The exposed limestone of the Aran Islands here transitions to a fertile field of grass, husbanded by generations of islanders. Photograph was taken from the path on Inishmore leading up to Dun Aonghasa.
The Aran Islands are an extension of The Burren of Ireland’s Counties Claire and Galway. The word burren is from the Irish Boireann, meaning “great rock.” The glaciers that covered Ireland, retreating about 10,000 years ago, scraped down to the bedrock, exposing wide areas of limestone and dropping, here and there, large rocks. When people came along the foreign nature of the large rocks was recognized, all the more obvious for lying on the horizontally bedded, exposed limestone. We call the foreign rocks erratics. The underlying scoured rock is a pavement for a resemblance to a cobbled roadway.
The incised line, filled with grass and wildflowers, in the following photograph is called a gryke. The body of stone between the grykes are clints. Sometimes, the grykes are cross hatched and the clints resemble cobblestones or flat paving stones.
The view is northeast toward the 12 Bens of Connemara. Inishmore, Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland
Modern stonework borders the 1/2 mile path to the inner Dún Aonghasa walls, keeping tourists off delicate plants, maintaining the integrity of this ancient site.
The view north, northwest over the walled path to Dun Aonghasa (Dun Aengus) looking across karst landscape, walled fields, farms, the North Atlantic Ocean, coast of Connemara and the 12 Bens (12 Pins) mountains. Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland.ng lintel) in the surrounding wall, to left of center in middle distance.
Another aspect of the gradual 1/2 mile inclined path to the central ring of the prehistoric Dun Aonghasa ruins of County Galway, Ireland.
The view north, northwest from this way to Dun Aonghasa (Dun Aengus). In early June, looking across wildflowers, karst landscape, walled fields, farms, the North Atlantic Ocean, coast of Connemara and the 12 Bens (12 Pins) mountains.
Note the doorway (with long lintel) in the surrounding wall, to left of center in middle distance.
A span of 10,000 years spreads between now and the first possibility of settlement on the island of Eire, then swept clean to bare rock by the weight of ice. Current scholarship of the Dún Aonghasa ruins place a settlement within the inner of the four dry stone rings after 6,500 years (1,500 BC or 3,500 years ago). By way of scale, the first settlement took 30 times the duration of the U.S. Constitution ratification through 2019 and 16 times from 1,500 BC until 2019 ( 6,500 / 219 = ~30 ; 3,500 / 219 = ~16. The last state, Rhode Island, ratified the Constitution 1789).
By 700 BC, 2,700 years ago, a series of upright, closely placed stones, were erected between the second and third rings called a cheval de fries field (“Frisian horses” in English) today, this defensive structure evokes the enormous scale of the struggles around this place of defense.
This is a portion of that field, I believe, taken as Pam and I approach the inner ring entrance, walking a wide path cleared of barriers. Click the photograph for a larger image with caption.
Upon disembarking from Queen of Aran, our ferry out of Doolin, onto the Kilronan quay we walked toward the bicycle rental and Pam refused to bicycle. Her objections were many, safety, impending rain, time. She did have a point about time, the ferry leaves at a set time leaving errant tourists to fend for themselves. We were unused to cycling, still Dun Aonghasa is just over 5 miles from Kilronan, less than an hour round trip. With our starting time of 11:30 am there was 3.5 hours slack for returning to the quay before the 4 pm departure. Plenty of time for wandering the ruins and stopping along the way.
We followed Pam’s advice. Still there were the many bicyclists. Perched on our horse drawn carriage, on the uphill runs, each bicyclist we passed was proof positive to Pam of the wisdom of our choice. I was silently envious of their freedom and overlooked the many mini-buses on the narrow road.
When the day comes to mind, not often, I am left with the guilty feeling of not stopping into the bicycle rental office to cancel the reservation. An email was waiting for me the next day, asking where we were. Thus, the title of this post, “Stiffed.”
Pam’s Response to this post.
Pam’s reasons for not wanting to ride a bicycle around Inishmore: “I hadn’t been on a bike for approximately 20 years. However, if it wasn’t going to rain (it did), if the narrow road was larger, if there weren’t any minibuses loaded to the gills or horse traps sharing the same single lane, I would have considered it. Sitting back and enjoying the beautiful view on our private horse trap and listening to our very knowledgeable tour guide/driver was the highlight of this adventure for me. I am sorry you felt like you didn’t have a choice.”
Pam’s correction of my statement about her being concerned about time: “Time wasn’t a factor in my decision making. I also didn’t have a problem with you biking but there was no way I was going to do that.”
From the heights of Dun Aonghasa the karsk of Inishmore falls away for the sight of the twelve pins against Galway Bay. These unworked, barren slopes have a pale green covering growing seemingly on air.
Enjoying travel on a horse trap, a type of carriage, on Inishmore (Inis Mór), the largest Aran Island in Galway Bay we headed up Cottage Road from Kilronan, the main island settlement. It was there we embarked from the Doolin ferry, hired the driver, his horse drawn trap. Our destination an iron age fort, Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa, the Irish language name) and the sights along the way.
The feeling of this blurry photograph is too good to let lie. I just kept snapping away from the moving carriage, here we are descending a hill and moving a bit faster, the elevation provides this view of Galway Bay, Connemara and the Twelve Pins beyond.
There’s a gate in the cow field, though some fields with cows were gateless. There is a simple answer to the mystery. At one point our driver stopped by his field and and demonstrated how the wall is pulled down to make an opening, the rocks stacked to make this easy. When the cows are in, the rocks go back up, a matter of 10 minutes or so to make a cow-width passage.
Enjoying travel on a horse trap, a type of carriage, on Inishmore (Inis Mór), the largest Aran Island in Galway Bay we headed up Cottage Road from Kilronan, the main island settlement. It was there we embarked from the ferry, hired the driver, his horse drawn trap. Our destination an iron age fort, Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa, the Irish language name) and the sights along the way.
Dry Stone walls abound throughout Ireland. Ancient walls, buried in peat, were discovered in County Mayo and dated to 3,800 BC. This is a field wall on Cottage Road with daisies growing at the foot.
The wall is composed of stones, not rocks. I have read in places a stone is a rock put to use or shaped by human hands. Other usages have rock and stone used interchangeably. For example, an internet search on “Dry Rock Wall” will return hits on the same. “You pays your money and takes your choice.”
Sources for this post: search wikipedia for “Dry Stone”.