Friday, May 13, 2011

Crosses, churches, cows, and cliffs....

Happy Irish cows
County Galway has a very diverse landscape. Bay, ocean, mountains, cliffs, burren, green fields--all are encountered as one travels around this spectacular county, and the adjoining County Clare. Galway city is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. Tourism, fishing, pharmaceuticals, and computer technology, are the predominate industries. 

Today's adventure was a wonderful tour by the Galway Tour Company.  Our most excellent driver and guide was Eamon, who entertained us with history, folklore, stories, and song.  We went through several villages to see castles, churches, crosses, and yes...cows.  I've taken alot of photos of cows.  There is just something about that pastoral scene that calms the nerves.  Anne says it's because I love Irish butter. (Irish cows must be as happy as California cows, because Irish butter is to die for.)

Dunguaire Castle

Dunguaire Castle is probably the most famous land mark that is associated with the village of Kinvara. This restored 16th century tower house was built in 1520 by the O'Hynes clan and sits on a rocky outcrop on the shores of Galway Bay, 300 yards outside the village of Kinvara. The view was breathtaking, and so was the cold wind. Brrrrrrrr.

Ballyalban fairy fort

The fairy fort at Ballyalban is a prehistoric earthen ring fort.  It would have once been topped with a wooden structure or pallisade.  

Irish legend has it that these rings are inhabited and guarded by the fairy folk. Terrible things happen to people who try to disturb the ground, or cut down any trees in the ring, so the story goes.

Poulnabrone Dolmen

Poulnabrone Dolmen is one of the oldest dolmens in Ireland.  It's name means "hole of sorrows". 

It is a megalithic tomb site where uncremated remains were found and the site has been dated to 2500 BC.  It sits on the limestone pavement of the Burren, which gives it an ancient, otherworldly feel.

Doorty Cross

Kilfenora is situated in the Burren region of County Clare. St Fachtna founded a monastery there during the sixth century. The present Cathedral was built between 1189 and 1200. 

There were originally seven crosses in Kilfenora and it was known as the city of the crosses, in 1821 one of its finest crosses was removed to Killaloe, of the remaining six crosses three are complete, these include the most famous of all, the Doorty Cross and also the West Cross. 

Cliffs of Moher
The crowning glory of the tour was the Cliffs of Moher, probably the most iconic (and most photographed) symbol of the Irish landscape.  It is magnificent, and sadly, my photographs don't do it justice. 

There are several viewing areas reached by steep climbs.  Also, there is an incredible view from atop O'Briens tower which sits on a rocky outcrop. The wind is fierce, and cold!

The weather could not have been more beautiful for our outing today, and we are pleasantly tired from our exertions.  So it's time to do some packing because tomorrow we're off to Sligo, the last stop of the journey. 

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