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    Jon's Ireland Vacation Travelogue - May 1998

    Day 13

    The journey on this day took us out on the ring of Kerry, which is a popular tourist destination. Our first stop was at the Staigue stone fort which was supposedly built around 1000 BC. The fort was in great condition for being 3000 years old. We had some questions about why they would have built such a huge structure way up in the hills where it was located.

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      This was one of those wow molments. We drive off into the middle of nowhere and then come over the top of a hill and spot a 3000 year old stone fort in the mist.

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      This shot is from the top of the walls.

    A little down the road we saw two other stone forts but we couldn’t see any roads to them so we had to pass them by.

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      This was as close as we could get to this stone fort. It illustrates how hard it is to find some of the archeological sites. It wasn't marked on the map we had and I only noticed it by chance.

    We stopped in Catherdanial for lunch at The Blind Piper. As usual we had to settle for bar food which turned out to be great. I bought a cool T-shirt there as well.

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      Inside the Blind Piper.

    Our next stop was at the house of Daniel O’Connel, which I felt was nothing special, but we spent most of our time walking on the beach at Derrynane Strand. It was very wonderful here; white sands, rocky tide pools, and islands out in the mist.

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      Looking from Derrynane Strand over to the ruins of an abbey.

    We finished the day at Ballinskelligs Abby, which was like most of the other abbey ruins we saw on the trip. Crumbling walls filled with graves.

    Various photos from The Ring of Kerry.

    Day 14

    A sign pointing to Aldully Castle was a few miles from our cottage so we decided to check it out. Unfortunately it turned out to be a manor house instead of a castle and a rather plain one at that.

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      This is Aldully (sp?) "Castle", but the main reason I have the picture here is for the great view of the valley where we stayed this week.

    Most of the day was taken up by lunch and shopping in Kenmare since it was raining quite a bit.

    We also went to the Kenmare stone circle, which was very odd. It didn’t seem to have the great view we’d seen from the other circles and it had what appeared to be a boulder burial in the center of it.

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      The Kenmare Stone Circle. Since I got back I found out it had been excavated and dated to 1000 BC.

    We also visited the Michael Quill Center, which wasn’t that interesting to me, but it did have a view of the valley where we’d been staying.

    Day 15

    This was the day we drove to our next cottage, which was a few miles from Castlebar. The drive was uneventful with good roads and no wrong turns.

    When we finally got to the cottage I decided to take a shower. A little about the showers here: Try to imagine a combination between a logic puzzle and a medieval torture device. First you have to figure out if there's a switch for the shower. Sometimes it’s electric, sometimes not. If it’s not you can count on not getting clean because the water will trickle out in drops. Then you need to set the temperiture. This will change several times as you try to get clean, so the initial setting isn't that critical. Then you get to struggle with the curtain, which is made from a clingy material that will stick to you any time you touch it. It’s also hung so that you don’t really have room to do things like apply soap to your body or wash your hair. So there you stand, either too cold or too hot, wrapped in a shower curtain, trying unsuccessfully to get the soap off yourself.

    It’s easy to see why all Irish, men and woman, have very short hair. You can’t get long hair clean in these showers in less than 20 minutes.

    Before dinner we decided to stop into a pub and have a pint. We noticed a lot of pictures on the walls with people standing in the road and throwing things. One of the locals came over and said that they were "road bowling". This involved rolling a four pound metal ball down a long section of road from one town to the next. He invited us to come watch them play the next day, but we were heading in the other direction.

    We had read that there where several good restaurants in Westport, a few miles west of Castlebar, so we drove over and had dinner at Quay Cottage. This was one of the best meals we’d had so far. The service was great and for the quality of the food the prices were very reasonable. The décor and the staff where wonderful.

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      The sunset from Westport.

    After dinner we decided to go down to the ocean and watch the sun go down. It was quite a sight. We were standing at the base of Crough Patrick Mountain, which rises nearly straight out of the ocean to tower over the countryside. We had seen several standing stones in the area, we found an abbey ruin (Murrusk) down at the beach and a full moon was rising over the mountains. It’s possible I took a few too many pictures.

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      You can't tell how impressive Crough Patrick is from this picture. You can see it from any hilltop in this part of the counrty. We wanted to climb it, but the fog never lifted.

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      The full moon rising over Murrusk Abbey.

    Day 16

    This was the day we over loaded on archeological sites. The first site we went to was Turlough stone tower. It was a rather squat 9th century stone tower in excellent condition. A newer abbey had been added to the side of it in the 15th century.

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      To get some perspective on the size of this tower, notice that the little dot to the right is dad.

    Next we went to Strade abbey which had some very nice stone work.

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      Some of the stone work at Strade Abbey.

    Then on to Meelick stone tower which was in excellent condition but was missing a roof. It looked like you might be able to climb up to the entrance that was about 20 feet above the ground, but I decided not to try it.

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      That thing running up the side is a lightning rod, which all of the towers had. It reminded me of the tarot card "The Tower". I wonder how many actually had their tops knocked off by lightning.

    Then we drove up the road up the coast quite a ways to the north coast of county Mayo to Rosserk Abby. The nice thing about this abbey was that they hadn’t blocked off the stairs to the upper levels so you could wander through all the rooms. It was quite fascinating to see how everything was built from the inside. Of course I had to stoop everywhere since the doorways and ceiling were so low. Apparently people in those days were very short.

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      This tower was actually suspended over the abbey by buttresses. Very impressive stonework.

    Just a few miles up the road we found Moyne Abby, but the landowner had made an effort to keep people out of the area even though there were road signs pointing to it. It looked like he might have created large amounts of mud at the entrance everyday. All of the other possible paths had signs up to discourage trespassing.

    We had seen many sites where they had little "honesty boxes" where you’d be asked to put 50p or a pound for access to the land. This seems like a much better solution than trying to annoy people so that they’ll avoid the area.

    Driving through the village of Killala, we visited the stone tower there. It’s right in the middle of the village with pubs and homes around it.

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      The Killala Stone Tower is odd in that it's not out in the middle of nowhere. I couldn't get a shot that had the tower and the shops at the same time though.

    Our next stop, Rathfran Abby, was one of the most interesting sites on the whole trip. Near the top of a hill at the site, I was able to see the ruins of the abbey, a holy well, a passage tomb (or stone circle), a nice stone circle, two standing stones, a very large dolman (or wedge tomb). Several of these sites lined up on a rock cairn on a ridge about 12 miles away and what appeared to be a ring fort. I could also see the stone tower in Killala off in the distance. Not visible from the hill, but nearby, were at least two large standing stones.

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      This shows some of the strange out-builds at Rathfran Abbey.

    It was really a very special site. Surprisingly none of the guidebooks we had mentioned the combination of items. We only found the holy well by chance as it was very overgrown and could only be seen from a certain angle.

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      This shot is looking though one of the stone circles to a rock carn on the ridge. There's a stone fort lined up between the two that you can't really see here.

    We’d had to wander around several fields to get to all of these sites and after one of them we found ourselves in a field with a large bull. We backtracked and tried to go around the pasture, which led us into a berry bramble. We emerged rather bloody but untrampled.

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      Here's the "Dolman" at Rathfran Abbey. I'm really not sure what it was, but the stones you see here are about eight feet tall and round rather than narrow. Very big.

    Dinner that night was at Breaffy House, which was supposed to be a top-drawer hotel with good food. It turned out to be an awful, stuffy place full of pompous, stuffed shirt, old twits. The staff and the clientele seemed determined to avoid leaving the 19th century. It all had a nursing home sort of feel. The food was horribly over priced, 20 pounds for food that you could get at most any cafeteria.

    Of course we were bloody and smelling of cow stuff. I couldn’t stop thinking of the restaurant scene form "The Blues Brothers". I really wanted to turn to the ridiculous git behind us and ask how much he wanted for the women. I tried to start an incident towards the end, but my parents wouldn’t support the idea.

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