Old and “new” in Southwest Ireland

Skellig MIchael. The route in front of you is the one the monk's used.

Skellig MIchael. The route in front of you is the one the monk’s used.

Southwest Ireland, where we are staying for this week, is home to a number of

Monastery on Skellig Michael

Monastery on Skellig Michael

Neolithic monuments, as well as a few “newer” edifices.

From the ring of Kerry, the route around the Kerry Peninsula, Pat and our friends visited Skellig Michael, which rises 700 feet out of the ocean. The monastic ruins there are dated to the 6th Century.

Here’s her report:

Skellig Michael, a remote hunk of rock about 7 miles from the nearest port. Took us two hours on a trawler to arrive at the dock, which is only assessable in calm seas. A hike UP approximately 600 steps with steep dropoffs along the way and no

Horny resident of Skellig Michael

Horny resident of Skellig Michael

guardrails was hair-raising. The prize at the top was a centuries old monastery, which consisted of a series of beehive huts perched 700 feet above the ocean. This settlement had been occupied by about 15 monks the community surviving one way or another for 500 years. We were lucky to be there during puffin nesting season, which made the trip all the more memorable.

Also from Kerry, we saw this prehistoric ring fort, Staigue Fort, built sometime between 500 B.C.E. and 300 B.C.E. without the aid of mortar or cement. While there is some disagreement about the specific use of forts like this one – there are others on the Ring of Kerry and on the Beara Peninsula – one thought is that a wealthier family could hold up in the fort as protection against raiding hunter gatherers who hadn’t gotten

Ring fort on the ring of Kerry

Ring fort on the ring of Kerry

the message yet about settling down to farm crops and domesticate animals. And this area of Ireland is rich in copper, essentially to making bronze tools, which would have been helpful in shaping stones like these.

The area also is home to a number of stone circles. There is one a few hundred yards from our front door here in Kenmare, and we saw another on the Beara Peninsula.

To the more modern:

I played golf on the Ring of Kerry course, which affords beautiful views of Kenmare Bay and a rough so deep that it apparently hasn’t been cut since Oliver Cromwell played here in a foursome with James II. My playing partner, Jimmy Leake, and I, both had to buy extra balls at the turn because we had lost so many in the rough – which starts immediately off the fairway. The course sells packages of used balls, 7 for about 7 Euros, and it occurred to me that they have found an extra revenue source.

Pat and our friends used Ireland’s only cable car to travel from the tip of the Beara Peninsula to Dursey Island. Having braved the

Cable car to Dursey. I passed.

Cable car to Dursey. I passed.

rope bridge on the Antrim Coast– see our earlier post – I felt secure enough in my masculinity to stay on the safe side and watch the cable car from high ground. It only takes 15 minutes each way, of course that doesn’t count the times – like yesterday – when the operator decided to cut out of his shift early and head for tea. Pat and the others were left to wait on the island side until his relief showed up.


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