Thursday, September 15, 2011

Galway: Burren, Bluffs, and Breakers

A preview of what we saw near the end of the day.  You'll have to wait a bit for an explanation.

We took a day trip from Galway to see The Burren, an area of Ireland with a unique landscape, and a short cruise along the western coast to see the Cliffs of Moher.  On our way to The Burren, we passed a small and very picturesque castle, a perfect photo-op.

Holger took this terrific group shot for us.

Shot through the bus's window, hence the reflection at upper right.  Contrast this with what we saw next.

The Burren is a very rocky landscape, almost a moonscape.  There's plenty of plant and animal life, though, in the interstices of the rocks.

We stopped to see the ancient Poulnabrone portal tomb.  It's been standing like this for thousands of years.

Lots of grass and small flowers between the rocks. In some places, there are holes that go all the way down to the underlying rock formation.

Some of the tiny flowers growing between the rocks.  There were many more of differing varieties, but these were out of the wind enough to hold still for a photograph.  The wind is constant and strong.

A section of a rock wall.  Stacking the rocks almost vertically is the general style here.

We stopped at the Burren Centre in Kilfenora to learn more about The Burren and to tour the village and its ancient church.  As usual, a bit of shopping as well.

Some of the houses are brightly painted, perhaps to compensate for the barrenness of the surrounding landscape in winter.

As everywhere in Ireland there's a Murphy's.  This one is a tea room.

Another tea room, across the street from Murphy's.  Bicycles are common.

A sign in a gift shop.  Guinness, apparently, has many uses.

All the land surrounding the ancient church has become a burial ground.  It's impossible to reach the church without walking over graves.  Some are very old, some recent.  This one, like many others, is a family plot.

More variations on the Celtic cross, one ancient and one very modern.

I'm not sure what this form of cross would be called.

Inside the old part of the church, now protected from the weather by a glass canopy.

A very ancient cross. This used to be in the grave yard in two pieces, the cross upright and the lower two-thirds as a slab atop a grave.  The two parts have been rejoined and the cross erected under the canopy.

On to the western coastal town of Doolin for a nice lunch at the Riverside Bistro.

Most of the woody vegetation is permanently bent like this because of the constant wind.

A farmyard cat taking in the sun.

The coastal landscape is distinctly lacking in trees.

From Doolin, we went on a short cruise to see the Cliffs of Moher.  Waiting to board the boat gave us another opportunity for a group photo.

Things one can do and not do at the beach.  No dressage, apparently.

They weren't kidding about this warning.  There was a large boulder in the middle of the road that had been moved there by the waves the previous week.  Getting it out of the road was going to take heavy equipment.

Our cruise boat approaches.

I think we all remained on the upper deck so that we could see everything.  Very windy!

A tiny island just off the pier held this small structure.

The harbor at Doolin doesn't have cliffs, but not far away the edge of Ireland looks like this:

The little tower on top of the cliff isn't little at all.  The cliff is several hundred feet high.

A really rugged coastline.

We've turned back now; those at the stern have a chance to take photos.

As we neared the harbor, we saw this fellow surfing.  The second photo shows how close he is to the rocks.

The day was almost entirely cloudy, but a bit of sun began to appear at the end of the cruise.

Back at our hotel in Galway, we ended the day with a nice dinner.  Irish coffee has become a favorite.  As Scotland is our next destination we're beginning to wonder if there's such as thing as Scottish coffee.

The GPS log shows that our trip extended out onto the water at the Cliffs of Moher.

This is our last night in Ireland.  Most of tomorrow will be taken up by getting to the Dublin airport and flying to Scotland.

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