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    Jon's Ireland Vacation Travelogue - May 1998

    My three week trip to Ireland. Travels in Dublin, Cork, Kerry, Sligo, Mayo, and other Irish stuff.
    Printable version of this page.

    Day 1

    16 hours on three planes from LA to Dublin left me sore and tired. I tried to doze off a few times but it was no use. Plane seats are just to narrow for my shoulders. I end up all scrunched up for hours.

    The last leg of the flight from New York to Dublin wasn’t quite as bad as the rest. There was plenty of free Guinness, and they had lots of movies. Still cramped, but much friendlier on Aer Liugis.


    Click for larger photo
      Dublin

    The sun came up just as we started descending to Dublin. It was great to see all the fields and hedgerows from the air. In fact I don’t even remember seeing the city, just stone walls and green fields as far as I could see.

    We rented a car and struggled to figure out how to drive the thing. Driving on the left side of the road sounds easy enough, but it’s hard to break years of unconscious habit. It also doesn’t help that we didn’t have a good map, the roads are to narrow for two cars to pass, and streets change names from block to block. The transmission on the French car we rented also sucked. Reverse, first, and third all seemed to be in the same position.


    Click for larger photo
      It was wild to be actually standing in front of the General Post Office after just getting off the plane. I'd been reading some Irish history to get into the mood and had seen lots of pictures of the GPO in various states. This is where Irish Republicans made their stand against the British in a failed bid for Irish independance. We went in and bought some stamps. Cool.

    After driving into Dublin we made our way to O’Connell Street and the general post office. It was amazing to see all of the old buildings. Everything is quaint over here. Narrow streets, little pubs with cute names, all the chiminys.


    Click for larger photo
      A quaint street.

    We had a traditional Irish breakfast at Flannigan’s. The service was great though the place was mostly empty. Then we made our way over to one of the markets on Moore Street. We got lots of produce and chatted with some friendly merchants.


    Click for larger photo
      Shopping on Moore Street

    Then we made our way out of the city and over to Enniskerry where we had an apartment at a bed and breakfast. It was out in the county a few miles from Bray.

    It was also very quaint. They have a meter that you have to feed coins into for electricity. Since the ambient temperiture is around 50 degrees at night, we spent lots of time bundled up. It also took me about 20 minutes to figure out how to work the shower.

    Day 2


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      This is one of the DART stations in Dublin. We rode the DART back and forth from Brea for the first three days of the trip. Very clean, quiet and comfortable.

    The next day we took the DART into Dublin and made our way to Trinity Collage. It wasn’t all that stunning as far as the architecture was concerned, but we did get to see the Book of Kells and The Book of Darrow. The old library where The book of Kells is now was really very cool. "The Long Room" in the old library is quite impressive. Unfortunately they don’t let you take pictures of any of this. The oldest lute in Ireland was also stored there. It’s the one that’s on all of the Irish coins.

    Trinity CollageBrian Boru's harpThe Book of Kells

    After some shopping we went to Temple bar and had some great Irish food at Gallager’s Boxty Café. A boxty is one of the 3842 ways of cooking potatoes in Ireland. You know the scene in Forest Gump where the guy goes on for days about all the ways to cook shrimp? Same sort of thing with potatoes over here. Unfortunatly they only know one way to cook vegitables: boiled, no seasonong.


    Click for larger photo
      National Museum

    Then we went to the National Museum where we spent lots of time looking at per-Celtic and Celtic artifacts. It was very cool. It doesn’t seem all that large but we didn’t manage to get through it all. It had some of the best exhibits I’ve ever seen in a museum. Maybe I’m biased about that, most museums don’t have all that much Celtic stuff.


    Click for larger photo
      Brea Head

    Then we when back on the DART and had some dinner at a pub in Bray.

    Day 3

    I didn’t have too much trouble with jet lag. 48 hours pretty much took care of it.

    After taking the DART into Dublin we walked to Dublin Castle and went on the guided tour, which consisted of the staterooms, the courtyard and some excavations. The latter showed three levels of development on the castle: The original Viking work, the later Norman moat and outer wall, and the final wall that stands now. It doesn’t look anything like a castle any more. The Norman castle burned in the 1700s.

    The excavations were the most interesting part. The original fortifications which was at ground level when the Viking fort was built (~900) was about 30 feet below present ground level.


    Click for larger photo
      Custom's house and the Liffy river

    After the castle we made or way over to what we had heard was one of the best fish and chips places in Dublin, Burdock’s. We had some trouble finding it, but eventually we noticed several people standing on the sidewalk here and there eating out of paper sacks. "Must be Burdock’s".


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      Trinity college on the left, The Bank of Ireland on the right, Burdocks is straight ahead.

    We were lucky enough to get in without any queue, maybe because of the rain. At any rate 4£40 bought me a huge slab of fried cod (at least a pound), a large pile of chips, and some garlic mayo for dipping. All wrapped up in paper so we could take it to one of the near by pubs to eat with a Guinness. We opted to eat it out in the street like the locals. It was great, nothing like the breaded blechth they call fish and chips in the states. The fish was about a foot long!

    After eating three pounds of food each we decided to get some beer after all and popped into Lord Edwards for some pints. The pub was about the size of a large closet, but later in the trip we saw about 30 drunk people crowded into the same size room.

    After we were finally able to walk, we went over to Dublinia which was a self guided audio tour covering some of the history of Dublin. Unless you’re bored, do not go to Dublinia. They actually charged us for this silliness.


    Click for larger photo
      Christ Church Cathedral

    Finally finishing the Duvblinia multimedia catacomb, we crossed over to Christ Church Cathedral (1172). The most interesting part of the cathedral was the crypt underneath that is supposed to be one of the largest in the British Isles. At one point the Norman, Strongbow, was buried here but the tomb was destroyed in the 1600s.


    Click for larger photo
      Catacombs

    Then we did some window shopping in a large walking mall. Nothing too special there, just the usual touristy stuff. I managed to find some gold knotwork earrings I like though.

    Before making our way to the Pearse street station, we stopped off at Davie Burns Pub, the moral pub of James Joyce’s Ulysses, for some Guinness and dinner. Mom had the Irish stew, which they always call "Traditional Irish Stew" even though the traditional version is suppose to be made with old, nasty mutton and bland broth. Mom’s wasn’t all that traditional and was quite good. I also tried some draft cider there, which I highly recommend.

    The bathrooms here are worth a visit as well.

    Day 4

    Getting off at Tara station, we made our way back to the National Museum, since we hadn’t gotten through everything on the first day.


    Click for larger photo
      National Heraldry Museum.

    On the way we stopped off at the Heraldry Museum. This was quite small (one room), but we were surprised to see a plaque with the O’Sullivan Beare arms. Very cool.

    Back at The National Museum we got around to all of the exhibits we missed the first day. The two most spectacular pieces are the Tara Broach and the Aragh Chalice. The intricacy of the gold work on both of these is so fine that it’s hard to make out all of the detail with the naked eye. Unfortunately they don’t let you take any pictures of this stuff.


    Click for larger photo
      This is it!!! The Liffy river, where every glass of Guiness starts. The water is the color of Pepsi from all the peat it drains out of. I was tempted to bring back some peat and put it in my homebrew just to see what would happen.

     

    For lunch we stopped off at Fitzer’s for some good California cuisine. The food was quite good here and the atmosphere was very Californian, right down to the yuppies and mineral water. The only thing that didn’t seem California was the prices, which were about half the SoCal versions.


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      A Dublin street

    Then it was off to the national gallery to view some paintings by European masters. Several sections of the museum were closed so we didn’t get to see as much as we would have liked. Very nice stuff though.

    While waiting for rush hour on the DART to end we had a Guinness at O’Donehue’s. Dublin pubs were a surprise to me. First of all they are so small that you can barely fit in the front door. The absolute widest part of the bar will be maximum 10 feet, but typically the room will only be about four or five feet across. When you walk in every single person in the place will turn to see who’s coming in. Every one I’ve been in has been tiny.


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      O'Donehue's

    Day 5

    We started the day with a drive through the woods around Enniskerry. The roads here make absolutely no concessions to safe driving. On most roads, even in populated areas, there’s just barely room for two cars to pass if they both slow down and drive half way into the ditch. This is made more interesting by the stone walls that always line the road. At many times you’ll only have a few inches clearance on each side. The ever-present walls insure that all turns will be blind. It’s silly to try and stay on your own side of a road this narrow, so everyone just drives down the middle. I spent most of the trip braced for impact.


    Click for larger photo
      Glendelough tower

    The first real ruins we went to were the Glendelough stone buildings. The high stone tower and the stone roofed church were uniquely impressive. Especially when you realize that these buildings, made completely from small and medium size stones, have been standing since the 12th century. The scenery around this area is breath taking.


    Click for larger photo
      Glendelough seen from the ridge


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      Glendelough stone church

    One of the lakes near the site has a dark brown tint from the peat, which makes the surface a perfect mirror that reflects the mountains and waterfall.

    Stone crossLake and waterfallUpper lake

    After spending most of the day at Glendelough, we drove through more picturesque country over to the Glenmacnass waterfall. It’s strange to see the dark brown tint of the water, which gets filtered through the peat. At some places it almost has the color of cola. I hiked up to the ridge above the falls to get a better view of the valley. I was surprised to find the whole ridge, even the slopes, were marshy, with standing water everywhere. The top of the ridge could better be described as a marsh.


    Click for larger photo
      Glenmacness waterfall


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      Water stained from the peat

    On the drive back home we pulled off the road to take pictures of a scenic valley. I saw a path leading off of the road and decided to find out where it went. After wading through another bog, I came to the edge of a cliff, which looked down on beautiful little lake (Lough Tay) with a mansion at one end.


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      Lough Tay

    Making our way back to civilization we had dinner at the Roundwood Inn in Roundwood. The restaurant was closed that night so we had to settle for "pub grub". Pub grub in this case consisted of lobster bisque, goulash, and seafood platters, all washed down with Guinness.

    Its rather strange to hear that the restaurant is closed and then be handed the pub menu which is full of great appetizers and full meals. This seems to be the rule though. Our experience the next day at Jonnie Fox’s Inn was even more curious.

    Day 6

    As we were driving over the Wicklow Mountains I looked over at a ridge about 3 miles away and saw a suspicious bump in the profile. Using some binoculars we could see that this was a huge pile of stones, about 30 feet high and 150 feet across. There weren’t any signs describing what it was or even a convenient place to pull off the road. We later found out that this was the prehistoric Seefin passage tomb.

    During the whole day I was startled to find sites like this which are thousands of years old, completely unmarked and unmonitored. Some of them, like this passage tomb, are almost impossible to find.

    We decided to stop of in the town of Blessington so that we could get a better map to some of the sites we wanted to get to. We couldn’t find such a map, but while asking for one, we ran into a local pub owner who mentioned that he knew about an old abbey (Kilteer) several miles away.


    Click for larger photo
      Kilteer Abbey

    After a short drive through the country we spotted the tower through the trees. Rounding the turn we saw that the ruins of the12th century keep were being used as one side of a cattle pen. Another old structure seemed to be being used as a barn.


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      Kilteer Abbey from the field

    Again there were no signs, no place to park, and no one to give us any information about what we were seeing. The couple doing farm work around the tower seemed too busy to really give us a tour.

    Besides the tower, we also found the ruins of a small church and perhaps a curtain wall.

    We took a long drive down to Baltinglass. This town is nestled at the base of a small mountain which has a hill fort and several passage tombs at the top. We really wanted to see these, but no one at the tourist office could give us good directions as to how to get up there. There were no roads and it seemed like a long hike.


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      Baltinglass Hill

    We settled for the ruins of a 12th century abbey on the outskirts of town. The ruins had been added to many times over the last 700 years and it was hard to make out which parts were new. They had a small plaque describing some of the stuff there.


    Click for larger photo
      Glendelough stone church

    Making our way back towards home we tried to find the Castle ruddy stone circle. This proved difficult since the tiny sign, which pointed into a cow pasture, had fallen down. We got directions from a farmer though at first he didn’t seem to have any idea what we were talking about. Perhaps I should have asked, "Can you direct me to the famous large stone circle that’s been located here for the last 3000 years?"


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      Castleruddy stone circle

    We were a little perplexed about the circle when we found it. It didn’t seem to be a stone circle at all. The stones were all the wrong shape. We felt they might be the curbstones for an old passage tomb. No tomb though. Perhaps it never got finished or it got taken apart for building walls.


    Click for larger photo
      The Piper's stone cirle

    Next we drove to the Piper’s stone circle outside Hollywood. This proved the hardest to find. We finally found a small sign pointing of into a sheep pasture. A bit of wandering found a gate and we hiked about until we found the stones at the top of a hill. The view from the circle was quite nice. It’s easy to see why they picked this spot.


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      The Piper's stone cirle

    The easiest way to get back to our bed & breakfast took us through the outskirts of Dublin. We got a bit lost and ended up in a bad neighborhood. We drove past a burning car that looked like it had just been stoned and firebombed. A few blocks later a makeshift roadblock consisting of trees, tires, and large rocks blocked the road we were on. We turned around and left in a big hurry.

    We were completely lost, but we knew that we wanted to eat at a restaurant a few miles from where we were staying. Luckily the pub likes to do lots of advertising, and at every intersection we found a sign pointing to Johnnie Fox’s.


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      Johnnie Fox's

    Like all businesses in Ireland this pub and restaurant was cramped and crowded. It’s in the town of Glencullen, which is surrounded by miles of pastures and rolling hills. I’d say there were ten buildings in the whole place. The pub was so small that we could hardly get into the door, and the restaurant so cramped that the people at the table next to us had to get up so we could squeeze into our table.

    Okay, you get the idea that we’re at a tiny Inn out in the middle of nowhere. I had seafood Marnere in puff pastry, dad had king scallops, and mom had prawns Thumador. The wine list was quite extensive and the food was great. Wild. They even have a freakin' web page.

    As we finished the meal a band was setting up so we sat back with a few pints and listened.

    All in all, a great day.

    Day 7

    Powerscourt Mansion and gardens was only a few miles from where we where staying so we decided to spend the day there on our last day before moveing to the next cottage.


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      Powerscourt Mansion

    The grounds here were quite impressive, but not really my cup of tea. I was still eager to fit in as many megalithic sties as possible.


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      Powerscourt gardens

    When we got home and turned on the news we found out that the IRA had staged a raid on an armored car a few miles from where we were. The whole first week we’d heard about lots of violence related to the peace agreement being considered.

    Day 8

    Our next cottage was in the village of Kilgarven so we spent the day driving over there. We didn’t stop at any sites along the way, but we did get a great view of the Shannon River.


    Click for larger photo
      Shannon river valley

    That night we drove into Kilkenny and had one of the best meals of the trip at Packey’s – Crabcakes, monkfish with seafood sauce, salmon with sorrel sauce, crème brule with rhubarb.

    Day 9

    We started the day with the gruel and bananas that my parents love so much and then headed out for the Beare peninsula. This area is the tradition home of the O’Sullivan Beare clan. In fact for the whole day we saw businesses with the O’Sullivan name. There were so many of them that they had to not only use the owners first initial but the middle initial as well. In every town a third of the businesses were owned by an O’Sullivan.


    Click for larger photo
      This pub in Killgarven used the original Gailic spelling for O'Sullivan.

    Driving along the peninsula, I would have to say that this is some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen. The ocean here is crystal clear, the gentle slopes are covered with stone walls and sheep, and the mountains are formed from huge chucks of stratified rock visible for miles. Truly inspiring.

    North coast of the peninsulaLooking the other wayLooking east from Dunboy Castle

    We turned off on the road to Healy Pass. The whole road up to the top of the pass had a fantastic view. A small emerald blue lake, a green valley criss-crossed with stone walls, little herds of sheep. At the top of the pass we found a tiny unpowered shed that housed a tourist shop where we found some cool T-shirts.


    Click for larger photo
      From Healy pass looking north.

    We drove down from the pass and turned onto a tiny road that led to the ruins of Kilcaskin church and Oghum stone (unknown date). On most of the sites we tried to find today, we ended up on roads that looked more like someone’s driveway than a road. This road was no exception. In most places it was to narrow for two cars to pass at once, even the tiny cars we saw everywhere.

    South towards Dunboy castleLooking down the coast


    Click for larger photo
      Looking west on the south side of the penisula.

    The church was completely overgrown with vines and brush, so we couldn’t make out many of the details. The Oghum stone, which had some Celtic writing, was quite worn but still recognizable.


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      Oghum stone at Kilcaskin Church.

    We drove pasted the ruins of Massmount church, which seemed to have been rebuilt recently.

    Further down the same road we parked the car and hiked up to the Ballynahown wedge grave (unknown date). This site wasn’t particularly spectacular. I suppose the top stone weighed about a thousands pounds or so however. The view from the tomb was spectacular.


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      Ballynahown wedge grave.

    I decided to climb up to the top of the ridge here to see the view from the other side. Again I was surprised to find the whole hillside quite marshy. About 300 yards from where the road ended I found cut marks where someone had cut peat from the hillside. This seemed strange since there were no houses for miles.


    Click for larger photo
      From the top of the ridge.

    Further down the road we came to the Leitrim Beg standing stone. This stone was very large and didn’t show as much wear as some of the others we saw. I started to wonder when it had really been put up. There wasn’t any bog and brush near by and I couldn’t think of any reason why anyone would put it up in recent times. Makes you wonder though. The more visited sites have had archeologists study them extensively but we didn’t have any idea about the origin of these scattered stones. They could have been put up any time in the last 3000 years.


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      Leitrim Beg standing stone. This stone was lime stone instead of granite like the others.


    Click for larger photo
      This shot gives you the size of the stone. About 10 tall (above the ground), three feet wide, and a foot thick.

    The next site we visited was the Derrintaggart stone circle. This circle was very impressive with large, tall stones.

    Derrintaggart looking southOne of my favorite photos on the tripLooking north

    Just a little farther down the road we came to the remains of the Teernahillane raised ring fort. This was probably built over a thousand years ago so it was a little hard to figure out what it might have looked like when it was being used. All that really remained was a very large raised area about 6 feet high. I suppose with a ditch around it and wooden palisade it would be quite defendable, but it seemed a bit small for more than one family.


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      Teernahillane raised ring fort.


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      Near the ring fort they were cutting peat. You can see the trench they've cut on the left and the peat stacked to dry on the right.

    The last site we visited was Dunboy Castle. This was traditionally owned by the O’Sullivan Beare clan. It’s been destroyed three times over the last 700 years and only the foundation and a few walls still stood.

    Looking southest into the interiorLooking northwestOne of the few pictures I have of myself in Ireland.

    I took about a roll and a half of film for my web page, and hopefully I’ll have a large section on the castle up soon.

    Day 10

    We started the day with some shopping at Bantry. We went into a bookstore to find some maps of the areas and it turned out the owner was the author of the book we’d been using to find most of the sites we where looking for. He was able to give us a few more tips on other sites as well. Small freakin’ county.


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      Bantry

    After shopping we had lunch at O’Conner’s. Their specialty was mussels and we had lots of those. Mussel chowder, mussels in wine and garlic, stuffed mussels. Delicious.


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      O'Conner's

    After that we drove up to Gougane Barra Park. The lake there has an island with an old church on it. Several swans were swimming in the lake as well. Very picturesque, but the weather was bad so we didn’t stay long.


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      Gougane Barra Park

    We tried to find a few more Neolithic sites but it was a wash for the most part. We found one but it had no trespassing signs on the fence, so we could only look from a distance.

    On the drive back home we decided to try to find one of the sites we’d heard about in the bookstore. We had only general directions but we thought that it might be a short hike from the pass we’d went over that morning. When we got over to the lake the view alone was worth the hike. We did find some ruins of something as well as a possible rock cairn and possible wedge tomb.

    Looking south towards the highwayLooking westLooking down into the valley

    Day 11

    Our drive on this day took us though the Kilkenny National Park, which had some very wonderful oak woods, lakes, and valleys. All green and mossy.

    We did some more shopping at Kilkenny. I had to buy another piece of luggage for the trip home so I’d be able to get all the stuff I was buying back.

    While in one of the grocery stores I found some black pudding. Reading the ingredients I noticed that the first thing listed was fresh pigs blood (AAHHH!!!). Wait, it gets better. One of the other brands had dried pig’s blood as the main ingredient. This might sound better until you stop to realize that somewhere in this country there’s a factory that’s dedicated to producing dehydrated blood (AAAHHH!!!). Maybe that’s why Ireland doesn’t have lots of vampire legends. No one here thinks there’s anything wrong with consuming fresh blood (AAAHHH!!!).

    Ross Castle was our next stop. This classic style castle was built in the 1500s and had been standing since then. It has been restored so the visitors can see how the residents would have lived when the castle was built. It was quite fascinating. I got the idea that it would be incredibly awful. Cold, smelly, drafty, dark.


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      Ross Castle

    Further down the road we visited Muckross House which was built in the 1800s. The gardens around this mansion were very well designed. Lots of great sight lines and groves. They let visitors go on self-guided tours through the house, which is cool. All of the furnishings are original and it was nice to be able to wander around the rooms the way the residents would have.


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      This was the lake that you looked out over from the main room in Muckross house.

    After dinner that night we walked down to a pub that we’d heard would have some live traditional music. The bar was only about 20 feet by 15 feet, but by the time the music started there were about 30 people listening to the ten musicians who had filtered in over an hour or so. Mostly accordions, with a fiddle, guitar, a bodram, and some Gaelic bagpipes. It was a truly fantastic night of music.

    I got the impression that most of the musicians were just local people who liked to get together every week and play.

    Day 12


    Click for larger photo
      Gurteen Stone Circle

    Our landlord said that he knew of a stone circle that wasn’t on any of the guide maps and he offered to show us where it was. So we started the day be driving up a steep tiny road to the Gurteen stone circle and standing stone. The circle was really in nice shape with a characteristic entrance and recumbent stone.


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      Gurteen Stone Circle

    Of course the view was incredible. All of the circles we’d been to had a really great view of the countryside. Usually they weren’t on hilltops like I’d assumed they’d be. Most were on a flat area on the side of a hill.


    Click for larger photo
      A standing stone near the Gurteen stone circle. We were with the local sheriff, so we decided not to tresspass to get over to it.

    On our way over the pass into the Coomhola valley we saw a suspicious stone on the side of mountain and decided to check it out. We’d driven by that point twice before and not seen it. It also wasn’t on an of the site guides we had.


    Click for larger photo

    There was a light rain falling as I took this picture, and I could see a rainbow down in the valley, but you can't see it in this photo. It's pretty beautiful anyway.
     

    When we got up to it we found that it was a really nice standing stone with a few possible structures around it. We saw similar structures at the Dromberg circle that had been excavated to reveal stone huts and a cooking area.


    Click for larger photo
      Looking down the valley from the standing stone.

    We finally got lost trying to make it to some of the other stuff we’d planned for that day. The roads out here are frustratingly difficult to drive. The road signs are clamped to posts in such a way that they can swing around if they get loose. Of course that’s if you can read them at all. All of the posts have town signs mixed in with signs for B & Bs and restaurants, so you’d need to stop at every intersection to make sense of them. Of course the signs are done in tiny type in low contrast brown and white on rusty metal. Oh, they’re also half Gaelic, half English.


    Click for larger photo
      Okay, notice the following about this typical raodsign:
  • Half the signs have kilometers, the others (unmarked) are in miles.
  • Uh, why two roads to Macroom? One of the raods is probably dangerous.
  • The quaint rust and dirt.
  • One of the signs seems to be missing.
  • This sign is at a road entering the main highway, but the signs point five directions.
  • Gailic translations. Not helpful.
  • The good thing about getting lost was that we got to some other things we would have missed otherwise. One of the nice things was lunch at Mary Ann’s in Castletownshend. Again we were informed that they were only serving bar food. In this case bar food included baked cod with herb crust, lobster Thumador, and a great looking fish platter with some huge shrimp cooked whole. We also had a really good seafood chowder.

    As good as the food was, this place looked completely nondescript and was in the middle of a town that really looked deserted. We were the only people in the restaurant and we only saw half a dozen people on the drive through town. It was almost like they were waiting just for us.

    After eating we decided to walk down by the docks and checkout the bay. We came upon a fisherman who was unloading some crab traps. We mentioned that great seafood we’d had and found out that he was the one that had caught it. Small world.

    Okay, here's the really weird part. While I've been putting this all together I had it up on the net and someone from Castletownshend found it. They e-mailed me and told me how they where buying the house right behind Mary Ann's. He knew the fisherman and invited me to stop by next time I was in Ireland. Cool or what?


    Click for larger photo
      I don't know where this picture was taken, but it was somewhere around Castletownshend.

    We continued down the road to the Dromberg stone circle, which has been excavated and studied more than most of the other sites we’d been to. They had found buried remains in the center of the circle which they’d dated to 150 AD. This was one of the larger circles we’d seen.


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      Dromburg Stone circle.

    Nearby were the remains of some stone huts and a cooking area where the ancients apparently boiled food in a large trough. This seems odd but it said they had tested the system using stones heated in a fire and were able to bring 70 gallons of water to a boil in 18 minutes and the water stayed hot enough to cook with for over an hour.


    Click for larger photo
      You can see the spring to the left and the cooking pool to the right. I find it hard to believe that the water table would have stayed the same for 2000 years, but who knows.

    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 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. Well fuck him.

    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.

    Day 17

    The day was very rainy so we decided to drive down to Galway and do some shopping at the walking mall there. We also had lunch at McDonough’s, and a Guinness at The Quays. I had a huge portion of wild mussels for lunch.

    On the drive back we stopped at Ross Abby. I had seen several abbey ruins and had decided that they were all the same and quite boring. This abbey much more interesting though. It was in much better shape and had some great architecture. I ended up taking tons of pictures.


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      Ross Abby from the sheep field it was in. We could climb up to the tower which was cool, but very scary.

    One of the interesting features was a large stone pool where it said they kept live fish. It also had lots of cool stairways and courtyards.


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      This was the pool where the guidebook said they kept live fish. Well maybe. The room it was in had lots of cool brick work. The fireplace was huge.

    The access to the tower was open so we where able to climb up to the top. This was actually a rather harrowing process since the steps were all wet and mossy and worn. The stairways were also only about a foot and a half wide, so I had to turn sideways to get up them.

    The stairs up to the tower and the view from the top. Yes it was a tight fit, but the worst part was that it was pitch black. I could have stepped into a hole without seeing it.

    The view from the top was great, but it was a little scary after I realized I was standing on a five story crumbling tower that was built before the invention of cement or rebar.

    In Shrule we saw what looked like a castle, but it had really bad construction and was falling down. It actually looked like it might have been a school project.


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      We didn't have any data about this castle, but it had a strange shape.

    The usual way we navigate around the countryside is; dad drives, I read the map, and mom reads though the guidebooks to try and find any interesting sites. Of course we’re all trying to see over the walls to spot any standing stone or ruins that aren’t listed. It’s all a rather slow process. The vague road signs in Gaelic and English and the narrow roads don’t help either. You also have to contend with the sheep that are loose along all of the roads.

    Day 18

    I was all set to write that we didn’t do anything interesting on this day, but then we drove off the road and got stuck in the mud. The roads here are so ridiculous that it was bound to happen sooner or later. We tried to push it out but without any luck.

    We decided to try and find someone with a tractor to pull us out. It turned out the nearest farm house was owned by the guy who had told us about the road bowling a few days before. Ireland is one tiny freakin’ country, no doubt about it.

    We got towed out without incident, but we were covered with mud after trying to push the car out. I wanted to go straight back to Breaffy House for dinner but that got vetoed.

    On the road back we came to a small village named Aghagower out in the middle of nowhere. There was a round tower near the edge of town that had lost it’s top somehow and part of the side had been rebuilt. At some point they had cut a doorway at ground level and we could go in and look at the inside. Not very homey looking.


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      From the outside this tower was just like others we'd seen, but it was nice to finally see the inside of one.

    Buying groceries in Ireland: Always read the label carefully. I’m use to buying something labeled as butter and having it actually be butter, not here. Reading the fine print revealed that it was really "low-fat spread". We also had a problem with some foul tasting orange juice. At least we thought it was orange juice. The label on the Squeeze brand "orange" actually read, "Made with orange juice concentrate, contains pure juice". I feel certain they’d used clam juice. Also some confusion with the laundry soap. Do you get the "bio", the "extra bio", or the non-bio"? And I still feel the black pudding should carry a warning label: "Warning. Contains dried, fresh blood and not much else."

    Day 19

    This was the day where we saw all of the good stuff.

    Our first stop was at Colgher stone fort. We didn’t have much information about the fort, but it was the most interesting we’d seen. First of all it was in a beautiful forest which was shading and mossy, and very green.


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      Here's mom crawling out of one ot the tunnels.

    The fort itself had walls about ten to twelve feet thick and walls about 12 feet high. Like the others it didn’t seem all that defendable, and we wondered if maybe it had some other purpose. It really looked more like an amphitheater than a fort.


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      Inside one of the underground tunnels. At this point I'm hoping they don't have earthquakes in Ireland.

    It also had some passages built under the walls, one of which looped around a quarter of the fort. I used a flashlight to crawl though this and get a look at the subterranean walls. Hard to see what they might have used this passage for. It had one large room that you could stand up in, but most of it was a tiny corridor that I had to crawl through, scraping my shoulders most of the way.


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      This is a shot of the forest around the fort. It was one of the greenest things I'd ever seen.

    The best thing about this site? No sheep shit!!!

    The next stop was at Attracta’s holy well, which has been completely Christianized.

    As we drove casually on to our final destination of Carrowkeel, we were surprised to see a sign for the Drumanone wedge tomb, which wasn’t listed in any of our guides. We had to climb up through a cow pasture to get to the site and when we topped the rise we saw a huge stone tomb. The largest of the stones making up the tomb was the cap stone on top which was about 20X15X2 feet, and was over 12 feet in the air at it’s highest point. We spent some time trying o figure out how Stone Age farmers would have created something like this.


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    The wedge tomb. When I came over the top of the hill and saw this thing, all I could do was stand there and say, "Big... Big." Dad was a little behind me and he asked what it was. "Big.... Big."

    Further along the same road we spotted the ruins of Moytara Castle. We couldn’t find any information about this either. It was a high-walled square fort with square towers at each corner. The property was posted no trespassing so we didn’t get a closer look at it.

    Finally we made it to our destination, the Carrowkeel passage tombs. These tombs have been dated by archaeologists to around 2500 BC. They supposedly stayed undisturbed since then until some British twit tried to get into them using dynamite.


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      Looking down from the third tomb towards the first two. The mist up there really set a great mood for exploring.

    Some of the tombs where in good shape and we where able to crawl inside them. Several others had been completely destroyed by the amateur excavations.

    We came well prepared with flash lights since the interesting part of the tombs are the passages that lie under the huge plies of plain rock. While we were there, several other groups hiked up the hill to the first tomb and then turned and left since they didn’t have flashlights. From the outside the tombs just look like huge piles of loose rock. Maybe they didn’t even know what was really there.


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      Here's the entrace to the first tomb. At first I was doubting I'd be able to get in at all.

    The first tomb was one of the one’s that we could crawl into. This was not all that easy. After some squirming at the entrance, I found that if I crawled in backwards on my stomach, I could squeeze in and crawl into the tomb. Real Indiana Jones stuff.


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      Looking towards the back of the tomb. There's actually a little room past those columns.

    After in short distance, the passage opened up into a chamber that I could stand up in. There was another smaller chamber directly ahead and one off to each side. The ceiling was about nine feet high and there was plenty of room to move around.


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      Looking back towards the entrance.

    There was a narrow slit above the entrance and another at the back of the passage that line up so the sun shines directly through on one day a year. The blocks that made up the interior of the chamber and the slits probably weighed between 300 and 500 pounds.


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      Looking up at the ceiling.

    We could climb into two of the other tombs as well and they were both amazing. Especially when you realize that the structure of these rooms hasn’t changed in the 5000 years they’ve been here.

    The hilltops around the area all had the rock cairns on them. In the immediate area there seemed to be about 20 of them.

    Our map showed that the remains of 50 or so stone huts were on the ridge next to us so I made my way over there. The probable reason for the location of the ancient settlement became evident as I tried to get over. The ridge was surrounded by two rows of cliffs that made things very slow and dangerous. When I finally got over there I could see rock circles everywhere. The limestone that the village was built on as very rutted from erosion, which would seem to make day to day life rather uncomfortable.

    After a hard day of hiking up and down boggy hillsides, we decided to stop in at McDermott’s pub for a pint.

    If you haven’t ever used toilets in Irish pubs it might be hard to picture the setup, but I’ll try. The urinal is a 5 inch wide, 2 inch deep trough, which is set directly into the floor. It’s also set flush with the wall so that you have to either stand back a bit and just aim toward the wall, or lean with your face pressed against the wall and aim for the trough. I’m sure there’s an approved method, but none of the guidebooks mentioned it.

    For dinner we decided to go ethnic and try some Indian food. We went to Flavors of India and were surprised to find a great Indian menu in a country known or it’s bland food. All the food was great, though they didn’t serve beer.

    The service however was a total circus. Our waiter was a complete dork. He seemed completely put out that we’d decided to come in and eat. It’s one thing to be incompetent, it’s another to have an attitude about the whole thing. You don’t have to be a freakin’ waiter you know. There’s plenty of jobs out in the bog, cutting peat.

    Day 20

    We spent most of the day on the long drive up to Ceide Fields, which is a touristy excavation of 3000 BC village. We went on a tour of the area, watched a short film and wandered around the displays. Definitely lots of flash and not much substance. They found the remains of some 5000 year old walls. No artifacts, no remains, no tombs. All rightee then.


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      Looking up at the ceiling.

    It was interesting to find out that the walls we’d been seeing though the whole trip were exactly the same as the one’s being built in the Stone Age. They’d found over four square miles of walls and they were laid out the same as the current farms in the area.

    We met an Irish woman there who’s best friend ran the Roundwood Inn where we’d eaten on our first week. Small freakin’ country.

    On the drive back we saw some great views of the coast and the mountains.

    Day 21

    We didn't get to any megalithic site on this day. Since the weather was so good, we decided to drive through the Connemarra. With the sun out I can assure you that Ireland is the greenest thing on earth. Out of the 300 or so pictures I took on the whole trip, about 40 were from the Connemarra.

    We had a problem with picture taking because we really wanted to pull over every quarter mile and get some photos. Of course in Ireland pulling over to the side means that you'll be blocking half of the roadway and risk getting run over so we missed a few of the best photos.

    As we started the day, the sky was blue, but the last of the morning fog was still wispy across the mountains. Some of the other stuff we saw:

    Eriff river valley, Killary Harbor, Delphi valley, Kylemore Abbey, Sky Road/Clifden, Connemarra Park, Lough Nafooey, and Lough Mask

    Some of the sights in the Connemarra. The mist was just clearing the fields as we got there and it looked like something out of a movie. The third picture is from the Connemarra National Park.

    These are from the Sky Road, Clifton area.

    Two pictures from Kylemore Abbey

    Kylemore Abbey is one of those things you see in all of the guide books. Most people, like us, seem to see it from the road, which happens to run over a long bridge, which happens to lie between two blind turns, which must be fun for drivers as all the passengers yell, "Stop the car!!! Stop the car!!!"

    Day 22

    We spent most of this day driving to the last B & B. We'd only be staying there one night and then be driving to the airport the next day.

    Our route took us through the Burren, which is endless hills made of solid limestone. It was quite bizarre to see something like this in the center of all the green Irish farm land.


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      These hills are solid limestone and they go on for miles.

    Since we needed to get to Lisconner in time for dinner, we didn't stop at any of the archeological sites on the way. We did take time out to go to Moran's however. It is supposedly the best fresh oyster restaurant in Ireland. I wouldn't know because I don't eat raw oysters. They're gross, everybody knows it, some people just want to live in denial. I did how ever have a wonderful mussel platter and several pints.


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      Having a few pints outside Moran's as we waited for them to open. Inside we saw photos of celebrities ranging from Woody Allen to the Emperor of Japan (no shit).

    Day 23

    Our last stop was to take a look at the Cliffs of Moore. We got a tip from the locals that we could take a farm road to the cliffs and avoid the tourist crowd. We drove around for about an hour getting perilously close to lost, until we finally found a quarry road that led to the edge of the cliffs. Big... very big.


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      This photo really doesn't do justice to how magnificent these cliffs were. We spent lots of time just staring.

    The adventure to try and get to my flight was outragious. I've done plenty of flying, but a actually had visions of myself stuck in Limerick with no way to get home.

    As we flew out over the ocean I looked back at Ireland one last time. I missed it already.




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