9/27/2010--Dingle Peninsula

Today I took a bus tour of Dingle Peninsula and I can't even tell you how beautiful it was. Picture Ireland: that's pretty much Dingle. It was so green! There was the sprawling farm land divided by rock barriers, cliffs, mountains (hills really), small towns and villages....I could go on. It was captivating. The weather was perfect for a tour too. I personally would rather it be overcast because it adds to the feel of the land and amplifies the beautiful green. I took a tour of the Ring of Kerry on a bright blue day, and to be honest it detracted from my enjoyment of the tour. So I was very happy that my tour of Dingle was accompanied by a cloudy day.
The sheep were everywhere! It was so perfect! What I found interesting is the number of variations in the sheep. In America, if you do see sheep, they all look exactly the same--not here. It's kind of neat.

There were these forts called "lios" forts, pronounced "lis" all over! They are mere rings in the earth, but slightly raised. Some had trees around them. You can read about them here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairy_fort, but basically families used to dig out these structures underground so they would have a place to go if they felt threatened. The forts almost always had tunnels leading away from the fort for easy escape, and most were placed in the center of farmland; so we can see that the people that used them were farmers. Also, they were all positioned toward the base of the hills and mountains for added protection. What I think is interesting is that none of the farmers throughout history have demolished the lios, despite the fact that they could gain a lot of farm-able land. It was considered bad luck, as the people who built the forts supposedly buried their dead in there as well, and to disrupt the dead is to anger the spirits. People are pretty superstitions here (at least the older people are) and it is not uncommon for someone to raise their hat every time they pass a lios, or refuse to pass one once it is dark out. The lios are also thought to be faery rings by some; adding to the lore and superstitions.
The above photo is of Gallarus oratory. It was built around the 7th or 8th century and it is the only perfect example of a rectangular-built oratory remaining. It was brilliantly built--there is an outward inclination to all of the stones to deflect rain water away from the inside; so it didn't leak even when wind blew the rain at an angle. There are only two openings in the structure, the door and a small window in the rear wall. Even the window is angled so as to avoid water getting inside. There has been no repair work on it--everything is how it was when it was built. The ceiling is starting to sag in on the right side, but they are waiting until it is absolutely necessary before they do any restoration work. To anyone who's seen the movie "Ryan's Daughter," three or four of the scenes were filmed in Dingle. Our bus driver pointed them out, but as I've never seem the movie the references were lost on me. Oh, and I feel I should mention that people here don't call them movies, they call them films and with their accents it sounds like they're saying "fill-ims." I get a kick out of that.
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