Sunday, July 11, 2010

Give Us A Sign!

Ireland is full of wonderful sites that are impossible, or very nearly, to find.  Sometimes it's because they are in the middle of a field of cows.  Sometimes it's because the folks who work on the roads forget to put up the signs when they close the freeway down.
Imagine driving along the M1, the main freeway route from Belfast to Dublin.  The orange cones start to appear, along with signs to merge left into one lane.  You exit to a round about, then there are no more signs for where to go.  All the traffic from both directions on a 4 land divided road ended up in the small town of Newry, which has a river running through it and only  two wee bridges across the river.  Some of the corners were not built for lorries to turn, so they had to pull way over then squeeze around, in some cases having to back up and try again.  What a mess, the entire town was constipated with vehicles.  After going in circles several times, we finally made our way out of the town, not exactly where we had hoped, but at least we escaped!

Driving out into the country, we finally found the little road we thought we were looking for.  Several signs later, the last one being in a front yard, we thought we had arrived.  But, the stone was no where in sight!  I looked at the sign in the front yard again, just in case I had missed an arrow, but no.  Then a van came down the road, so I flagged them down, and asked the driver where we could find the stone.   "See that gate there, go through it.  See the next gate on the other side of the field, go through it.  Then it's on the other side of that field.  You're very close to it!"  Maybe they should just put up an arros!

We had brought Shiva with us for the day.  She was not having a good time, so far, being stuck in the back of the van.  Things got better.  Through the first gate, and down to the second, when we realized the next field was full of cows.  Shiva looked at them and they looked at her.  Bill went through first to make sure it really was the right field, as we couldn't see anything resembling a standing stone.  When he came back into view, he had found it.  Shiva and I came into the field when all the cows suddenly came toward us, in a herd! 

Bill really missed the best picture of the day.  As the cows came very close I stopped to see what was going to happen.  Then one brave soul came forward, stretching her neck way out to get close to Shiva.  Shive responded by stretching her neck until she and the cow were nose to nose.  They stayed that way for several seconds, then each pulled back and looked as if to say,  'Oh, it's just a cow'  Oh, it's just a dog'.  We walked on to the the other side of the field, though an opening in the fence, with no gate, and there was an area with a tall hedge grown around it, accessable by a small gate.  Inside was the stone.

Kilnasaggart Stone is the oldest dated Christian stone in Ireland.  It has a long Irish inscription recording the dedication  of  the place bt Ternohc son of Ceran Bic.  Ternohc death is recorded in either 714 or 716, and the stone can be dated to about 700.  The smaller stones around the pillar have crosses carved on them and may have been gravestones.

Leaving here, we followed more signs to Moyry Castle, which isn't a castle at all, but a fortress designed to secrue the pass below.  It is a small 3 story square, with gun ports faceing every direction.  It was built in 1601 by Mountjoy when he was fighting the O'Neills.

At the castle we met a young couple with 3 sons, having a picnic.  They had been looking for the stone as well, but when we told them they had to walk through a herd of cows, they weren't interested.  Their oldest son, who was about 10, kept looking at Shiva.  Then he finally asked what kind of a dog is that?  When told she was an Irish Wolfhound, he said he had only seen the grey ones, and she was much prettier.  He ran his had across his chest at his shoulders, the height he thought Shiva was, then rolled his eyes and said 'She's very big!'  Oh yeah!

Before we take either of the dogs with us again, we need to attach some padding to the wooden floor of the van, so they can have traction for traveling and sudden stops or turns.  Shiva was pretty stiff by the time we arrived home, as well as the next day.  But, now she is ready to go again!

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