Thursday, May 10, 2018

Ireland Day 5: Unexpected amazing old stuff, the Burren, and friends.

 Day 5, May 6, 2017.

On day 5 we would say goodbye to Jim and Shelly and hello to Tracey and David. We would also see a kick ass graveyard and monestary, visit The Burren national park, and one of the most famous dolmens in the land.

Kilmacduagh Abbey
David mentioned a couple of things in County Clare close to his house that would be worth a stop. Kilmacduagh Monetery had not been on my list, but I’m so glad we took his advice to stop for a while to wander around the cemetery and check out what is left of an old monestary.  The monestary was founded in the 7th century but had a tough time of it, being subjected to many raids, which put it in ruins by the 13th century.

There are several well preserved churches and smaller stone structures that served as lodging for the monks.

The most spectacular structure at the site though is the 112 feet tall leaning round tower. The tower has no doors or openings at the base because it was used as a refuge when mauraders attacked. The monks would climb into the tower and pull up whatever rope or ladder they had used to get in and wait out the carnage.

I looked around for at many of the headstones, but saw not one with the sir names of my great great grandparents on it. There is still time though; new graves are still being added to this cemetery.  The cows don’t seem to mind the dead people.

The Burren
A hike at The Burren National Park would be our last adventure with Jim and Shelly, or so was the plan. Upon locating a trailhead, getting gear on, and walking a short distance over wide open limestone terrain in windy, cold sprinkles, Shelly remarked “is this what we came here to see?”  Some people just don’t appreciate the raw beauty of nature! Ha ha. So we bid adeaui to our friends so they could see another part of the country and Drew and I carried on for a nice hike up a big low mountain.

This is the sizeof some of the fossils!

Jean Luc examining coral fossils.

OK, I can see why this landscape is not to everyone’s liking, but I found the hike envigorating and unique.  The Burren is part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark. I love the idea of a Geopark! The Burren is a large (100 square miles) area of exposed limestone created when glaciers eroded overlying sedimentary rocks, exposing the 325 million year old limestone.  Early inhabitants of this area denuded the landscape of trees. And bcause of climate change after the last ice age, new trees cannot establish. The limestone is porous, so although the area gets 60 inches of rain per year (double what eastern Ireland gets) there are few rivers.  Instead, there are numerous poljes, or depressions filled with water where the water table intersects the land surface. Trees have a difficult time to establish on the bare limestone, and those that do are grazed by cattle adn goats or pulled by the farmers to maintain grazing. But a large variety of smaller plants do well in the weathered joints (called grikes). Fossils are easily spotted on the flat slabs between the grikes, called clints.

We hiked a couple of miles up a pretty big hill to get a look around. A tour group was getting a guided hike, but we were satisfied to just get out and stretch the legs.  

We got a quick bit to eat and sampled some authentic Irish soda bread, which was hearty, slightly sweet, and a touch salty all at the same time. After lunch we watched an unusual Rugby-like game being played, which David later told us is a the very popular game of hurling.

Then on to reunite with our Irish friends who welcomed us into their beautiful, non-traditional home for the evening


We had first met David and Tracey when Drew and David were both racing La Ruta in Costa Rica back in 2007ish.  Tracey and I got to know each other as their support teams. We did it again in 2010 when Drew and David paired up to race TransAlps and Tracey and David got married.  Even though it had been 7 years since we last saw the pair, we immeditely felt like old friends.

Poulnabrone dolmen
Since their house is close, a quick drive to one of the most spectacular megalithic sites in County Clare was a must.  Poulnabrone dolmen is a wedge tomb probably constructed between 4200 and 2900 BC. It’s really large and impressive as it sits on the grikes and clints of the Burren.  Excavations discovered the remains of 33 people at this site, but the bodies were not buried there. Instead, the bones were brought to the site after the bidies had decomposed somewhere else. The tomb was probably a center for ceremony and ritual well into the Bronze age.

We had had a really full day, so a quiet, delicious home-cooked dinner at Tracey and Davidls watching the sunset was perfect.

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