Sunday, March 16, 2008

Saint Patrick Special

As I stated about a year ago on this blog, one of the reasons there is a Saint Patrick's Day, is that one of my ancestors, Niall of the Nine Hostages (Irish King, brigand, pirate depending upon your point of view) kidnapped the son of a Welsh noble. That young man, Succat Morgannwg eventually became known as Patricius...Saint Patrick. Well, that's one of the stories about the origin of Saint Patrick. Niall is most often "credited" with the kidnapping and Patrick did originate somewhere along the west coast of the Isle of Britain.

As Monday (Saint Patrick's Day) is a special day for those of Irish descent, I'm taking a hop across the Irish Sea to my second favorite home away from home, Ireland. In fact, we will travel all the way across Ireland to the Atlantic Coast in the west to County Clare and County Kerry. The west coast of Ireland, like the west coast of Scotland, is wilder and more rugged than the east coast. It is the west coast of both countries that gets battered by Atlantic storms. The brief tour begins in County Clare and the limestone topography known as "The Burren".

Above is the megalithic portal tomb at Poulnaborne. Radiocarbon dating of human remains found here in 1986 indicate that burials took place between 3800 and 3200 B.C.E. An interesting fact is that structures like this (called dolmens) are found on every continent except Antartica all dating around the same time period between about 5,000 B.C.E and 2,000 B.C.E.

The Cliffs of Mohr are another popular tourist attaction near Doolin in County Clare. Sandstone capped limestone cliffs that rise over 600 feet above the Atlantic Ocean below, the Cliffs of Mohr are relentlessly pounded by wind and wave. Large sections break off and tumble into the waves below every few years. Although there are signs urging caution, there are no barriers. Thrill-seakers can oft be seen crawling up to the very edge of the cliffs for spectacular photos.

Old abandoned cemetaries can be found all over Ireland. Celtic crosses are common like this one. This picture was taken at sunset around 10PM in Killilagh Church yard near Doolin in County Clare. The church was built around 1400 and abandoned around 1849.

Above is the Dingle coastline in County Kerry at Coumeenoole. The cluster of modern houses on the distant coastline sits among Neolithic "hive houses" that dot the pastures above.

So I had to include me engaging in one of my favorite activities anywhere, but Ireland makes it special. Yes, I'm wearing a rain jacket. During this particular week in Ireland on the Dingle Peninsula it rained almost everyday. Hey, there is a reason it is "the Emerald Isle". My two favorite places in Ireland are Donegal and Dingle. Many have heard of "The Ring of Kerry". Dingle Peninsula across Dingle Bay from "The Ring" is lesser known, has fewer tourists and is therefore more relaxing during the height of the tourist season.

Mid-July in Ireland is fuschia time. The countryside along the west coast in particular is covered with red and purple color from the fuschias. These were photographed in the backyard of our cottage in Ventry on Dingle.

Finally in County Clare on the shores of the River Shanon, you find Bunratty Village and Bunratty Castle. Durty Nellys outside the castle was established in 1620 and still draws quite a crowd, especially on a pleasant summer day. The original Inn has been much modifed over the centuries.

The first structures to occupy the site of Bunratty castle were a Viking trading camp around 970 C.E. A series of smaller fortresses occupied the site from 1270 with the current structure having been completed in 1425. The castle boasts the largest collection of 15th century furniture and furnishings in Ireland. Bunratty Castle and Bunratty Folk Park are major tourist attractions in County Clare. With Shannon Airport nearby, the Folk Park and Castle receive a flood of visitors either as they arrive in Ireland or as they are departing.

A favorite attraction of the Castle is the Castle Dinner. With castle staff dressed in period garb, visitors are entertained in the Great Hall with traditional Irish folk music interspersed with Irish music from the 15th century.