Tuesday 23 September 2014

The Céide Fields

Looking down from the Visitor Centre to Killala Bay
No point in wasting these last few sunny days of our beautiful and welcome 'Indian Summer' so we decided that if Monday 22nd turned out nice, we would finally get ourselves off to a bit of touristing, specifically the Céide Fields (locals here pronounce it "Kay-juh"). The 'Heritage Ireland' website has it that...

"Beneath the wild bog-lands of North Mayo lies the Céide Fields, the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world, consisting of field systems, dwelling areas and megalithic tombs. The stone walled fields, extending over thousands of acres are almost 6,000 years old, the oldest known in the world. They are covered by a natural blanket bog with its own unique vegetation and wildlife. The Visitor Centre has won several awards, including the Gold Medal for architecture. It is located beside some of the most spectacular cliffs and rock formations in Ireland and a viewing platform is positioned on the edge of the 110 m high cliff."

45 minutes worth of duckboard walking protects the blanket
bog from the thousands of tourist feet.
This is fascinating stuff and came highly recommended by Anne and Simon as well as 'locals', but we'd never been. This despite it being only an hour and 20 minutes drive away in the beautiful county of Mayo. We are very remiss when it comes to local tourist attractions.

Award winning architecture.
Well, our day did indeed, dawn misty but clear above, so that we knew the haze would soon burn off. John Deere Bob, though, who is a confirmed politics-man and well in with the Fine Gael party, had promised he'd be bringing Councillor Michael Creaton round door to door, canvassing for support for FG's by-election candidate, Maura Hopkins. While we waited for that caravan to trundle through I had time to quickly buzz cut the dogs for the final time this year; they can now grow shaggy through the winter.

In the event the politicos re-scheduled or changed their route, so at 11 am, with the sun beautifully up, we were free to go. Our route for this one did not use the dreaded 'sat-nav', but instead used the home-spun technology of me looking at the map book and saying "Hey! There's a road here that looks interesting - it goes round a mountain and past a lake.... do you fancy that?" and Liz saying "Sounds good to me". We nipped up by Knock Airport, then through Swinford,Foxford and Ballina,to Killala Bay and Ballycastle.

Dogs at Lough Cullin
The dogs were with us, so we were always on the look out for good dog walks; we found the first at Lough Cullin,near Foxford. This is an inland lake, one of a pair with Lough Conn connected to the sea by the River Moy and we could not see how it would be tidal, but it managed to have a sandy beach and rocks just like a bit of coast, plenty of space for doggie exercise and no other people about. It even had an apparent 'upper tide line' where something a bit like marram grass was being used to stabilise the sand bank. Curious, but good for the dogs anyway.

Unusual lighting on these seaweed-covered rocks at Killala
Loaded back up we headed for Killala Bay and another nice empty beach at Ross Strand. Readers may recall that I painted my stock trailer with a paint called 'Killala Bay Blue' and wondered whether Killala Bay could really be THAT blue. Sorry - I still can't tell you, the tide was well out and the water was brown with sediment. We had a lovely stroll down the beach with the dogs loving being off the leads (they don't get many opportunities at home) and chasing in and out of the sea. Round the ragged rocks the ragged rascals ran? Nice cliffs showing exposed sedimentary rocks and a curious old building with what looked like a ruin of a boat house with a slipway, too for us.

An old boat house (?) at Ross Strand (Killala)
By now the dogs were well exercised (as well as covered in sand) and we were sure we could get away with a quick nip into the Céide Fields Visitor Centre. It wasn't hot (it had clouded over by now) and we left car windows part open; not ideal but we got away with it. Céide is a fascinating site and we surely did not do it justice; we are determined to return dog-less so that we can watch the audio-visual displays film and do the guided tour. The display materials in the centre were rather simplistic, presumably for children or tourists who have no idea about bog-land and Irish history, perhaps the film and tour will give us a bit more of the science and the archaeological explorations which are still continuing.

A sustaining lamb stew and dumplings to restore us.
All in all, we had a lovely day and we are glad we sneaked it in on the Monday, because that Indian Summer has now collapsed on us as forecast, with today being a proper autumn day with 10/10 cloud, a chilly breeze and even some splattering rain. We have retreated indoors to enjoy winter-warmer style foods and the chickens are taking themselves off to bed at 6:30 pm instead of the 7:30 they were doing on the sunny evenings. Every thing is wet again, though only enough to lay the dust at present.

Anne tells me that August was a record breaking wet month but that September had been rainless for nearly enough days to be officially a drought. Met Éireann's says that 'Absolute drought' is defined by 15 consecutive days where rainfall is less than 0.1 mm at rainfall measuring stations. We have surely had that by now.

1 comment:

Anne Wilson said...

You must try to see the film next time you go to the Ceide Fields, it's fascinating, glad you enjoyed your trip.