Friday, July 15, 2016

On the One Road- Towards the Sea

Away on Sunday, July 3, a wee bit later than usual, the bus arrived at a cathedral in Galway just in time for the 11 am mass; but I was a heathen and walked over to the River Corrib where the salmon were running up towards Corrib Lough.  Three fishermen were running salmon flies across the current with extremely long fly rods.  The closest one seemed particularly adept, and I concentrated on him hoping to see him hook a big one.  Only a short wait and it happened!  What a start to the day.

A short walk along the river and we came upon a vehicle free set of city streets that were rich with stores, pubs and people. I've been interested in the variety of adornments for the pubs in Ireland and found another for my collection- the Dew Drop Inn.  The 1902 date on the door labels it as a newcomer in the scheme of Irish pubs.

There is no shame in being 114 years young, nor in being irreverent.  I had my sights set on another pub but had to ask a bit to get directions to Fat Freddy's Pub.  "All children left unattended will be given an espresso and a free kitten." Should allow the patrons to have a perfect pint of stout undisturbed.

It was the first warm day, and we found a McDonalds perfect for a cold lemonade, clean restroom and quiet seating.  (The shame of it with so many pubs!)  A nice lunch of eggs benedict with lox brought us back to the proper tourist mode at Maxwells. 

Later, we wandered a bit among the crowds before settling on a comfy bench outside Sheridan's Cheesemongers to listen to the street musician doing Jimmy Buffett songs. We were awaiting the appointed hour for a wine and cheese tasting upstairs at Sheridan's.  I'd drifted into the retail store; it was hardcore exotic cheeses and sausages.  Consider the aroma of over 50 different aged cheeses.  Whooee! It was really heady stuff.  The tasting was great fun.

Back at the bus, I admit to sleeping most of the way to the ferry we'd ride out to Inish Mor for two nights. Also slept on the ferry trip and arrived on the island wanting to skip the van ride and take a brisk walk to the hotel. That was a good decision. Walking along the seawall we came upon a local horseman giving his two horses a swim. Evidently the horses had worked the day pulling carts carrying visitors around the island.  This was their reward for a good day's work. This excited me for the coming day on Inish Mor. It would be an unusual way to spend the Fourth of July.

I awoke early hoping for an explore before breakfast, looked out and went back to sleep.  Rain. After breakfast, we had a van that took us out to Dun Aengus.  It is an Iron Age defensive fort, built around the second century BC, on the edge of a 100 meter cliff over the sea. There is a long approach walk across fields divided by heavy stone walls. The stone walls were the only way to clear the land enough to have pasture or crop land. There are 7000 miles of walls on this nine mile long island.

Photo by Pam Schmitt

On a rainy, windy day  with many slippery rocks, it can be a real challenge that  calls for a few rest stops and abundant caution. No reason to risk a fall.

As we approached the fort, the wind seemed to build and mist blew on us.  We all made it, and fortunately, that  was before the first load of day visitors descended on the trail. The fort walls are about 6 meters high and arrayed in four rings with a single entrance through each wall.

One delight was the near complete absence of litter.  It seemed to be some combination of respect and housekeeping.

Once inside the walls, the view of the sea atop a high cliff was dramatic though no photo could capture the feeling.

Walking back to the van, we met the first wave of day visitors.  There were a few delightful little scenes of beauty along the trail.  There beside a carefully laid wall of stone were blooming wild geraniums, just like I might see anywhere in my native New York.  They love this misty seaside, obviously.

Back in the van, the weather became milder and we stopped at an abandoned eighth century chapel, Teampall Bhreacain.  The polite request for shutting the gate is, I expect, quite normal in Ireland.

As we extended our travel out to the end of island on what was now single track pavement, the extent of the stone walls never diminished.  It was engaging landscape, which I wished I could independently explore by bicycle on a rainless day.  Oh, to have two full days on Inish Mor for that purpose.

As we returned toward our  hotel, we paused at seaside where there is a haul-out for seals.  Predictably, they were there.

As we boarded the van, one of the horse carts approached in the clearing weather.

Our excursion over, the group had free time. Some chose to nap, some to explore the village for a lunch spot. We had a dinner planned at the Ti Joe Watty Pub nearby, and I decided to insert a brisk explore in the late afternoon that ended there. I discovered the cartman turning his horse out to pasture after the day's work.

Along the same road, I found the remains of the Lucky Star Bar just up the road from the prospering Ti Joe Watty Pub, possibly a victim of competition.  They did serve an excellent meal to us later, and had lively music with local artist Locko plus our Pat and Terri. That was another reason to wish for two full days on Inish Mor.  This trip was really on a roll!

While on Inish Mor, our bus remained on shore and our trusty driver, Con Collins, enjoyed a well-deserved rest day. The narrow roads and his attention to our needs were ample reason to let him recharge a bit. 

Up early the next day to catch the first ferry off the island, Con again took us on a different set of roads around Galway Bay, through lovely Kinvara to the rocky heights of the Burren and on to the Cliffs of Moher.  The cliffs are one of the top visitor sights in Ireland; the crowds looked like ants in the distance.

These cliffs are spectacular, but there are stone walkways and cliff-side barriers due to the number of visitors. The next day, we were at Kilkee and there were long stretches of simple hiking trails and no competition. Like Inish Mor, I'd delight to have a full day in Kilkee. No paved trails or railings. Kevin and Pat free ranged towards the edge.

Our trip was down to one full day before departing at Shannon. We went out the West Clare Pennisula arriving at the cemetery at Cross, where some of Pat Kane's relative are resting. This connection between trip participants and the names in the cemetery creates a deeper, special sense of place. The tended flowers among the graves creates a beautiful testament to family love.

At the extreme end of the pennisula we found Loop Head Lighthouse.  Look at those flags.  Windy!

The day ended with a medievil banquet at Knappogue Castle that had both good food and  entertainment.  Back to the hotel to prepare our baggage for a return flight in the morning. 

It was a satisfying trip with great companions, excellent leadership and a great variety of experiences. My final image is from the sheltered side of the wall around Loop Head Lighthouse with the flags of the Republic of Ireland, the European Union and County Clare all seen in a brisk wind.

Strange. I never saw a shamrock.


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