In search of lesser known megalithic monuments
June 24, 1999:
We crossed the border wondering what we'd see. We knew Ireland was having a boom time, and that the European Union (EU) had poured in a lot of capital for infrastructure because Ireland was formerly one of the poorer member states.
What we found was a land in the grips of a construction craze. With no exaggeration, every town we visited had some form of construction going on.
Sometimes it's just a new coat of paint on a building. Other times it's a new road or a cinderblock office complex plastered over and painted light pink or yellow. But it was everywhere, quickly changing the rural landscape we knew was here before.
There was an abundance of large American style petrol stations with copious shelves full of affordably priced groceries.
A fringe benefit of being in Ireland is that we never have to spell our last name for anyone. It's like the Irish equivalent of 'Jones.'
Our first stop was Greenwood Castle, overlooking the mouth to Lough Foyle and the north Atlantic ocean. Northern Ireland is still visible across the way, broadcasting radio shows filled with anxiety about the coming peace deadline.
But the castle stones have seen troubles of their own. It's strange but true that these places built out of strife and ruined by adversity fill one with a sense of peaceful quiet.
We'd come prepared to find a bunch of lesser known megalithic sites. We had directions and descriptions scribbled down from a book and a good quality map.
But it was no use. The twisty turns defeated our navigator and we had to stop for directions and to admire the indigenous artwork.
Finally we found the road we needed and our search for the unmarked megaliths got into high gear.
One literally has to climb fences and dodge cowpies to find these monuments. (If you look closely past the fence Henry's climbing, you'll see the 'Temple of Deen' against the skyline.)
To the left you'll see Henry discovering that birds have no problem finding the Temple of Deen.
(This is an example of what's called a court cairn.)
Hill-walking we go!
(Over Irish Heather.)
These monuments belong to the state, but the land where they're located usually belongs to farmers. They can't disturb them with their plows, so they sometimes end up accumulating trash. Future archaeologists will have some very interesting puzzles to sort out.
A lot of 'named antiquities' are lone standing stones. As mute and inscrutable as any monument can be.
After tiring ourselves we rested in the company of Gregory McGuinness, age 14. He's too young to drink himself but he knows the favorite drink of every local and has the glass ready on the bar by the time they make it from the door to the stool.
His family has owned the bar and the shop next door for generations. They live upstairs and in the back.
Against the Irish cold they keep the place warm and toasty with peat fires.
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