Ireland is decorated very prettily with heaps and piles of rocks – some still look like castles or keeps, some a vague shadow of the past. Above is part of the Rock of Cashel, a place of Kings and religion, the buildings left date mostly from the 12th C and after, but as with all places of significance, it dates back much further than the Normans and even Christianity. Funnily enough, an ancient story about how the Rock was formed was that the Devil took a bite out of a nearby mountain range and disgusted by the purity of the land, he spat it out again, forming the ‘Rock’. Cashel has many interesting nooks and places to explore, but the little Romanesque chapel tucked away underneath the far more impressive cathedral shell is what amazed me. Extensive work has been done to preserve this remarkable building from damp & the ravages of time & changing faith. Cormac’s Chapel the chapel of King Cormac Mac Carthaigh, is an elegant and rare structure, as it has some lovely ornamentation which was not common in Irish Romanesque churches. When work was done to restore the chapel, the best surviving remnants of Irish Romanesque art appeared under many layers of whitewash. We entered through a constructed walkway, and the muted lighting and hushed atmosphere of this place gives an air of romance and mystery to this little chapel, and lends the huge lumps of grey stone above a true feeling of history and religious intrigue. According to the guide, a woman who talked very fast and answered her own questions, it was in Cashel itself that Guinness was first discovered, not in Dublin as claimed. Arthur Guinness was the son (or grandson, I can’t remember) of the man who created the brew by accident for the Bishop of Cashel.
And Blarney. A lovely piece of falling-down castle, with the added charm of a much-kissed rock. Charming as it was to have a go at the Kiss, I found the castle interesting for itself. It has a round tower, common with Irish castles and also a fantastic poison garden, growing some interesting and dangerous plants, used in the poisoning of unwanted visitors (something I might have thought of a few times in the past weeks, ha ha *cough*)
But, if you’re interested in older piles of stones & rocks than merely medieval, Ireland delivers on that as well. After a morning visit to Blarney, we drove our way down to the Dingle Peninsula, the western-most point of Europe. Incredibly beautiful, we were blessed with no rain for the entire day – and mostly blue skies. After checking out the small town of Dingle itself, we drove along the coast, stopping at various piles of rock – prehistoric beehive huts and an iron-age fort!
Dunbeg Promontory Fort is a small fort with two major phases of occupation being recorded. It seems that there is little dateable finds, so it is suggested based on radiocarbon dating that the fort was in existence in the 8th century. I felt a wonderful feeling of childish delight in this place, maybe because of it being a ‘fort’, perhaps because of the mystery that surrounds Iron-Age sites.
I could imagine a small, thriving community bustling about these huts, guarding their livestock and farming the land. A simple way of life, but exposed and a wee bit isolated. The lumpy green hills and exposed rocks make Dingle a truly lovely place to visit – and it’s highly possible it may be even more mysterious in that foggy, damp weather that the Romans hated so much they called it Hibernia – Land of Perpetual Winter.