Tuesday, August 14, 2007

HI-POD: Part 4 (August 15 - 20, 2006)

Harringtons' Ireland Pictures of the Day, Part 4

[Part 5 starts with August 21.]


Tuesday, August 15
Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetary near Sligo

On this day, we drove through a rainy morning northward from Birr to the port city of Sligo, to begin a three-day wander through Counties Sligo and Mayo, the Connemara National Park in far northern County Galway, and a full day's stay at Clifden's annual Connemara Pony Show.

One of many 5,000-year-old passage tomb ruins at Carrowmore

After checking in to our hotel in downtown Sligo, we spent the afternoon on the gravel-based hills southwest of Sligo City, visiting the largest (and, possibly, oldest) of the pre-Celt tomb sites, Carrowmore. While the Heritage Ireland Carrowmore page is perfunctorily terse, Paola Arosio and Diego Meozzi's Stone Pages entry about the site is more informative (and prettier.)

A closer view of the central part of the tomb shown above.

Our happy experience at Loughcrew a few days earlier spurred us to spend the hours on this day at Carrowmore, and we weren't disappointed. In additon to the archaeological fascination provided by the meandering site, the views and the post-rain atmospherics combined for an unforgettable afternoon.

View toward Sligo City from the hilly farmland 'round Carrowmore.

We arrived "home" to our hotel in Sligo a bit late, and a stroll around the city's center proved a little disappointing in our search for an eatery. In fact, all we could find open was a... Burger King.

View from our Sligo City Hotel room window. The flags are in front of the hotel's neighbor, Sligo City Hall.

So we retreated to the hotel restaurant, where we had our only bad meal in our entire stay in the Republic. Overall, restaurant and pub food in Ireland is great for American palates (the old stereotype of Irish food being like English food but even worse is long past its expiry date, it s
eems.) There are some, well, quirks, which I may get to in a future post.

Click here for more slides, with captions, from August 15, 2006.


Wednesday, August 16
Rustic Connaught

We spent this day wandering generally southwest from Sligo, through Mayo, and across the far northern fringe of County Galway to Letterfrack and the Connemara National Park.

Partry Mountains near Carrowkennedy in County Mayo, site of a famous encounter between the IRA and the Black and Tan during the revolution.

We never got pulled over, but the An Garda Siochana takes its traffic duties seriously, despite the fact that the officer in this car at a petrol station in County Sligo was sound asleep. The paint job on their cars isn't subtle, either. At first, the thought of a national police force, and only a national police force, creeped me out a little. However, since Ireland is smaller than many states in the US, I guess it makes some sense.

The clouds for most of the day were thicker than the prior afternoon, and they added a dramatic, somber appearance to the rugged landscape.

Lake by the Kylemore Abbey near Connemara National Park.

By the time we arrived at the Park, the day had brightened significantly, and we had a wonderful afternoon of hiking and gawking.

Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park.

The National Parks service is making a major effort to re-introduce a viable wild pony presence in this part of Ireland. There is a pretty healthy herd in the Park, and this sign is one I don't think I've ever been admonished by anywhere else!

Wild fuchsia were abundant throughout the park -- and in all the rural places we visited in Ireland.

View back toward the Park, Ballinakill Harbour, and the village of Letterfrack in the late afternoon from the front door of our lodging for the evening, the Rosleague Manor House.

28 slides with captions from this day are available here.


Thursday, August 17
The 82nd Connemara Pony Show, Clifden

Stallions in hand.

We arrived in Clifden after the short drive from Letterfrack at about 10 on the morning of the annual Connemara Pony Show, and spent the entire day enjoying the beautiful beasts -- and their people.

When we arrived, the colt foal competition had just ended and the filly foal competition was under way. This little gal caught our eye right away, and she ultimately wound up winning not only her class, but the best foal, filly or colt, in the show. Her name at show time was just NR46, but Diane nicknamed her "Bratty" for her demeanor, a name that seemed to stick with the people around us in the gallery.

Judges in the foal competition.

The Whippytime truck didn't generate a whole lot of business: the day was cool, quite overcast, and occasionally damp with a thin sprinkle of rain. Nobody seemed to mind very much (we certainly didn't.)

We spent most of the day watching the various stallion competitions. Seeing them so close and being able to talk to their handlers and the very knowledgeable people around us was a great treat. Seeing these magnificent, strong beasts up close also forever dispelled my prior concept of a "pony" as some sort of docile midget whose only purpose is to tote little kids around at a plodding amble.

Running a stallion in hand.

Diane dubbed this pony "Gabby," because he had a lot to say throughout the entire competition: whinnies, snorts, chuffs... the whole repertoire.

There were other things going on around the periphery of the pony competition rings, including a "domestic arts" competition (whose chickens' eggs will be judged most worthy this year?) and a variety of events to keep children active and entertained, such as a children's step-dancing competition and a dog show.

These girls were watching and participating in the dog show; note the stuffed animals -- a dog needn't be real to be entered, just as long as it was accompanied by a willing child!

But not all of the children had to be distracted from the rings' events, not by any means. Love and use of horses is deeply ingrained in Ireland's culture, and learning to view them with an appreciatively critical eye appears to be something learned early in life.

Young twins, more intent on the ponies than on where, exactly, their ice cream is going.

Click this picture for a 34-slide show of our day at the Clifden Connemara Pony Show:


Friday, August 18
Through the Kylemore Pass

The cloud cover was thick on our drive back to Birr, and it rained occasionally. On our way out of Clifden we backtracked a little to the Kylemore Abbey and then along a back road through the Kylemore Pass in the mountains to the town of Recess on the main Galway road.

View into the Twelve Bens (or Twelve Pins) from the Kylemore Pass.

We’re glad we took that byway. Under the dramatic sky we had the Twelve Bens peaks to our right, and…

The Maumturks from the Kylemore Pass.

… the Maumturk Mountains to our left and…

Open road through the Kylemore Pass.

… almost no traffic at all until very near the main Galway Road.

The drive from there back to Birr, now familiar, was easy and grey. After resting and doing domestic stuff for a while, our evening walk took us to a couple of places in the Demesne that we hadn’t visited before: a log cabin on the lake shore farthest from the castle (which Lady Rosse had given us a clue about how to find off the main trails) and a magnificent, obviously ancient wisteria vine near one of the greenhouses.


Saturday, August 19
A Cozy Day in the Birr Castle Demesne

Peat fire in one of the Bothy's fireplaces.

It rained heavily during the night, was still raining with serious intent at daybreak, and continued off and on through the day. Between showers, we ambled around the enchanting grounds of the Demesne in the afternoon and evening. The clouds and muted light made flowers seem to glow from within, or perhaps that was a function of something behind our eyes. No matter whether it was real or not, it gave a magical visual accent to this, one of our last full days in the Birr Castle Demesne.

I believe this is a bed of exotic chrysanthemums, but...

... I know they were gorgeous.

Leviathan resting in the drizzle.

The Bothy Cat strolling with us after the last afternoon shower.

I spent more time today than I had before in the glasshouses (greenhouses) by the formal gardens. During our visit, the glasshouses seemed to be devoted entirely to flowers, destined eventually for some of the castle's 88 rooms -- or a few, if discreetly filched, for rooms in the Bothy.

Purple petunias behind red begonias in a glasshouse.

Near the glasshouses is a monster wisteria. If you click on this picture of a detail in its central vines, you will see a two-euro coin (about the same size as a US quarter) in the center of the frame, and that will give you a sense of scale.

A weeping beech by the lake shore.

Diane visits the Carroll Oak.

Click the little picture to go to a 24-slide show of this gentle day:


Sunday, August 20
Birr Town and a Trip to Killarney

The day broke bright, so I took a few morning-light pictures of Birr town while Diane was getting ready for our trip to Killarney.

Carriage gate to the Birr Castle Demesne.

The gate pictured above is the one we drove in and out through during our stay at the Bothy. It's operated by a card scanner in the right-hand tower, not by a guard with a pike, more's the pity.

The town was very quiet on this bright Sunday morning, most folks being in St. Brendan's Church (Catholic, down near John's Mall) or St Brendan's Church (Church of Ireland, at the end of Oxmantown Mall.) Yes, they are both St. Brendan's.

Emmett Square

Emmett Square is the heart of Birr. The yellow building has a newsstand on its ground floor, and I walked there most mornings to buy our daily newspaper, usually the Irish Times.

The column, built in the 1700's, used to support a statue of the English Duke of Cumberland, who had won a battle in Scotland the year before. The statue came down in 1915 and, after the revolution, the square itself was re-named after Robert Emmett. Emmett, an icon of modern Irish nationalism, led an ill-fated revolt against the English in the very early 1800's, and is probably best remembered for his words at the end of his address to the court that had just sentenced him to death: "When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written."

Main Street, Birr, on a tranquil Sunday morning.

Alone among all the midland towns we traveled through, Birr's traffic-flow is well thought-out, and it works well. The streets are all as narrow as anywhere else, but most of them are one-way, unique in our experience. If you click on the image to see a bigger one, you'll see that the red sign on the right reads "Super Valu". It's the grocery store we did most of our shopping in. Contrary to our expectations, bags are available in grocery stores in Ireland at a very small charge, but we used a canvas one anyway (as did most of the locals). A surprise to us: checkout clerks at grocery stores are seated.

Tickle the Bothy Cat's tummy to see about twenty more views of Birr and the Demesne on this Sunday morning, including the secret path to the log cabin on the Demesne's lake.

In the afternoon, we drove to Killarney, first stop on what we had planned to be a four-day, three-night tour of the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula. That would be shortened to only two nights (and no Dingle Peninsula) because of increasing, nagging pain that Diane was experiencing in her surgically-reconstructed ankle as a result of a stumble she had taken on Friday. She's pretty tough, but it did kind of hobble her mobility for the remainder of our stay in Ireland.

Diane at the Ladies' View viewpoint for the Lakes of Killarney, Killarney National Park. If you click on this image for a larger version, you can see that it looks like she's choosing her steps carefully.

Appreciation of the view at Ladies' View wasn't limited to human eyes.

Pat the little dog to see a few more pictures from our late afternoon and evening in Killarney.


Tomorrow: the Ring of Kerry
(Initiating HI-POD: Part 5)



Mike said...

I love local views of local history -- that battle between the IRA and Tans may be famed in song and story but in my years of studying and collecting such stuff, I never heard of it. On the other hand, songs from that era are full of references to battles it takes an expert to track down ... always nice when folk music comes with footnotes.

But here's a song that has played in my head every morning since you began this series and is indeed a favorite among ex-pat Irish. You don't mention this place specifically, but the flavor of the song permeates your postings ...


Sherwood Harrington said...

Thank you so much, Mike, for linking that great song here and on your own blog.

As for the place itself, I suspect that it may be metaphorical, not literal. My "Cliffs of Dooneen," then, could be my own memory (or my Nikon.)

Dann said...

Knowing that many on my father's side of the family came from Ireland, I found the mention of County Mayo to be of some modest interest. There have been four consecutive generations of eldest sons in my family given the middle name Mayo. Why was never clearly explained to me, but I now suspect that it had something to do with the "old country".

Being the last of the four, it now seems like a pity to have broken that tradition. At the least, we did so with my Grandfather's blessing.

He'd had enough of it as well. [grin]

Mike said...

Identification with counties is very strong in Ireland and was occasionally a barrier to nationhood. The Young Ireland movement had to create a sense of Irish identity, and that effort carried forward from the 19th century work of songwriter Thomas Davis up through Yeats and other early 20th century artists. And the isolation continued to relatively modern times -- The bodhran player in my folk group was a Limerickman who met his wife, who was from Clare, only because he'd served in the Home Guard during WWII and was stationed there. His father, a thatcher, only left Limerick once in his life, when the men's sodality from his church went to Queenstown (now Cobh).

It's quite a change for his generation to go back to Ireland and hear all the languages being spoken there ... as Sherwood heard on the "Cliffs of Babel." Ireland was jerked into the 20th century scant years before it ended.

Of course, with a solid economy, young Irish won't be leaving in such droves anymore anyway. Those who choose to leave won't be nearly as homesick and would thus be less likely to add a county name to their children's, I suppose.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Catching up here after a crazy week- So much smashing photography, and i'm especially struck by the dramatic skies in so many. There was one back in a previous slideshow i'd have to go hunt up again, where the clouds are colliding with a mountain and spilling over the backside. Just wonderful!

And so is the Planxty song! That one's a killer.

Meanwhile Larry was wondering if you had any more pictures from Waterford, showing the process?


Sherwood Harrington said...

Mike and Dann -

Strong county identification and its role in forging Irish nationalism might be most interestingly seen in the history of the Cumann L├║thchleas Gael (or Gaelic Athletic Association). Not to give away anything further down the line in HI-POD, but "Bloody Sunday" has two meanings in the struggle.

Ruth --

The picture you refer to with the mountain and clouds is probably one from our mosey through the Kylemore pass, and I, too, was continually delighted by the clouds' dance throughout the month.

As for Waterford, I probably don't have a whole lot to offer Larry more than what's been here, but here's what I do have:

This is a pdf file of the part of our trip diary about the Waterford excursion; it has a lot of smaller pictures and a great deal more expostulation (but only mine, not anything truly reliably informed!)

Also, this is a dump of every picture we took at Waterford (without any captions at all) -- if you or Larry have any questions about any of them, just go ahead and ask. (Sorry about the "buttonizing" of the larger images; it's a "feature" of the quick-n-dirty program I used to slap the collection together for you.)

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

8~) What a nice thing to do! Just gave the links to Larry, who looked very happy to put off struggling with our business program for awhile and explore Waterford instead. He's over at his computer right now saying "Oh, that's my kind of chandelier," and various other approving comments.