Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ireland: days 2 & 3

Still haven't made it to Galway :)
Yesterday I went to Slane and Kells. Slane has a wonderful ruined abbey on the Hill of Slane. It overlooks the countryside for miles around. It's where St Patrick lit the Paschal Fire, in 433 AD, in contravention of Pagan law forbidding any other fire but the King's at Beltane. The beginning of the end for Paganism in Ireland. The ruins that are on the Hill date from the early 1500s. There's not much left, just the shell of the college and the abbey tower. The graveyard is pretty full though and has some great Celtic crosses.
Slane Castle, in the town itself, is used for rock concerts these days - U2 are one mob I know have played there. It was closed when I was there though.
Next stop was Kells. They have a copy of the Book of Kells on display in the Information centre - the real thing is at Trinity College. Fascinating work of art. There's also an excellent 10th century round tower at the church up the hill. It's 90 feet tall and has 6 floors inside. No staircase though - access by ladder only!! But I guess if you were sheltering in there from a Viking attack you'd probably climb the walls unaided to get to safety. Plenty more Celtic crosses in the graveyard too. Impressive.

Today I wandered over to Westport, a pretty town near the west coast. From there I made my way to Louisburgh which is where I've parked myself for the night. This area has some fascinating history. Croagh Patrick (mountain) dominates the whole area. Appropriate as it's Ireland's Holy Mountain. St Patrick again - he's supposed to have spent 40 days and nights on the summit, fasting, praying, doing penance. It's a major pilgrimage site now and there was a steady stream of people heading upwards while I was there. I stayed at sea level. I know my limitations!
The national Famine Monument at Murrisk is also worth seeing. It's a bronze sculpture representing one of the coffin ships that transported Irish immigrants away from the Great Famine of 1845-52. The ship's sails and masts are made up of skeletal figures - representing both the Famine and the journey. Impressive piece of work.
Murrisk Friary is a few hundred metres away - not much left now but enough to give a sense of the place.

I was going to go out again this evening and take some sunset pics along the coast. But it's raining so I'm staying put - watching Liverpool on TV will have to do :)

Maybe tomorrow I'll get to Galway and beyond...

I'll leave you with this gem I overheard while having dinner in the bar of the hotel I'm staying at:
Re a recent trip to Tunisia: "The Safari tour was real disappointing. It was just a wildlife park. We didn't get to see the Safari Desert at all."


1 comment:

Your sister Clare said...

That real-life Irish joke is a classic.