Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Land 'O Ire: Part III

We pulled into Doolin as the sun was setting (yes, see the craziness of signs this navigator had to deal with along our entire trip, try figuring these out in the dark!) and checked in to one of the quaintest hostels I've ever been in. Situated akin to the Aille River, we were informed by a local living there that he'd helped out with the renovation and that this cottage was over 300 years old with the bridge leading to it, an extra 500yrs. This land had some serious history with a lot of overly superstitious folk as well. "The Irish," our friend told us, "especially the uneducated country folk, believed in a lot of spirits, fairies and things of the like to explain the unknown. For instance, if a house fell down, it was probably because you'd built it along a fairy path, and they didn't like it being there (try using THAT excuse, fellow archies, ha). Or, for the longest time, little boys would be dressed in girls' clothes until the age of 6 so that it would trick the fairies from stealing them. After age 6, boys were too old for the fairies to want them (or was this just a way for poor mothers to reuse clothing?)...or have you ever heard about the banshee....? " Our friend didn't seem to believe too heavily in ghosts, but he told us a creepy account of taking his dogs out for a walk near a graveyard and them stopping dead in their tracks, tail between their legs. "It was really weird," he said, "and when we got back to the house, they acted all skittish the rest of the night. I looked out the window to see what the hell they were growling about, and there was this dark figure just hanging out down the path. Then it was gone. The next day, my sister-in-law's father died of a heart attack...."  This guy was such a great storyteller, and as we sat by the fire in our little hostel he sucked us into a world of supernatural beliefs, pagan history, and the celtic demise. We could have listened for hours to that heavy accent.

Aille River Hostel: View fm our room & the 800 Year Old Bridge

Photoshoot: Adam vs. Cat

Doolin has only a couple pubs, and both that we tried are noted for their traditional music and awesome food. The first night we hit up O'Connors ready to finally hear some of the real stuff. Waiting for the show to begin, we had a chance to relax across from a warm fire with a pint and had fun watching the accordion player get hammered in the corner with friends. And dinner was all it had been talked up to be; we had some of the best smoked salmon and guinness beef stew we'd ever eaten. Around 9:30, the rest of the band entered the restaurant and plopped down at a corner table and started to play. Oh no, there's no standing around for these guys, because they're there ALL NIGHT. The bar got hopping, and everyone kept asking if we were in town for the music fest. HUH? Yeah, apparently we had JUST missed one of the largest trad festivals in Irland, Micho Russell Festival a music fest in Memorial M.Russell, a famed trad music artist who died on this very weekend (end of feb) back in 1994. Hmmm, who woulda known? But there were plenty back in the bar who'd been there the night before, up until 4am, just jigging away. An older white-haired bearded man walked in the bar and a gal we met from LA leaned over and said, "oh yeah, and that's the match-maker of the town..." just before the drunk accordion player came over to our table and yelled something at us completely incomprehensible. Sounded something along the lines of him dragging a case of wine somewhere, then he went over the a group of French sitting in the corner and called them a bunch of *&%!ers. It was definitely a WTF kind of moment : )

The next day we bundled up and headed out on a 6 hour hike up Blackhead Rock. Again, some of the craziest landscape I've ever been in with the land covered in stone walls, cows, and miles and miles of barren grikey rocks. Ringforts and cairns would pop up out of nowhere along the way and we would sit and ponder just how many 100s if not 1000s of years old this stuff was. Mind boggling. Reaching the top of the peak you would look out and see nothing but a barren wasteland of stone. This was the point that you really did feel alone; we never saw a single soul the entire day. At this point, we hadn't heard all the stories of the land from our friend at the hostel, but looking back now, I think I preferred it that way. He had mentioned that fairies were believed to live under old ring forts and any sort of odd land formation(dips, bumps, whatever...the landscape was nothing BUT these) and that there had been noted disappearances of individuals who sat in them. And where did we plop down for an icy lunch, trying to escape the nonstop wind blowing into our faces?... but a small ring fort located in a dip of the mountain. We were in serious fairy territory, indeed, and had no idea. Ignorance is bliss, ha. "Ah, the wind was a blowin at ya the entire time?" our friend said. "Ya know, people who are out alone in that for long periods tend to go mad. They start hearin' stuff. A friend o mine even though he heard the banshee screamin'." Great.

Ancient Ring Fort

Ancient Road (left) & Property Boundaries (right)

Grikey Landscape

Photoshoot: Adam vs. Cow (left)

End of the Hike Sunshine (right)

The following morning, we drug our exhausted bodies out of bed and hit the road to head up to Galway. Before leaving the beautiful Burren, we made one more stop to Fanore Beach. Again, God was on our side as He brought out the sun once again. And who says it rains all the time in Ireland ?

Boardwalk (left)
Granite Rock formations on the Beach (right)

Ahhh, beach to ourselves

Sand Dunes at Fanore (probably home of fairies, too ; )

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