Friday, August 2, 2013

Of Fairy Forts & the Cliffs of Moher

It is the last day of class and we have been invited to join the class excursion to the Cliffs of Moher.  John has organized a big coach and the kids clamber in, excited to be finally out of lessons!  It’s a long drive so we stop for lunch at a little seaside village.  It is blowing a gale and cold for a summer’s day when we get there with the sea is churning up all the sand on the beach.  I am amazed to see surfers in the ocean.  I guess when you haven’t grown up jumping into the warm tropical waters of the Indian Ocean you are more prepared to accept these conditions!

We have a packed lunch and we huddle under a wall to get a bit of protection from the biting wind.  The kids don’t seem to care and are happily rolling around in the grass.  We take a group shot and pile back into the bus.

We finally reach the cliffs and we feel very lucky to be here.  The harsh conditions of wind and water have carved a dramatic landscape.  On the way we pass signs that caution against an urge to end your life at the edge of these cliffs.  A sad memorial to those who lost their life here reminds us that the trail we walked was the last thing that some people did.   

Before we came to Ireland, I hadn’t realised that her landscape was this stunning and dramatic.  Despite the hoards of tourists that frequent the cliffs, we are still able to find our own peace and quiet and to take in the beauty of this stunning place.  We walk up to the castle before we head back to the farm.  It’s party night today and we arrive home to find that the staff who stayed back have cooked burghers and fries. 

It’s been a long day and our last night at the farm and so Seoirse (Catherine’s brother in law) is keen that we also get a taste of the countryside around Ballyneety.  He takes us on a drive and our first stop

is at one of the stone circles that dot this landscape.  While we drive Seoirse shares with us stories about the persecution of Catholic priests, a little bit of the history of Catholic emancipation, and the rather contradictory belief in fairies and changelings.  In fact the reason these stone circles have survived so long is purely because of the superstitions surrounding the harming of these structures.  The stone circles are still used by naturalists and those who practice pagan rituals to celebrate occasions such as

the summer solstice.  People also believed that fairies occasionally swapped a child with one of their own and any child who was born a little different to the norm was referred to as a changeling!  It is hard to believe that these myths were alive till about a generation ago and yet equally incredulous myths abounded in numerous cultures including mine during my parent’s generation!

It’s getting dark and time to head back to the farm.  Steve and I take a last walk around the farm taking our last photos.  The day ends over a pint at the village pub where we bid farewell to John and the rest of the staff of our summer camp!  

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