Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1922: Coasting Through Ireland on Pints of Cider
By Green Dragon from FL, Spring 2011
Page 18 of 21: Saturday, May 28th: A Stone Circle a Day Keeps the Mists Away?
We got up early this morning, and went down to sit on the stairs in order to get WiFi. Jerry had warned us that it works fine on the first floor, iffy on the second floor, and forget it on the third floor. We had a wonderful breakfast served by Vanessa, Jerry's wife. Then we were off towards the Ring of Beara, another trip I had been greatly anticipating.
We started on the north road, and stuck with Jerry's advice on taking the scenic coastal route. Unfortunately, this was one of the high rain days, and the mists obscured much of what I'm sure was spectacular coastline and lovely beaches. We stopped to explore at one brown sign for Uragh Stone Circle, which took us inland along a long, windy, narrow, steep, questionable road, which then opened up into a rocky questionable road, and a further walk (but not too far) to the stone circle. There was a small donation box for €1 each, which we of course contributed to.
The circle was perfectly placed on a small hill in a spectacular valley, surrounded by gentle high hills, a waterfall in the distance, and green and white dotting the landscape everywhere. It was very prominent and impressive, yet the circle itself was small, almost intimate – much less intimidating than others I'd seen. I liked it a lot.
We saw another sign back at the parking area – handwritten – promising a famine cottage, a 'boulder circle', and a hut. We walked up the mountain, following the occasional arrow signs (again, hand written). We went all the way up the mountain, past a farmhouse, and decided we had missed it somehow. On the way back, I saw a blown-over handwritten sign pointing who knows where? There was a path, so we followed that as well. It got very squishy, so I chickened out, but V continued on – she found nothing she could recognize, so came back. The mysterious 'boulder circle' remains at large to this day – keep your eyes out for it!
We drove along some more, and found another brown sign – we obviously had not yet learned. This was Castlecreevy Stone Circle, I think. We parked, and started walking through the woods. We saw a deer, who kept flirting with us, ran away a couple feet, then came back, ran some more, etc. We walked and walked, exploring all. The forest was very different from the one in Glenariffe – very mossy, very dark, almost spooky. We saw three other people walking with a dog, and they said they were going to the stones, so we followed them. It's a good thing we did – we would never have found it on our own! Evidently we parked one spot too soon, and didn't take the road/path up to the stones, we went the long way around.
There were actually two stone circles right next to each other, both rather small, but both with large principle stones. They were on top of a tall hill, with misty views out into the valleys below, and you could see the inlet, even through the mist and haze.
We went back down through the shorter way, but I slipped part of the way down. I was fine, even though my leg bent under me as I fell. I was more muddy than hurt – but a big, conveniently placed rock helped me scrape the worst of the mud and wet off my butt. We saw the deer's tracks in the mud as we took the 'real' path back to the road, and then a short distance down the road to our car.
Since TomTom has no differentiation between "safe route" and "quickest route" we had interesting side trips. It might be nice to have "scenic route" as an option, but that often means, as we've discovered before, simply an "alternate" to the real road. "Insane driver in a tractor going 60mph down the narrow, windy road coming towards you around the next bend" might be a more useful option.
We found another brown sign, for another stone circle. The circle was in a fenced field next to a farmhouse (after a long, narrow, windy road, of course). There was another car in the little parking area that started back down towards us, when it could easily see us coming down this narrow road, with no place to pass. After a moment, the other driver, I suppose, decided that the cars should not actually exchange paint molecules, so he slowly started backing up to the parking area again.
The circle had a couple lambs lying next to it, who quickly vacated as I went through the gate and walked towards it. They ran around the corner of the farmhouse – and evidently got their mommies and daddies, because all of a sudden, a herd of about 50 sheep started coming towards me, baaing and baaing, running towards me. It was like something out of a bad Irish horror movie! I had plenty of time to get back out, and the sheep were far enough away that I didn't need to run to keep ahead of them – but that circle definitely has an effective guard system!
We went into Ardgroom, but by that time the rain and mists had increased to the point it was difficult to see anything. However, we had no problem seeing the almost eye-blindingly brightly painted buildings in town! They must have had a sale on bright paint one day. I'd seen many individual houses with bright colors – I'm sure it brightens up the mists and gloom on occasion. But often it's one house, or trim on one or two houses – not the entire village.
We did see another brown sign for an Ogham Stone (Ogham is the ancient writing system of the Celts), but it was through a private farm. V stayed in the car while I ventured up. When I got there, I found this 18' stone jutting up into the sky from a tall hill – and realized my memory card was full! No problem, I went back and deleted the most recent few photos, took new ones up there, and then retook the last ones after getting a new card at the car.
This area is lovely, with rocky points sticking up into the mists in the now much calmer ocean. The houses and villages look as though they needed an influx of prosperity, though, and much was weathered and beaten. Part of that, I'm sure, is that Beara isn't the tourist mecca that is Kerry or Dingle, and therefore doesn't have as much funding (or interest) in keeping things tourist-friendly. This is both a good and bad thing. Good in that it keeps the area authentic, 'normal', and unspoiled; bad in that it makes it more difficult for the locals to subsist.
We drove around the tip of the Ring of Beara, found Kilcatherine Church and a Mass Rock, and traveled along more windy roads through rocky hills, up mountains and down through valleys. We found Castletownbere, and saw another brown sign for a small circle that was right off the road. Then we found a wedge tomb – this was like a clearinghouse for Neolithic structures! We found one tomb, went on to the second promised one (brown sign again), and ended up on a steep hill leading up to a farmhouse again. With some manipulation of the manual transmission, I managed to turn around without hitting anything, and found the main N road (N71) with relief.
We passed by Molly Gallivan's and Druid's View (still too misty to view much), and decided that we had had enough with brown signs for the day. They had led us on enough foolish epic quests and down enough twisty, questionable roads for the nonce. We made our way back to Kenmare (ignoring the brown signs that now popped up like teasing little schoolchildren, nyah-nyah!). Having seen at least six stone circles today was wonderful, each one was different and unique, and I asked favors at each one.
Ah, pints! Yes, the sweet taste of cider, the Guinness stew, and the fish-n-chips of a well-run pub. V was feeling antisocial again, so she went upstairs to repack and retool, while I had a pint at the bar, and waited for another online friend, Seamus, to show up. He was a motorcyclist, and was camping nearby, so he said he'd meet up with me for a chat this evening. While I waited, I wrote in my handy-dandy notebook, tallying up the experiences of the day. Once again, the 'character' in the pub came over and asked if I was writing a love letter. This was not the first time I've been asked that – do people actually write love letters any longer? I told him no, I was writing a book, and it was all about him. He said I'd need a bigger notebook!
Seamus came in and we talked about all sorts of things – that Irish actually drink Irish coffee (I thought it was an American invention of Irish culture, like corned beef on St. Patrick's Day), history and genealogy, economics and education. He hadn't eaten yet, and the pub was past serving food (only just) so we went out to the take-away and had some chips and curry. There were several very drunk guys staggering about, and one in the chip shop was the 'friendly drunk' who loved everyone. Another was the 'dropsy drunk', and he dropsied his soda on the floor twice.
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