It was very foggy up at the Cliffs of Moher. It’s probably more accurate to say the clouds were rather low, since we were very high up. We decided to take a bus tour; the drive up was harrowing, and I was very glad I wasn’t driving. It was much like our drive up through the Wicklow Mountains after we visited Glendalough: one side of the road looked like the edge of the world. We walked up to the wall that keeps visitors from falling off the cliffs, but we couldn’t see the ocean or the cliffs. The fog was so thick, in fact, that it felt as though it was actually in my eyes. We could faintly hear the waves hitting the cliffs more than 300 feet down, and we could hear seagulls flying just out of our vision. I’m glad we went, even if we didn’t see the cliffs. We’ve seen a portal tomb, some castle ruins, the remains of a monastery, a relatively-intact ring-fort, and several fairie circles and trees. It was well worth the trip. Plus, we didn’t get lost once!
Are you afraid of fairies? Apparently, it’s a wise person who is. We explored an ancient ring-fort that was built around 600 B.C.E. by Celtic people. However, it was given up to the Tuatha Dé Danann when they and the Milesians agreed to divide Ireland between them. The Milesians were the Celts who took the topside and the Tuatha Dé Danann went to live underground. They became the Fairie Folk who aren’t too happy with their end of the bargain and tend to play tricks on humans. We’ve also seen several stones and trees standing alone in the middle of fields and pastures, even ones where a road has obviously been diverted around it.
Holy wells dot the landscape. We found two sort of on our own: one on the way up to Emain Macha and one behind the church at Cranfield. Trees and/or bushes surround a pool of water a few feet across, and rags of many colors will be tied on the branches. It seems each well has its own traditions, but they’re all considered places of healing. At the well in Cranfield, a man and his son told us that the tiny amber rocks that are in the pool are good luck if you swallow them. Fishermen would do this so they would not drown in Lough Neagh (or anywhere else, I assume).
Strokestown Park is an estate in County Roscommon. It used to be the home of a wealthy English family, landlords to many Irish tenants. It now houses the Irish Famine Museum and a beautiful woodland walk that is lined with sculptures commemorating the famine, made by local students. It’s quite moving.
I’m sitting on the balcony of our B&B in Galway City with my dinner of Irish brown bread, Irish cheddar cheese, fruit, and a Bulmer’s. Galway Bay is two streets over; Eyre Square is just down the hill. Chris and Robbie and I spent the day in the Latin Quarter: narrow medieval streets lined with shops, restaurants, and buskers performing music, magic, and juggling. It’s definitely a tourist area, but we enjoyed it.
Our drive down from Fermanagh was not too adventurous, at least not until we got to Galway City. There is not one straight line in this whole town! Also, the city must be saving loads of money on street signs, because they are very few and far between. I’ll be helping with that situation, though. I was pleasantly surprised to get a great parking space close to the Latin Quarter this morning. But you know what they say about something being too good to be true; apparently some sort of parking permit is needed in that area. Galway City will be €40 richer after I pay my fine. Doing my part to help the Irish economy.
We arrived in County Fermanagh just as a storm was passing through. The sun appeared behind us and this shone in front of us:
Fermanagh is the county from which Rose and James emigrated in 1880. Of all the places I’ve seen in Ireland, this area looks the most like Morgan County, where we live now. Many of the hills are covered with trees, and mist often rises from the valleys. Cows graze in fields, and roads are bordered with green hedges. Of course, neither Rose nor James ever saw Morgan County, but I like to think that the scenery they knew in Ireland is similar to what I know in my home. Maybe the rainbow is a sign that I will find their birthplaces here.
Scientists say they were formed from volcanic lava that cooled quickly. We know that the Irish giant Finn McCool used the columns to build a bridge between Ireland and Scotland so he could fight a giant who was taunting him from the Scottish shore. When Finn crossed the bridge, he found that the other giant was much bigger than him, and Finn ran home. Finn’s wife dressed Finn as a baby and put him in a crib. When the Scottish giant arrived, Finn’s wife showed him the “baby”; the other giant could only imagine how big the baby’s father might be, and he ran back to Scotland, breaking up the bridge as he went.
Robbie found Giant’s Causeway to be a different kind of challenge. When we were there two years ago, Robbie very carefully and slowly made his way down toward the water, wanting to touch the sea. He was still a few steps away when a large wave crashed against the rocks and sprayed him. The sea had come to him, which Robbie took as an offer of friendship. For two years, Rob has longed to go back to this sea that had greeted him. This time, Robbie wanted to be the one to go to the water to show his affection for the sea. The pilgrimage was longer, as Robbie decided to walk down the larger of the two points. Each step was carefully planned, because Rob’s ear troubles throw his balance off. Determined and persistent, he finally made it.