Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Ireland and Scotland - Day 5

Day Five - exploring Killmallock and Lough Gur

Our first breakfast at the Deebert House. Ann had asked us what time we’d like breakfast and we’d told her 8:00 – more or less making up a time since our plans are very fluid. I have lists of things to do and no plan in which to do them. Abandoning plans in favor of something better is always an option, too. Serendipity rules!

Good meal, too much food for two people, and off we went to Lough Gur.

Half of the Grange Stone Circle
This was one of my must-sees only because of Steven. When planning for this trip I asked him what was something he most wanted to see in Ireland. He promptly told me, “Standing stones.” Lough Gur has the largest stone circle in all of Ireland. Some of the stones are huge, some not so much. But the circumference is quite large. The stones are set into an embankment all around the circle – it’s thought that those not participating in the ceremonies below stood here to watch.

The Visitors’ Center is fairly new (only a few years old) and is built in the shapes of the two types of ancient buildings whose ruins are nearby: a circle and a rectangle. Our mathematician friends would enjoy the geometry of the Bronze Age dwellings! There was a walk up to the top of the mountain (we’d call them very tall hills in New York State) that included 110 steps. Yes, I climbed them (up is easy). The descent is down a long trail without steps – and yes, I managed to make it back down without incident. Wise guys!

Bouchier's Castle from the top
of the 110 steps
We then took a leisurely walk around the Lough to see the tower building of Bouchier’s Castle. Lough Gur is home to a pair of swans, but they were on the other side of the lake since kayaker’s were on our side taking a test.

There are a few other sites outside the park that are actually part of the park, just not connected to the main section. One of these is the “Giant’s Grave”. Not so named because of the size of the man inside, but because a giant must’ve placed the stones. They’re extremely large. The tomb had been plundered and parts of it thrown down over the years – when it was excavated in the 20th century, the remains of several people were found inside.

A ruined church was next on our way. This has a cemetery still being used by the family that owns it. But they allow people to come and climb about the ruins and take pictures (which we did, of course). The early 20th Century owner had decided to renovate the place. It needed a new roof and there were churches in Italy being torn down at the time, so he bought a tin roof from one of them and had it shipped to Ireland. Unfortunately, there was this little skirmish called WWI going on at the time; the ship carrying his tin roof was torpedoed and sunk. He abandoned the renovation at that time and, in the intervening one hundred years, it has fallen further into decay.

And our last stop: the Grange Stone Circle that we came here to see in the first place. Like the church, the land is privately owned and you have to climb through stiles and go through gates to get to it. Still in use to graze cows, you also have to watch your step. No cows within the circle today, but plenty of their evidence left behind. I’m sitting at the side of the road as I type this and my nose also tells me they are near.

My first magpie! Taken at the
Stone Circle
Why am I at the roadside? Because Steven found a perfect spot to paint. Remember I said there is an embankment on which people stood? Well, there has to be a way through that embankment for participants to get through. On the opposite side, placed directly in line with the opening, is a huge, very old tree. There is also one to the right, halfway around the circle and, opposite it, the stump of the third.

By the way, I did put my hand on the largest of the stones, but I didn’t go anywhere. Steven tried but he’s still here, too. There’s also a split stone. He tried going through it but now he’s happily painting just outside the circle. No time-traveling for us. L

Lunch at Reardon’s, a restaurant/pub in Holycross, which is no more than a crossroads where you turn for Lough Gur (if you’re a car, you turn. If you’re a bus, you have to go somewhere else because the “road” at the turning isn’t any wider than a single-width driveway). I had the fish and chips, which in Ireland is always cod and chips and Steven had chicken wings – and a half pint of Guinness. I’ve turned him!!!

 Later –

A pleasant walk through the village, in very muggy weather. It’s still misting, but barely. Still, its weather you can wear. We headed over to the ruin only to discover there are TWO churches in ruins here – one a Dominican Priory (the big one) and the other a collegiate church.

The Collegiate church
First, a collegiate church is one that isn’t owned by any particular order. Several are often represented and it’s a place of reflection and study. They did not follow monastic rule. The one in Kilmallock was the site where, in 1600, the Earl of Desmond surrendered to King James I of England, who promptly turned around and had a Protestant service held in this Catholic church. The people of the town promptly rebelled again.

The Priory - where it was just us, the rooks,
and the ruin
The Priory, however, was a monastery. There appear to be three separate churches all joined together in the middle, but one was the altar, one the chancery and the other where the monks gathered. Very cool to step inside ruins and be allowed to wander at will, touch the stones and let my imagination roam free. No one else was there except the rooks, and they weren’t happy at our invasion of “their” space. We got yelled at quite a bit by them as we wandered around.

My favorite part, however, wasn’t the church, it was a small courtyard bordered on one side by a corridor set off from the courtyard by a series of arches. I set my very first novel (as yet unfinished and unpublished) in a monastery that had this exact courtyard. I could see the scene I wrote playing out here and, as I looked around and found the refectory and bell tower (now falling down), the scenes I wrote came to life in my head once again. I took LOTS of pictures and think it might be time to resurrect that novel when I get home.
I walked through the archway to see this - and stopped cold.
The very place I'd described in my very first novel, written
over 25 years ago.
Even later – Back to the B&B now for a quiet night of reading and relaxing. I walked over 14,000 steps today – Steven did more because he did his morning run. Time to put my feet up and remember I’m on vacation!

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