I am not a religious person. (Hi, mom. Now you know.) I think people who are certain that there’s “nothing else” out there are arrogant in the extreme; nevertheless, I’ve never been persuaded by … well, anything, really. At least, no-body that has attempted to present an argument. Sometimes, though, an argument presents itself.
We arrived at Drombeg Circle with food. I don’t really remember how this happened; it wasn’t good food, it was sammiches and a bag of chips or something. Fruit, too, I think. We follow the sketchy signs (again, the Irish really could not give a shit) to the car park, then sit on a patch of grass (there are no seats of any kind) and nibble.
Actually, I think it’s time I confess something about the Irish and their attitude towards these ancient relics: it makes total sense and I get it. See, Ireland is far from a rich country. Yes, they had a tech boom a while back, but that merely punctuated different eras of austerity and want. Simply put they can’t afford to make grand parks out of their monuments. In fact, what actually happens is that Irish Farming Family X has been going about its business on such-and-such plot of land for hundreds of years, and then the government happens by one day and says “hey! Those giant stones you’ve been threshing wheat against? Those are priceless relics!” And Irish Farmer X the Ninth says “I assume by ‘priceless’ you mean ‘horribly expensive and we shall compensate you appropriately?’ and the government says ‘noooo not as such. You need to make access available to the public and keep an eye on it,” and so he does… to the minimum extent he can get away with, since he’s got his own shit to worry about. And so, a sign goes up that he may or may not keep an eye on, and a small patch of land is put aside for cars, and a path is kept roughly clear, and that’s about it. So I kid the Irish, because I’m me, but it is not a shock that folk of modest means aren’t spending all of their own money buying picnic tables for American tourists to enjoy.
Anyway. We still don’t know what exactly we’ve come to see, other than from a couple of photos on a website. We wander a path that is probably used as much for farm equipment as for tourists until we come to a large clearing, where we see it.
Drombeg Circle is massive. It is, as far as anyone can tell, complete (although surely worn down). The stones did not come from all that near by; they were hauled tremendous distances. (Maybe “only a few miles,” but this is before much in the way of tools.) What always gets me, though, is the humanity in it. They did their best to have big stones trail to smaller stones, on both directions of the circle, from the “portals” to the flat table stone. Here’s the kicker. Looking through the portal stones in the photo above, you see the notch in the hillside? That’s no accident; the sun descends through that notch, basically at this angle, on the winter solstice – down into that notch and viewed through those portals.
So here’s where I get … contemplative. I can imagine the people in my office talking about this project. Where to put it, how to get the stones, how to test alignment, why we’re doing it in the first place… this is a level of thinking and coordination worthy of folk of this age. They did this ~3800 years ago. Conceived, planned, executed, and all for a purpose. (And mind you, with some of these projects, like Newgrange, those that conceive it don’t live to see it.) I can’t tell you that I draw any conclusions in these moments, but it’s the argument that gives me pause – something is going on here.
We stay for awhile, and then other tourists show up and get very chatty and any pastoral mood we might have had is gone. We move along.
Our day ended in Kenmare, and this is where the regret really comes in. We got into town in the early evening, with time to check in to our B&B, Sea Shore Farm, and then off to dinner at The Lime Tree – a real treat of a restaurant. If this place was local we’d eat there once a month. Wonderful people, great food, in a converted schoolhouse dating back to 1832… so great. A standout of the whole trip, really. Our accommodation was a lovely converted family home, veeeeeeeeeeeeeerry Catholic, with a pleasant Irish stereotype of a woman running the joint. It had acres of land heading out to the water, and I actually meandered down to the rocky shore hunting rabbits… well, not hunting rabbits, but watching dozens of them sclamber away.
Lisa actually has great notes of the place in our travel journal:
SeaShore Farm is lovely. Very much a “maiden aunt” or “grandma: visit. Lots of florals, many things don’t “match” but have the feel of being lovingly used over the years. She’s got some nice Belleek pieces in her china cabinet. Patricia is the woman who met us – she’s a bit frail, and I can’t believe she’ll be the only one taking care of us for breakfast. Or doing the cleaning etc… required in making an inn successful.
[The next morning:] Patricia runs SeaShore Farm with her husband who’s name I never got. Breakfast was a delightful scrambled egg + salmon for me, fried egg “full Irish” for John. He asked for his egg yolk broken + cooked hard, and she fretted at it being ‘mutilated’ like that and asked him if she could just serve it cooked hard. Which she did.
Don’t you love it? “Mutilated,” says the old Irish lady in her classic lilting accent.
So what was the regret? Kenmare was beautiful, it made a heck of a first impression, the people were all great, and we had to up and go the next morning right after breakfast. Lisa and I rate the pace of our honeymoon generally at “just about right,” but she teeters towards the “too rushed” (or at least “too much time spent driving”) side by a few points. Normally I don’t agree with her, but I wish we’d found another day for Kenmare.
Tomorrow: the Dingle peninsula on our own (which foreshadows Lisa’s favorite day in Ireland, the day after.)