Travelogue - Day 8
We snored blissfully until eight am, which is extraordinarily late for us while on vacation, and staggered downstairs for breakfast with our chatty host. Mrs. Allcorn seems to love having guests (we were the only ones) and I can recommend her house as comfortable, homely, and with very nice showers.
Over breakfast, we looked at the maps and Mark perked up immediately at the mention of Charles Fort -- a fortified start fort on the coast near Kinsale, and off we went. We arrived just in time to join the tour, which wa supposed to be a fifteen minute guide to the layout of this fort. However, we headed off with Mr. Verbose and had an absolutely fabulous time wandering the fort for an hour or more, getting a very dramatic history all the while. The dozen or so people who braved the wind to walk out on the battlements had a wonderful time and we really got a feel for the place.
Perhaps the best part was the retelling of the ghost story about the Fort. The governor had a willful daughter (named Willful -- hey! Of course this story is true! That's just a coincidence!) who married an officer of the fort. They wedding party went late into the night and as the newlywed copy walked along the walls, she asked her new husband to get her some flowers. He traded places with a sentry in the tower and sent the other man down to the beach to pick the flowers, but the groom fell asleep in the guard post (undoubtedly because of the party and wine from the wedding) and was summarily shot by the governor for falling asleep on duty. Obviously the governor did not know who the man was, and his daughter flung herself off the battlements in grief. Her ghost, in a white wedding dress (are they always in white wedding dresses?) has been seen in the officers quarters by dozens of gullible tourists..
The fort was occupied by military forces until 1922, and for decades thereafter people squatted in the enormous ruins. This continued until the 70s when the fort was bought by the state and restored. It's an enormous installation, with huge sunken earthworks on the landward side, and star-shaped outer walls facing the sea. Despite being touted as the Very Latest in military planning, It had a 100% failure rate under fire -- the one time it was attacked, it fell after eight days. Once the invading armies mastered the concept of angling their cannon shots UP, the mostly ground-level fortress fell.
Mark loves this sort of thing, and wanders about planning masterful naval assaults of these forts, pacing out the defenses, walking through the deep earthen moats, and striding along the walls with purpose. I haven't lost him yet over the walls, but it's hard to drag him away.
The fort lies along the coastline of Kinsale. We decided to seek out food in Kinsale and look for Desmond Castle just outside of town. Food we found (sandwiches from a local stop-and-shop, which were quite good) but there was an antique car rally in Kinsale that closed roads all over the place. We circled around twice, trying to get through the town (and had some harrowing narrow-road passing maneuvers that left us a bit shaken) before deciding that a retreat was in order. Had either of us had even the tiniest interest in antique cars, we would have stopped and trekked in to see what was going on. In hindsight, that might have been a fun morning.
Down at the water, we stopped to watch a small flotilla of teeny, weeny sailboats -- either a race, or a bunch of kids were learning to sail. From our perspective, they looked like toy boats on the blue water. The harbor is narrow at the neck (and was once spanned by chains that could be pulled taut to prevent ships from entering), so the water inside is calm and clear.
We headed out of the other side of town, to see James Fort, the companion fort to Charles Fort on the other bank. It's smaller, and Mark decided he'd had enough forts today, so we admired the green cliff sides of the Head of Kinsale as we passed by the third time. Kilbrittain Castle was easy enough to find along the coast as was White Castle, and we passed through on our way to Timoleague.
Nascar, here we come...
On the way out of town, we passed a turnoff with the most startling road sign I've seen in a long time. Ireland recently changed over from the English system of measurement -- feet, yards, miles -- to the metric system, and has been replacing road signs and speed signs with new ones. So this tiny road turnoff has a narrow road -- so narrow that it's barely one car-track wide, with grass growing up between the tracks, and surrounded by hedgerows so tall that the road seems like a tunnel. The road is steep and turns abruptly left. Just before, of course, is the new speed-limit sight. 80 km. Eighty. That's roughly fifty miles per hour. On a road no bigger than a cow path with absolutely no visibility. Irish drivers must either be prescient, or remarkably brave.
The friary in Timoleague is a picturesque ruin, and when we arrived the tide was completely out -- swans rested on clumps of grass in the middle of the estuary. When we walked out a mere half hour later, the water had risen perhaps five feet and the swans were making lazy circles. We've seen a lot of swans on our trip -- enormous white trumpeter swans. They are a protected species here, of course.
There's no castle in town -- we asked a group of walkers at the friary -- but we did stop to takw pictures of the quaint irish church on the hilltop and headed off to the next stop on our list: Ballingoher. We found the castle on the first try. That's got to be a fluke. Or, maybe we're getting better .
So, it's no surprise that it took a few tries to find Coppingers Court - a massive ruined mansion. It was hard to get to--the site seems to be fenced off in the middle of another field and we carefully hopped a few fences and wandered around in the mushy field for some pictures.
It was getting pretty late and Mark resisting my urging to stop at "just a few more places...", but we did walk off the beaten path a bit to see the stone circle at Drombeg. Nothing so exciting as Stonehenge or anything, just a few small stones in a circle and nearby a neolithic settlement. I'm not sure what to make of these. I just don't "get" the neolithic sites the same way I do the medieval ones. I can imagine people living in these small stone houses, but I don't feel a real connection yet. Maybe it's just that my fascination with architecture requires a few more solid remains? Then again, I've never seen Stonehenge or any of the larger henges in person.
Even with a short detour to Raheen Castle, we made it into Bantry in time to check in to our B&B, Ard na Greine, and walked into town for dinner at the Sea Cloud, just down the road. We both had local salmon and a few glasses of wine. Too bad we don't like mussels, they are supposed to be really good here.
lost in ireland 2005 travelogue and photos © rfingerson