Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ireland--Day 3

Day 3, Tuesday-- August 18th
When we dragged ourselves out of bed this morning, we decided just to eat our leftover pizza for breakfast so we could be on our way. We took a taxi to the airport. Owen, our driver, was unlike our first cabby in that he talked a lot. He told us all sorts of things we could do when we got back to Dublin. "Worst you could do is, you take the Dart out to Malahide Castle and folk park . . ."  It took me a few beats to realize he was recommending that we do that.

So we rented a car. It was really the best way to get around--but still nerve wracking to drive on the left side of the road--and I wasn't the one driving. Several times that first day I involuntarily reached for a steering wheel. Casey was an excellent driver, especially as we didn't trade off any, so he never got a break. (It is cheaper to rent a car with only one driver.)

It only took half an hour to drive out of Dublin and arrive at our first stop: Newgrange.

This portal tomb is one of the oldest buildings on the planet. It dates to 3200 B.C. The outer wall of white quartz stone with black river stone polka dots was rebuilt according to their best guess in the 1960-70s, but the inner chamber is exactly as originally built. The roof is made with overlapping slabs of stone much like the logs in a kiva--it has been watertight for five thousand years.

 picture borrowed from the historic site linked above

They called it a portal tomb, because some human remains were found inside, but later they thought it was more likely a place of religious ritual. They are keeping an open mind about it these days, as they've proved themselves wrong in the past. I heard a man ask our tour guide, "What is this standing stone for?" Her reply, "You tell me. We don't really know."

The passageway is oriented so that the sunlight only comes in through a "window" above the door at dawn on the winter solstice. And only for 15 minutes or so.  (and a little bit for the three days before and after.) Without the electric lighting they installed, it's pitch black inside for the rest of the year.

 Picture from the past, courtesy of Irish Archeology 
At some point in the past the walls fell down, the dirt covered them, and the mound was overrun with plants. In 1699 the landowner sent his workers to quarry the mound for stone. Luckily, they started excavation exactly over the doorway and reported back to the owner. More luckily still, he was the kind of guy who preserves old ruins. And so it's still here today. The triple spiral (or triskele) on the door kerbstone shows up in a number of ancient cultures. 

There are other sites you can visit near Newgrange (Nowth and Dowth). You can also see a few small mounds lower in the valley that they have left to be excavated when they have more advanced techniques of archeology.

We returned to the visitors center and ate our lunch from the cafe there--twice baked potato, vegetable soup, and brown bread. Irish brown bread tastes just like a bran muffin with no sugar added. And it's one of the things I remember most from my previous visits to Ireland.

After lunch, we headed north. It took about 3 1/2  hours for us to drive all the way to the north coast of Northern Ireland. That included the detour we took when I, as navigator, told Casey the wrong way to go. In my defense, the maps we had were very spare of details, and the road system is very different from our own. We stopped at a Spar (very common grocery/convenience store chain) and asked for directions. The clerk told us he wasn't local and directed us to Jade, who told us the best way to get back on track. When she learned we were headed for the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, she emphatically declared, several times, that she "would never walk the bridge!" as she is afraid of heights. We decided to press on anyway. We bought some pears and crisps to snack on.

We expected to have to pass a border when we got to Northern Ireland, but no. There may have been a sign. Some people we met in Ireland disregard the actual political separation and assert that "It's all Ireland." But no one has gotten too violent about it for a while now. 

As we neared the coast, the roads got narrower and windier. At one point as we came over a rise, the ground dropped away so suddenly that Anika and I both gasped--it looked like we were about to drive off the mountain into the ocean.  But no, and just ahead of us was the Carrick-a-Rede bridge.

The original bridge was built so fisherman could hang down nets and catch the salmon running through the channel. 

There is a long path from where we parked to the bridge. We did a lot of walking while we were in Ireland.
It was about 5:30 by the time we finished here, but we thought we'd drive to the Giant's Causeway anyway. It was just past 6:30 by the time we got to the visitors' center and they stop admitting visitors then. But we realized we could still go to the Causeway, just not through the center. We had to walk, instead of being shuttled, but it was free. 

Giant's Causeway is the number one thing Anika wanted to see in Ireland. 

This is the view as we walked toward the causeway showing the spires up on the mountain that are also hexagonal basalt columns and are nicknamed "the chimneys."  And the saying is, "if the chimneys are smoking, Finn's at home." Finn is a giant from Irish folklore and is supposed to be the builder of Giant's Causeway. The story is pretty amusing.

So we climbed all over and took a bunch of pictures. Anika walked out to the end of the causeway and stuck her hand in the ocean. 

I think she liked Giant's Causeway

And I liked this emergency phone so bizarrely protruding from this rock. Another example of Irish style.

By now it was past eight and we needed to get to our B and B to check in. We drove around the town of Ballycastle, asked at a chip shop, and then a Spar. They came through for us again--Adam googled it for us in the back, printed us a map, and then explained how to get there 7 or 8 times. Then he followed us out to our car to return Casey's pen and explained it to us again. After that we drove straight there. 

We still hadn't eaten dinner, so we asked our host, Michael, to recommend a place to us. He told us we should hurry back into town and eat at The Cellar before they stopped serving for the night. It was a good recommendation. 

We ate well, went back to our B and B and slept well.


Phillip Hale said...

Oh, I'm so glad you're traveling again! How did Ani learn about the giant's causeway? Those rocks look so increditble! So did you go to Tea Tephi's tomb? It may be where the ark of the covenant is buried. And did you know that our Murphey/Murphy ancestors came from the Isle of Man, made from the clod of dirt Finn McCool dug out to make Ireland's largest lough? Thanks for every word and picture.

Sarah C. said...

Mammoth California has something called the Devil's Postpile that are hexagonal beams just like those. I've never been to Irelan, so thanks for the tour!

Katie said...

So pretty! So about that brown bread with no sugar. ... was it memorable because it's gross or good? The Wilsons and usguys and some friends went to the newly opened cheesecake factory and they had delightful brown bread. But pretty sure it was good because it was full of sugar or molasses.