To make it less painful, we chose a walking tour of the BURREN (a rocky limestone landscape unique to this area of Ireland) over some private farmland. We were taken around a mountain and told all about the flora, fauna, farming practices, history, and archeology. Although it looks almost like solid rock on the hills, once you're there, it is surprisingly green with brush. The farmers allow the upper hills to grow all summer and then move their livestock to the high grounds for the winter (the only place on earth to do this). The limestone retains the heat and allows the animals to graze there all winter.
It's amazing how in Ireland old things are everywhere. On the property he showed us a holy
well that pre-dates Christianity! We also went to an old food preparation site called a FULACHTA FIADH (2500-3000 years old). The people would divert a small stream into a pit. When filled with water they would drop hot stones in to heat the water and cook the meat. Afterward, when cleaning up the rocks which had shattered, they would cast them out around the pit, thus raising up the the land in a horseshoe shape over time.
Then it was off to POULNABRONE DOLMER. A Dolmer is a type of burial site (possibly also used for rituals). Quite an impressively large feature of several stones with another large flat stone set on top. Dated 5800 years old - it pre-dates the pyramids!
Then it was off to the main feature: The Cliffs of Mohar. These amazing cliffs are over 200
meters high and stretch 8km along the shore. I was so excited to learn that these were the same cliffs featured in the Princess Bride! They are the 3rd highest in all of Ireland. The highest are in the NW of the country (also the highest in all of Europe). The cliffs afforded us amazing views of the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, and the Connemara Mountains - all of which we are looking forward to seeing up close.
The landscape is covered in stone walls used to divide territory and keep animals in (as well as deal with a plethora of stones). We saw these in England and Wales as well, but not as many. The Irish stone walls have and additional story to go with them. From
time to time, you will see a wall going up a large hill and suddenly stop. These are the Famine Walls. In 1845-1848 when the great potato famine was on, the English were ruling and didn't want to give 'handouts' to the starving Irish people. So instead, they made them work for it. Since they didn't want the work to actually benefit the infrastructure of Ireland or help in anyway, they had them build walls to nowhere. Many of the walls are partially built because the work was so hard and the rations so small, people died before they were finished. The population of the whole country is currently less than 1/2 of what it was before the famines. All around us are old abandoned stone buildings, and 1/2 built stone walls as reminders.
Later that evening we went to a great little pub and listened to some good old Irish music jam sessions!
Today we were bus tourists! Herded on and off the bus at significant places to snap a picture and get back into 'air conditioned' comfort. Not our first choice of travel, but it allowed us to see a large amount of things in an area that we wouldn't have gone to otherwise.