County Clare and the nearby environs
July 5-8, 1999:
On our way from Galway we got to travel through the countryside of County Clare.
Naturally we had to stop for the famous Cliffs of Maher.
These cliffs are 500 feet tall in places.
The Irish have polite signs warning everyone to stay on the path.
As you can see from the vantage point from which these pictures were taken, the signs are politely ignored.
We went on to Miltown Malbay for its annual Willie Clancy Festival and demonstrated again what a small world it is.
We bumped into our friends Patrick and Deborah from Virginia who were on their honeymoon. (Patrick played the flute at our wedding.)
They introduced us to their friend Peter and his friend Simone.
He's a zoologist living in Switzerland and they communicate via German, a mutually second language. They were in the festival to practice up on their fiddling (Simone) and flouting (Peter).
We escaped from the Miltown mob scene (it's the place to be for anyone who's anyone in the Traditional Irish music scene, and crowded beyond belief) by going to a neighboring town. Peter was proud to give us an invite to his home back in Zurich -- tune in later for more on this.
On our way to the next attraction, we drove through Quinn, Co. Clare. We saw their lovely ruined abbey and you know we had Quinn the Eskimo running through our heads for the rest of the day.
We made it to the Craggaunowen Project, which is a recreation of ancient living conditions around Lough Gur. (The hut reconstruction at the bottom of our Carrowkeel page is from this project.)
To the right, inside the stockade-like fencing, is an artificial island called a Crannog. This was the conspicuous mansion of late Bronze and Iron Ages. It's made by placing stones and wood on the lakebed until you had an island. In the foreground is the type of tilled field they used, and in the mid ground is an example of their dug-out canoes.
Henry checks out the latest fashions.
Getting around the rough and boggy countryside in the Irish Iron Ages (circa 600BC to 400AD) was tough business. So they built these Toughers: birch or alder runners went onto the ground and oak planks were laid on top. Then they could drag their roughly circular wheeled wagons slowly along. Nobody rode on the wagons -- strictly for valuables and trade goods.
Here you see Henry checking out the souterrain (under the earth) which was a early Christian hiding/storage place built inside the ringforts. (He's humming "Come on without, come on within. You've not seen nothin' like the mighty Quinn .")
Last stop at the Craggaunowen project was St. Brendan's boat. This is the actual boat used in Tim Severin's 1976 recreation of Brendan's voyage to America.
They had a chilling excerpt from the book describing how they hung overboard to sew a patch onto the boat after it was punctured by sea ice.
Lastly, we learned that after the age of the Cairns, they began building 'Henge Monuments,' or Stone Circles. There's the largest stone circle in Ireland at Lough Gur (almost 50yds in diameter).
These stone circles seem to mark a change from a more exclusive religious ceremony (only a small number of people can squeeze inside the megalithic tombs) to a more inclusive one (hundreds can lounge inside these circles).
Here Kathleen lounges against Rannach Cruim Duibh, the largest stone in the circle.
The circle at Lough Gur is aligned to the Summer Solstice. Henry stands here in the entrance where the summer solstice rays would shine through the opening and across the center of the circle to the 'V' of stones on the other side.
(Henry's waiting for Quinn to get there so he can jump for joy.)
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