Galway and Corrib Village
The Aer Lingus flight from Boston to Shannon was smooth, on time, and uneventful. We arrived in Galway early Saturday morning, the Fourth of July, and settled in to our accommodations at Corrib Village. These are apartment-like suites. Each student has their own room, sharing a bathroom, living room, and kitchen with 3 others. Mike and I have rooms that are “en-suite,” meaning we each have a private bath. The rooms are comfortable, with desks, bookshelves, and plenty of space for our clothes and belongings. The village is at the edge of the campus of NUI-Galway, the fourth largest university in Ireland. It sits along the edge of the river Corrib, and there is a lovely walking path along the river. I’ve already walked along it a few times.
The weather in the first few days has been classic Irish weather; changeable. It looks nice and mild, and the sun peeps out of the clouds. You decide to go out for a walk. Within ten minutes, dark clouds drift overhead and rain pours down. You hope you remembered a raincoat or umbrella! But soon that passes, and the sun appears once again. Sometimes the rain
is actually falling from clouds above, but the sun shines straight into your eyes from ahead of you, so you wear your sunglasses under your umbrella. Fortunately, we had a beautiful day today for our first field trip, to the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.
The Burren is an amazing area of landscape in the west of Ireland, where limestone rock covers mountains and fields. Over the centuries as the land was deforested, the topsoil has been washed away, and the limestone was exposed. This limestone is porous, and water has carved it into the most amazing shapes and structures. As interesting as this geology is, the flora of the area is even more amazing. It’s one of the few places on earth where there are plant species native to three different climate regions: Mediterranean, Arctic, and temperate regions. While it seems rocky and barren, if you look closely, there are an amazing variety of plants.
For this class in Irish history, we visited the Burren to see one of the oldest man-made structures still existing in Ireland. The Poltrabrone Dolmen is a burial chamber dating to 3200 B.C. Geologists can
tell that the stones that make this structure were carried from several miles away from its current site. There are over 70 of these structures in existence in Europe, but this is one of the oldest and best examples.
Nearby we also visited a ring fort or rath, also known as a "fairy fort." This was one of my favorite places from my visit here three years ago. This is a round enclosure, sheltered by man-made earthen sides, created around 500 B.C. as a shelter for animals. It is considered a sort of sacred space, and has many very large and old trees, which is unusual for this area. Apparently, it was considered bad luck to cut down the trees in this old fort, as this might upset the spirits that many believe inhabit this space. It's a beautiful and peaceful spot, whatever you might believe about fairies.
We had lunch (fish and chips for me) in the seaside town of Doolin, west of the Burren, well-known for the traditional Irish music played in its many pubs, and then spent an hour exploring the 600-foot high Cliffs of Moher. I stayed well behind the barriers for the most
part, but many of our students were more daring. It was a beautiful day, with a brisk, “freshening” breeze.
I had to take a photo of this aran-inspired wrap I saw in a shop in Doolin. I really like the way it's constructed. I've been working on a pair of socks, and you can see my progress here.
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