Cuas Pier Caves, Near Ardgroom, County Cork, Ireland

 

One of the things that visitors to Ireland often comment about is how difficult it can be to find sacred sites, archaeological points of interest, or even special places in the local landscape. Many people remark on how surprised they are to see a wedge tomb in the middle of a farmer’s field, or a standing stone (menhir) near a gate beside a quiet road way. Very few of the special places have signs and those that do are often happened upon by chance.

Thankfully, slowly but surely, sign posts are popping up here and there to direct travelers to some of the jewels in Ireland’s crown. The government is finally beginning to understand that the things they take for granted, things that are part of their heritage and local colour, are actually respected and honoured by outsiders. It’s as if Ireland is a touchstone for those looking for a lost magic and mystery, or a sense of belonging that other places have lost over time.

One such jewel is a little place near Ardgroom, called the Cuas Pier Caves. It’s an unassuming little place at first glance: a small path, a couple of caves, and the sound of waves crashing against the stones. The magic of the place creeps into your bones the longer you stand and listen, the longer you allow the landscape to be absorbed by your senses.

The caves tunnel out from the shore to the open sea. One day I might venture into one of the caves when the tide goes out, but on this day I was happy enough to peer in and listen to the cacophony of drips and splashes, gurgles and murmurings arising from the darkness. There were a few times when the hair on our arms stood on end as we listened; we swore we could hear voices talking among themselves; once we were convinced we could hear a woman calling for someone and whispering earnestly. Nothing like a dark cave and the wild sea to fire up the imagination!

A pathway climbing up the hill affords splendid views of distant mountains, and interesting islands. The cliff views are magnificent. It was amazing watching multitudes of sea birds wheeling around the jagged rocks below us. The path is part of a longer walk known as the Pulleen Loop. I’ll be sure to explore Loop  in the summer time when the weather is better and the paths safer. ‘Til then I am off to explore Kilcatherine Cemetary, and pay a visit to the Hag of Beara (I personally don’t dare to call her a hag, in our house she is the Lady or the Cailleach).  From my home to yours I wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday season!

Would You Like to Learn More?  Here are some maps to help you on your travels…

Click on the map below to be taken to Google Maps: The inlet to the left of Dreenavogig is where you will find the caves.

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Posted in Ardgroom, Beach, Beara Peninsula, Caves, County Cork, Ireland, Myth, Ring of Beara, Shore Angling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Glebe Graveyard, also known as Killaconenagh or Cill Achadh an Eanaigh

Travelling west, about a kilometre outside of Castletownbere, there is a small road on the right (across from the football pitch) with a sign that reads,” Cill Achadh an Eanaigh, Glebe Graveyard.” This by way meanders a couple of hundred years into the past until it reaches the Glebe Cemetery. Some of the inhabitants of this little graveyard have been interred there since the 1700’s.

Next door to the cemetery is the old rectory which is privately owned. It was once home to the remarkable Standish O’Grady. The small gate to the cemetery  is what you seek; going through the ivy clad entrance truly is like going back in time.

The place is cool, peaceful, and overgrown in places with trailing ivy and winding creepers. Some of the grave markers are so old they are little more than plain stones resting their worn heads on the green grass.

Some of the markers here are clustered together, leaning towards each other as if sharing secrets or stories.

There are so many names: Murphy, O’Sullivan, Burchill, Sullivan, Mealy, Fitzgerald, Sheehan…so many more.  Many of the surnames are those of local families who continue to live and thrive in Castletownbere as they have for generations before them, and hopefully with blessings well into the future.

Sadly there are names here that have been lost to time. The most poignant being those who were taken by the Great Famine. Just beyond the overgrown church ruins, on the north-west wall of the cemetery is a mass grave for famine victims. It’s heartbreaking to think of countless number of people who lived and loved on this beautiful peninsula, only to be buried anonymously due to overwhelming tragedy.

(the above picture is what is left of the little church on the property)

The Glebe Graveyard is a lovely, peaceful little place and well worth the visit, especially if you are seeking a connection to your roots when you come to visit Beara. Do take a moment to pause at the mass grave to let those buried there know they may have died anonymously, but have not been forgotten.

Suaimneas siorrai da n-anam.  May their souls have everlasting peace.


Posted in Beara Peninsula, Castletown Berehaven, Castletownbere, Cemetary, Church, County Cork, Famine, Glebe, Graveyard, Historical Site, Ireland, Killaconenagh, Mass Grave, Ring of Beara, Tomb | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Don’t Blink! You Might Just Miss Lovely Lehanmore!

There are little jewel-like places that dot the highways and by-ways of the Ring of Beara. Each one has something special to offer, it’s just knowing where to look.

Lehanmore, Loughane More, An Lochán Mór, County Cork, Ireland….it’s just a tiny place you’ll pass through on the way to visit Dursey Island. Don’t blink, you just might miss it! Better yet, keep your eyes open, stop when you see it, park your car/bike and for a moment or two breathe in the salty sea air and the view.

The crossroads in Lehanmore is graced with a Marian Shrine, finely carved and decorated with scallop shells. Pebbles outline the dates 1170 and 1783. I’ve been ever curious about the significance of the numbers; as soon as I find out I will post the information for you.

The scallop shell, in the Christian tradition, is often a symbol for Baptism. During the time of the Renaissance, the scallop shell also symbolized Mary’s immaculate conception.

There is a small font for holy water tucked into a niche in the wall standing before the shrine. Although likely carved from marble, the stone has an alabaster-like quality.

Right across the street from the Marian shrine is a sloping farmer’s field that overlooks the sea. Let your gaze drift across the ancient stone walls and your eyes will spot a remarkable sight. When the sun shines just the right way, you will be able to clearly see the remains of an ancient ring fort. Apparently there is a mysterious tunnel in the fort that leads to the sea. I’ve not yet explored it myself (hopefully soon, with the farmer’s permission) but I expect the tunnel is a souterrain, an underground tunnel not only used for provisions, but for quick escape from approaching invaders!

If you venture off the main road and drive towards the sea, you will be greeted by inspiring views of cliffs and ocean. There are so many lovely places here on the Beara Peninsula, and because the area is relatively small, you can spend your time enjoying your adventure without a hectic pace.

The Irish landscape contains many secrets that are overlooked by the average passerby. What appears to be just a mound of gorse fenced off in a  tiny farmer’s field is actually a sacred place. It is a cillinigh or cillin (killeen), a children’s graveyard. Unbaptized babies and children were buried in liminal places such as existing burial mounds, beside or under boundary stone walls, cross roads , and the north side of cemeteries. I will be writing more about these little places scattered across the landscape in some upcoming posts.

When it’s time to leave lovely Lehanmore, don’t forget to stop in at the post office and send  a “Wish You Were Here” postcard (or two) to your friends and family. The ever vigilant postmaster always has an interesting story to share.

Would you like to visit? Here’s how to find Lehanmore:

Posted in Beara Peninsula, Cemetary, Cillínigh, County Cork, Dursey Island, Historical Site, Killeen, Marian Shrine, Ring Fort | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Caiseal Coillte, Cashelkeelty Stone Circle, Lauragh, County Kerry

Just west of the village of Lauragh in County Kerry (on the R571 road) there is an unassuming car park on the edge of a forest.  Oh! What a forest! It’s quiet and cool, the ground is soft , boggy and springy underfoot. It’s so peaceful that even the chatterboxes among us started to talk in whispers.

I initially thought the undergrowth was thick with moss but upon closer inspection I realized the undulating wave of green was a sweeping mass of shamrocks! If you ever wondered where the magical shamrock stories originated, it must have been in a place like this.

Out of the corner of my eye I swear I saw an antlered Green Man peering out at us from behind the trees. (But then again, I have a finely tuned imagination.)

The climb to the moorlands above takes some time. It’s not arduous, but can be tiring so be prepared for a bit of a trek. At the top of the hill the land becomes open moorland and you will find yourself on an ancient trackway known as the “Old Green Road”. It’s now part of the Beara Way Waymarked Trail.  Follow the pathway and enjoy your hike. There will be a few stiles to climb over along the uphill journey, so take your time.

Keep following the path and you will be rewarded by the remains of a series of ancient stone circles and burials.  Although only a few stones are still standing they are still impressive.  The sheer weight of the stones would have taken an incredible amount of manpower to right them. What do they mean? Who is buried there? What kind of rituals took place in this sweeping landscape?

My young daughter was intrigued by the rock formation above. She wondered, if you lifted the centre stone, would there be a burial urn underneath, or would it be a passage way to the Underworld?

There is a sense of isolation here on the rugged part of the trackway. There is also a heart-expanding sense of beauty. The stones are centered with rugged hills as their backdrop, but they face an overwhelming vista stretching for miles over the sea and distant hills. If you ever venture this way try to make time for this hike. Wear comfortable clothes and boots, bring water, a picnic lunch and a sense of wonder.

Where to find Lauragh and the Cashelkeelty Stone Circle:

Posted in Beara Peninsula, County Cork, county kerry, Historical Site, Ireland, Lauragh, Ring of Beara, Standing Stone, Stone Circle, Tomb | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Ardgroom Stone Circle, County Cork, Ireland

There is something so exciting and mysterious about visiting a stone circle. Thankfully we live in an area were there is an abundance of these curious sites, as well as wedge tombs, ring forts, boulder burials and fulachta fiadhs.

Romantic notions aside, it is important to remember there is a practical aspect  to exploring the land where these wonderful sites are located. More often than not the monuments are not sign posted and are located smack dab in the middle of someone’s yard or farm field. If you see a sign on the fence post of a historical site that says, “Beware of Bull”, it isn’t the farmer trying to prevent tourists from wandering onto his land. It is because it is a working farm and, yes, there is indeed a bull in the field that particular day.

Case in point. There is a beautiful example of a stone circle in the village of Ardgroom, located in the middle of a working sheep  farm. The farmer graciously allows visitors onto his land with but a simple request. Dip your feet in the bucket before traipsing about! I don’t know how many people I saw that day blithely ignoring his request.  Here is the sign:

Foot and mouth disease is a terrible sickness that can be transported onto a farmer’s property via car tires and the soles of shoes. If you happen to see a request like this on a farm, and a bucket like the one below, you need only immerse the soles of your shoes in the disinfectant. (extra easy if you are wearing  boots) This way the farmer’s animals remain safe, and we are fortunate to be able to continue visiting beautiful sites like the Ardgroom stone circle.

The stone circle is a stunning example of  Neolithic workmanship. It is extremely well preserved thanks to generations of respect and care. Under the altar stone is a cist, a stone box containing human remains. Standing in the circle and gazing at the unfolding landscape and ever changing sky, one can only imagine the importance of the man buried there. His tribe mates must have held him in great esteem to choose such a site for his last resting place. (or her resting place as the case may be…)

The last time we visited someone had placed an old, sun bleached sheep skull on the flat stone and decorated it  with flowers. Coins and small gifts are left behind by visitors who are often stirred by the magic of the place.

When you visit don’t forget to wear your boots as the land can be quite boggy and muddy in places. Bring your camera and perhaps a coin or two as a small gift for the genius locii.

Would you like to visit?  Here’s where to find Ardgroom:

Posted in Ardgroom, Beara Peninsula, County Cork, Historical Site, Ireland, Myth, Ring of Beara, Standing Stone, Stone Circle, Tomb | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Happy Easter to All!

 

Hope this beautiful weekend finds you all happy and healthy. It’s been a busy couple of months as I am re-vamping my blogs and website. The Ring of Beara Blog will continue on a less sporadic schedule; I’ll be traveling around again, camera in hand to share with you the lovely sites found around my home in the Beara Peninsula. A special thank you to those of you who just followed me over from my old Blogger blog. Welcome!

I’ve also moved the art studio blog over to its new home, now fully integrated into my personal website. My website address is http://www.susanneiles.com, my art blog can be found here: http://www.susanneiles.com/blog/. This is where you will find information about things that are happening in the studio, news, new art, crafts, recipes and ponderings.

Thank you so much for joining me through my journeys and ramblings. I appreciate each and every one of you.
Wishing you the best life has to offer,
Susanne

Posted in Adrigole, Allihies, Ardgroom, Beal Na Lappa, Beara Peninsula, Bere Island, Cahergarriff, Cahirkeem, Castletown Berehaven, Castletownbere, County Cork, Eyeries, Killaconenagh, Killeen, Knockgour, Lauragh, Myth, Ring of Beara | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

New Year’s Day Hike to St. Finnian’s Well

We really wanted to start the New Year off with a delightful wander in the sunshine and a quest for a blessing. Although the air was frosty and crisp, we decided a hike to St.Finnian’s well was in order. You can learn about St. Finnian’s well in my earlier blog entries here and here.

Unlike most of the rest of Ireland which has turned into a wintry wonderland, the Beara Peninsula’s snowfall seemed content enough to dust itself across the tops of the distant hills. Lovely to look at, and we don’t have to shovel it. (just the way I like my snowfall on the first day of January)

We walked for a while through the field, the grasses lush and crisp underfoot. We tried to tread carefully as each footprint left a little frozen nest of grass and mosses in its wake. A thin line of  fair golden grass on the horizon outlined the mound where the well could be found. We fully expected the water to be frozen solid, but brought two jars with us, just in case.

To our surprise, the water in the well was flowing fresh and cold and deep. We filled up our two little jars and stood a while, quietly soaking up the sunshine and letting our hopes and wishes for the New Year drift across the landscape. One jar will be given as a gift, the other jar of water will be used by me to prepare the house for the upcoming season. (that’s my six year old daughter Nuala, standing happily in her purple wellies)

Although it is customary to use holy water to bless oneself, I add a few drops to my cleaning bucket to bless the entire house and to banish shadows and the cobwebs of negativity and worry that accumulate over time. For whatever reason, using the water in this way feels like turning on extra lights in the house. Given that this special well sits in the midst of an archaeologically rich ritual site, I think the blessings that come from it are well established and can only bring good things into our midst.

Love, Joy, Peace, Good Health and Prosperity…From my family to yours, we wish you the absolute best that 2010 has to offer. Brightest blessings to all!  With Love, Susanne

Posted in Beara Peninsula, Castletownbere, County Cork, Historical Site, Holy Well, Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments