun driving through newly formed streams that flowed over the road, as Jenn so graciously captured in another picture. Unfortunately, we found a few more road-based streams of larger size, but we were too lazy to take even bolder pictures.

Sacred Spot

Within The Burren, was another of Ireland’s famous Stone Age monuments: Poulnabrone Dolmen. This burial ground was built at a scant 3500 BC. (Puts our millennium into perspective, eh?) By the luck of the Irish, we happen to arrive in between tour buses, and we waited only for the sun to pop its lovely head out from the passing clouds for our pictures. The equally interesting, yet unmentioned in the tour guides, is Poulnabrone sister field of modern day homage to the monument in a flanking field. There were at least 200 hundred odd sculptures made of Burren stone, piled up in the most creative ways. We had fun taking pictures through the graveyard of imitations.


Poulnabrone Dolmen
The stone sculpture garden!
Tig and some post processing
Jump, skip, hop

After leaving the Poulnabrone, we had a brief stop at the fancy Burren Perfumery. We fell in love more with their dogs, though, than their perfumes. They did have a nice slideshow, however, on the surprisingly large number of wildflowers found in The Burren.

Cows + Ruins = Ireland

Next, we stopped by Leamanegh Castle, which happened to be near our route (it really is not hard to find a castle along the way to wherever you are headed in Ireland).  This castle was pretty much in pasture land; its outer large walls were in strong neglect, but were still high enough to keep the sheep in. The castle itself was built in two stages, the sturdier tall tower in 1480 and a shorter house in 1640. 

A Beautiful Double Rainbow

We picked a quick B&B (Atlantic Sunset) and then rushed off to see the Cliffs of Moher. With a huge double rainbow behind us, we were speeding to get to the cliffs in time.  

Rainbow and Country House
On the edge of the cliff, looking straight down

The cliffs (along with the Skellig Islands) were one of the two main places I personally wanted to see before leaving Ireland. The cliffs were a pilgrimage, of sorts, for me – as I have oftentimes envisioned what it would be like to be sitting on the edge of a grassy cliff overlooking the sea as a storm came in.


The Cliffs of Moher
I Stand Before It
The Cliffs of Moher joins us

The experience Jenn and I both had on the Cliffs, to be honest, was phenomenally spiritual. The sun was shining bright and low, and in between us was a squall that we watched coming towards and over us. We were also granted with a beautiful rainbow behind us. It was exactly what I have had in my mind for the past 15 years and left me (and Jenn) quaking. I have included my personal journal entry for those interested, otherwise, for once, leaving simply the pictures here to describe the event.

Jenn stands witness

Jenn’s comment was: “I can’t believe I am seeing something more beautiful than the sunset two nights ago. This is past beautiful. This is the closest I have ever been to seeing God.”  

At one point I took a 360 shot of the view, which I pasted together below. Scroll to the right to see the full panorama.

Scroll Right to continue the view ----->

I Stand Confronting

Between the Slieve and the Cliffs, we had seen enough to fill the soul for quite some time.

After the sun had disappeared and we recovered enough from our awe we headed back towards the car. The wind still was incredibly powerful. Jenn wrapped her jacket around her arms and put it above her head to act as a sail, and she was able to lean well past 45 degrees during one sustained gust of wind. We walked over to the spot were a small streamlet fell over the edge, and then was pushed backwards, up into the air and back over and above the cliff. We (and an Italian couple) then began to throve gravel stones over the edge and watched the wind pick them up and toss them several hundred feet above and then behind us. A few came back right to our feet like boomerangs.

Soaking in Life
Soaking in Life

From there, we headed down to Doolin, a Mecca of sorts for Irish music. We actually had to drive over quite a bit of land to find all three pubs (given that there are only a few buildings besides these three pubs, it was quite humorous – it turns out that one pub is located down near the village’s pier, and the other two pubs are located far inland.) All three pubs featured live traditional Irish music every day of the week, and people came from all around to watch (and few come to participate) in these traditional bands. After a gourmet dinner in the only café in town, we then listened to a song at McDermott’s pub – which was packed tight surprisingly by a large number of locals.

On the way back to the B&B, I stopped and got out to see the stars, given that we were so far from civilization. The Milky Way was brilliant, and the passing clouds seem to intermingle and transition back and forth with it. Delphinious was shining brightly, completing the imagery of the day. Jenn was too cold, so she stayed in the car – she did get to see a shooting star, though, that I missed. Evidently it went right over my head just as I was leaning up against the hood of the car.

We then retired back to the B&B where I tried to write as much of today’s entry before sleep completely has taken over my eyelids (they are shutting down right now…) Good night!



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