Well…we gotta tell you that we much preferred the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland which is still part of the UK. It seemed like every little town or village in the Republic was nicely painted and had a couple of welcoming pubs and cafes around the center of town but up here in the North it’s a whole ‘nuther story. Most of the towns look like you’re coming to the seedy areas of a run down Rust Belt town in Pennsylvania or West Virginia. Not much to look at and the people aren’t all that friendly either…especially as compared to the Republic.
Guest services seem to be poorer as well…even in the swanky hotel you don’t get your room made up unless you put out the please make up the room tag…one would figure that the hoteliers would figure out that Americans were just used to that happening automagically. Our toilet seat was broken as well and Connie almost fell in…it got fixed but seems like one of those things that housekeeping would have figured out before guests checked in.
Oh well…it is what it is and we’re just dealing with it.
Our day began after breakfast when Connie navigated us about 30 or 40 miles southeast to the Ulster American Folk Park. This was a show and tell sort of park a lot like Jamestown back in Virginia is…it tells the story of the emigration of the Irish to America and discusses the causes and effects; particularly focusing on why a lot of Irish ended up in the military or police/fire business. Neil thought it was OK at best…most of the “authentic” buildings and displays were not actual old buildings or relics from the Titanic but reconstructed buildings or period clothes and items. Nice but didn’t have a real authentic ring to it…although there were a couple of authentic American buildings from Virginia and Pennsylvania that were brought over to tell that part of the story. All in all it was a decent place and we did have a nice drive over in the morning.
A shot of a typical Irish home from the early 1800s…it was complete with a peat fire in the hearth and a young woman in period clothes making pancakes to serve the tourists. After that is a shot of the typical North Ireland countryside from the back yard of the family home of Thomas Mellon who founded the Mellon Bank after he retired as a US judge…he was in his late 50s when the bank was founded in 1869. This small local bank grew into the Mellon Bank we still know today.
From there we headed off to the Beaghmore Stone Circle with a stop in Cookstown for lunch…which ended up being a sandwich from Subway. We couldn’t find any pub that served food and the town was dingy, dirty, and not pleasant smelling or acting so we just ate in the car then headed off.
The stone circles date from 1,500 to 1,800 BC and there are pairs of stone circles about 20 yards in diameter with a cairn used for burial of cremated remains located between them. There are 4 pairs of circles and an additional larger circle that is filled with about 800 standing stones inside it known as the Dragon’s Teeth.. The circles are thought to be worship or ceremonial areas as several of them have lines of stones leading away from the circle that point to either sunrise or moonrise on the Summer Solstice. We took a few pictures…these are a lot more complete circles than the ones we saw previously down in the Republic although the stones forming them are mostly smaller in size. That makes sense as the soil up here is obviously much less rocky than down south…this is most easily seen by the fact that all the fields and pastures are separated by hedges rather than stone fences that were built out of the rocks removed from the fields.
Two of the paired circles…the mate is the smaller one in the background.
A cairn between a pair of circles.
Line of stones leading from the circle at the left side to the sunrise (closer line) and moonrise (farther line) on Summer Solstice.
Large circle with the Dragon’s Teeth.
Closer view of the 800+ smaller stones that make up the teeth of the Dragon’s Teeth.
With that our day was done as we had again probably walked 3-4 miles with all of our exploring…so we headed home. We took the supposedly scenic route over the mountains through Glenshane Pass…and it wasn’t too scenic; only partly because of the rain and fog at the top. Even on a clear day it would have been poor as it was a 4 lane highway through the mountains…one of the few here that was actually graded nicely and that Americans would recognize as being a pretty good road. Most of the roads are built very narrow and with little regard to smoothing out the topography of the land…resulting in lots of bumps and curves. Nothing wrong with that as the roads evolved from cart paths that meandered through farmer’s fields and pastures…but mostly in America the government would have used eminent domain seizures to get more right of way to make a wider road. Four lane roads and passing lanes are few and far between here.
Tomorrow we head off to Belfast where we’ll spend two nights. One day of sightseeing there…but it’s supposed to pour rain all day so we’ll have to see how it goes…then Connie wants to go to High Tea at the hotel. After that it’s back to Dublin on Saturday with a couple final stops at more ancient burial grounds and then we’re off to America!!