The day began with the gentle rousing rays of the sun, filtered through an omnipresent pearlescent cloud cover, waking me in our little bubble in the woods:
What a wonderful way to kick off our last few hours in Northern Ireland. Before too long we would hop into our little rental car and drive 5 hours south to our next accomodations, with a quick stop to see a 1500 year old monastery (as you do).
Shout out to Marisa for doing all the driving on this trip (and in our life!). She opted for a manual rental car, and I had my worries that it would stress her out.. but she’s been doing a fantastic job.
5 hours is a long time to say in the car, so we split the trip up with a stop at Clonmacnoise, one of the most important sites of learning in the early Christian world. Ireland has an interesting history with Christianity in that it is one of the very few areas of The World that gave up their “pagan” beliefs and accepted the Church without any wide scale bloodshed. This was mostly due to the fact that the Irish were a pragmatic people and just took their existing beliefs and added some Chrisitan flair.
Monasteries were basically large towns in Ireland with Clonmacnoise covering something like 10 acres of land with churchs, houses, and the like. Most of the orginal buildings were timber, so they aren’t around any more but an impressive number of 1000 year old stone structures remain (thanks to the Vikings for encouraging the people to build round towers so as not to be slaughtered!).
The Visitor Center at Clonmacnoise also comes from another time: the 70’s. However, it was seemingly set up so you could take some very nice pictures of the important stone carvings that they took out of the weather and sheltered here. Like this rather impressive Celtic cross:
No one really knows why the ancient folks decided to put a circle hear the top of their crosses. Some time it might be an reference to a halo, or perhaps the circle of life. I think they thought it looked cool.
This stone features ogham script:
See what I was saying about the lighting:
I was really impressed by the carving on this one. Good job, long dead carver!
And then we made our way outside to view the ruins.
Clonmacnoise is a ruin, an active cemetery, and a site where they still hold services from time to time. They built a glass enclosure for holding mass, and decorated it with… what else?
That round tower would serve as a refuge from the people living here when the Vikings came along to try and take their stuff, their lives, and their bodies:
Lots of detailed carvings to be seen:
I was looking around to turn my head to see Marisa waiting for me to notice her fitting into this doorway exactly. A picture was called for, and a picture was taken.
Something that I’ve been thinking about is the concept of “legacy.” More specifically how much we try and make sure that people remember us when after we die. This reminded me that, for most people, that is a futile effort no matter how much stone you work:
On the other hand, I may not know who carved this but I am thinking about it, and writing about it, hundreds of years later:
Jesus Christ! I thought this was the neatest stone in the yard:
As we left Clonmacnoise we popped into the gift shop, as you do, and noticed this rather dramatic ruin across the car park:
We still had a 2 hour drive ahead of us to get to our little cabin (below) at Ballymaloe House. When I made the reservation for the cabin the person told me, repeatedly, that the cabins are “rather rustic.” I was expecting something, well, rather rustic. But we got a lovely little cabin:
More important than the cabin was the setting on which they are sat:
I mean, come on!
Everywhere I turned it looked like I was viewing a painted landscape:
Unexpectedly, there was a table open for dinner at Ballymaloe House, so we availed ourselves. Little did I know I was about to have one of the best meals of my life. A 5 course meal that included a magical “hors d’oeuvre buffet,” which I would like to be included in each of my meals from now on.
This rich meal meant that I really needed to get 20,000 steps.
I was tempted to stop there, but I took one more step and then fell into a deep slumber.
If you’d like to see all the pictures I took (so many crosses!) check them out here.