Thursday, July 15, 2010

Save This Map for Later

Ballyvaughan is a tiny town in County Clare, pinched against the south side of Galway Bay by the Burren's otherworldly karst. Its most-photographed feature is a signpost:

Notice the very top: "This is just a signpost. If you want information, go somewhere else." (Photo copyright by Tina Manthorpe, all rights reserved.)

Diane and I passed through Ballyvaughan in August, 2006, and this sign changed our trip -- but we had become accustomed to Irish signs changing our plans by then. We entered Ballyvaughan planning to go out in a certain direction, but decided to go in another direction or three based on what we saw on the signpost at the town's center.

That's the way Ireland's towns' signs are, if you look at them in a calm and measured way. They are designed to be studied up close, not glimpsed at 100kph in BIG LETTERS. After all, if you're in that much of a hurry, you already know where you're going, or should. Signs should give options, not directions, and should be near pubs in which you can discuss the options with knowledgeable locals or charming liars. Or both, most likely. After such deliberations, your destination can be assessed and, if need be, altered.

All that by way of introducing this map of our tentative plans for the next month (please click on the image to see a larger and clearer one) from Google Earth:

This is where we're going to go. Maybe. We think. Or maybe not.

It should be fun to see a map in a couple of months that shows where we actually went and how much similarity it shows to this rough-out.

The green parts should probably look much the same; they represent excursions to places where we have reservations for overnight accommodations away from Birr (which is at the center of the map, from which four green lines and one white one radiate.)

The big northern green loop includes Armagh (historical center of Irish research astronomy in the 1800's, and current home of not only the old observatory but also a modern planetarium), Derry (from which my most recently-emigrated ancestor, my father's father's father's father, Patrick McMackin, left aboard the bark Fanny in 1848), and the Giants' Causeway. Recent events make a trip to Derry even more imperative for us. The return trip will take us through Donegal and Sligo -- I think.

The western loop marks our return to the Clifden Connemara Pony Show -- you really can't visit Ireland in August without going to that, can you? We've splurged on the Rosleague Manor House in Letterfrack again this time for resting between ponies, if only for the best croissants in the universe.

And the southwestern loop to Counties Kerry and Cork has its nexus in Killarney, which will be our base for exploring the Dingle and Beara Peninsulas. Of the latter, Ireland for Dummies says:

"When you get home, don't forget to tell your friends that the Beara peninsula was terribly ugly and boring. That way, the peninsula will remain the wild and unspoiled place that it is now, with many ruins (both ancient and more recent), magnificent seascapes, and sweeping hills."

If you want just a taste of what Dummies is referring to, you can start with a bit of a Google on Tuosist, Uragh, Drombohilly, and the Dursey Island cable car. While we're nosing around those places, thousands of tourists will be plodding around the Iveragh Peninsula to the north on the two-lane "Ring of Kerry," as we did four years ago. I'm glad we did it, but we'll never do it in a crowded August again.

The white lines are possible day trips from Birr, at our whim of a morning when we don't have anything scheduled in town or the castle archives. A return to Loughcrew is high on our list, as is a trip down to Waterford to see (starting with a skeptical eye) the new crystal factory, downsized, under different management, and with different employees. A trip through the Burren by a different track from before is important to me, and a venture to the more genteel environs of Wicklow can take us to the National Stud, too. And several jaunts to Dublin are in order this time.

Our list of places we want to see is long -- but I can almost guarantee that it's a very different list from the one we will have gone to when all is done in September.

That's just the way Ireland works.

2006: Actual peregrinations. I wish we had made a "planning" map for that trip; it would have been quite different from the actuality shown above. (Click to see a legible version.)



Mike said...

Historical note: It was after the fall of Charles Stewart Parnell that the Irish decided it would be to the nation's advantage to appoint a National Stud rather than leaving the role in the hands of poets, politicians and actors.

You would think that, following the Errol Flynn experience, Australia, which is quite a bit like Ireland except for its size, accent, climate and economy, would have done the same thing, but you can see by today's newspapers that they have not.

Anyway, glad you're going to visit him, Sherwood, because, owing to the influence of the church in Ireland, his existence is a great deal less exciting than you might expect and I'm sure some company will cheer him up.

And I'm jealous as hell about the rest. Hope you get to turn all those white lines green and a few more besides.

Anonymous said...

Your sign post is between a window and a door. All the other sign posts on the gallery page on Flickr are of the same post, which is between two doors, and have a completely different set of signs than your sign post.

I'm very envious of your trip! Have fun and be sure to take lots of pictures.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Just for the sake of clarity, Mike, and at the risk of providing Too Much Information, it's my wife who's anxious to visit the National Stud, not me so much. The Stud's right off the M7 in Kildare, though, making for a convenient stop on the way to Dublin.

Anonymous -- are you Ronnie-with-a-capital-R? -- Ms. Manthorpe's photo is probably of a previous signpost at the same spot. (She says that it's a scanned old print.) While the signs on the post are different, they are all appropriate as concerns distances, directions, etc. for that particular T intersection. My guess is that the building behind it was remodeled at some point (removing a door and replacing it with a window,) which may have required removal of the signpost during construction. What's there now is probably a newer construct of the same thing. If we get back there this time, we'll pop across the street to the pub and ask.

Sherwood Harrington said...

That should be "removing a window and replacing it with a door," of course.

I so wish we could edit comments.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

I think it goes without saying that the more photos and anecdotes you share with us later about this trip, the better! So i won't say it. But i'll be sending good thoughts for problem-free travels and greatly looking forward to your posting about it.

ronnie said...

Very excited to hear your reports about this trip, given that so much good stuff came out of your first one.

Will you be visiting or staying at the Bothy for any part of this trip? I would love to know if the Bothy Cat is still about.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Absolutely, ronnie, we'll be using the Bothy as our HQ for most of this trip as well. While we're not trying to duplicate the last trip, the benefits of the Bothy, logistically and otherwise, made it the obvious choice for our home base once again. It's the point in the middle of the upper map in the post, with all the lines radiating from it.

I am told by a very reliable source -- Lady Rosse herself -- that our favorite Irish cat is still around, but is now being fed by one of the gardeners instead of Bothy tenants. (I'm guessing that the duty didn't sit as well with all Bothy guests as it did with us.) We know where her nest is under one of the formal garden's hedges, though, and we know the windowsill where she no doubt still checks for food and milk once in a while. My bet is that she starts hanging out with us again after the first week or so. As Lady Rosse says, "I am sure she would come back around the Bothy if she knew she was welcome!"

Ronnie said...

Never "Anonymous." Haven't commented before because I forget to ask my neighbor, Sister Bridget Kelly,OP, the name of her village just outside Birr, and I forget to look up the location of ggfather Shannon's farm east of Ennistymon. Mike will have told you of my grandmother Bridget McMahon's, home in Drumboat (west of Dundalk) because we've been there. It's just off one of your white lines.

And then you can visit Rostrevor and Macroom too...When do you leave?

Ronnie said...

Those from the latter places married in London, had a first child in NYC, and ended up in Iowa.
Killeinagh is one mile east of Ennistymon, comprises 47 acres, pop. 16, all Shannons. Patrick emigrated in 1850, age 20.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Ronnie -

Now I'm very curious about who "Anonymous" is. It's somebody who is very observant, that much I know.

I suggested back in April that your friend Bridget's home hamlet might be Clonfanlough, on the Shannon near the old monastic ruin Clonmacnoise. If so, it will be an easy detour from several of the daytrips we want to take.

A visit to Drumboat looks a little iffy at this point -- while it's close to three of our lines on the map, all three will be hurried trips in that vicinity -- but it's certainly on my list of places I want to go if we can. The name of the place alone makes it an attraction!

Rostrevor is a possibility, depending on how the first couple of days of our stay go, which is when the white line up to the Mountains of Mourne from Dublin is planned -- but Macroom? The one in County Cork? Don't think we'll get there this time.

Killeinagh, though, looks very, very likely for a visit. I've located it via Google Earth -- as you say, only about a mile East of Ennistimon, and right along my preferred route through and 'round the Burren this time.

You asked when we leave -- two weeks from today! Still a lot of work to be done at school (and here in the Fort to make sure things go as smoothly here for Adam and his charges as possible), but we're ready in all other ways.

Xtreme English said...

Wonderful Irish sign post. Maybe I'll skip Paris this year and go see where my ancestors grew's around Ballywhatnot (in Co. Clare). Though my great grandfather came from Limerick City.