Exactly a week ago, I was enjoying the remote beauty of Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands. The landscape from the top of Dún Aonghasa was breathtaking and was made all the more lovely by the beautiful sunny weather. This fort is an amazing part of history and in the musem there where so many exhibits that explained the formation and all other the other aspects of the fort; but it was at the end of the tour while our group was waiting for the bus to arrive, that I noticed a tall, thin, and unassuming stone pillar standing in an out of the way place, right next to a tourist shop. At the time I had no idea what it was, it had slash marks all up and down the stone at various angles. There was no plaque, or sign, or anything that gave hints as to what it was; but, I none-the-less took a picture of it because I take pictures of everything. It was not until the Irish Life and Culture class the following week that I understood what I had taken a picture of; this unassuimg stone had carved into it an anciet alpahbet, and it is properly called an Ogham Stone. My fascination with this stone is what lead me to the topic of my blog post today; to look more deeply into the purpose and history of The Ogham Stones. After a little research, I have a new apprecation for the Irish language. It seems that these Ogham Stones are the earlist recorded form of the Irish language, dating back to at least the 5th century AD. The slash marks upon the stones are part of an early Irish alphabet and each distinct grouping of slash marks, about twenty-five in total, were assigned names that held special meaning in early Irish culture. Many, but not all of the distinct groupings of the Ogham alphabet were named after trees. It seems also that there are two types of Ogham stones: “orthodox” and “scholastic”. The scholastic Ogham stones are not directly related to the orthodox stones, they instead came later and dervied from the more modern manuscript tradition, as opposed to the orthodox Ogham stones which were dervied from the ancient Irish language.The orthodox Ogham stones recorded the names of individuals and often thier tribal or family lineage; and it is believed that they were used as memorials or to mark land boundaries and ownership. It seems that there is still a debate among scholars as to the purpose and exact origins of these stones and there is still much to be learned about them. I think these stones are an important and interesting aspect of traditional Irish language and culture.
When I first told people I would be studying in Ireland, the first thing they asked was why. To them, Ireland didn’t hold any significance other than St. Patrick’s day or Guinness. In response, I simply told them to wait and see. It was only when I posted pictures of our trip to Galway that I had a flood of “Now I understand why you wanted to go” and “I never knew it was that beautiful.” The trip to Galway only solidified my love of Ireland and my decision to study here for the semester, more specifically the Cliffs of Moher. It was one of many things on my “Place to Visit in Ireland” list so naturally I was looking forward to it. Being told they were the Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride and the setting of one of my favorite moments from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince made me look forward to it even more.
While the weather was not the best and at times made walking a simple incline seem like climbing the steepest of mountains, it was worth every step. Unlike other tourist attractions, where you hear nothing but the chatter of other people and the sounds of cameras, I heard the crashing of the waves, the strong winds and the various birds flying overhead. It was both terrifying and beautiful which I think made me love it more. It made me appreciate the natural untouched beauty of Ireland which can’t be tamed by man.
It was easy to see why so many movies had been filmed there, because the Cliffs have something that can’t be made with a computer or re-created on a set. The Cliffs embody the essence of Ireland itself: forever constant in a world of change, naturally and breathtakingly beautiful.
I know it’s not fair to say that Galway was my favorite part of studying abroad yet, but I don’t know how it could be topped. The weekend away was ideal, and even though we had long days touring around, the time was so relaxing. I could attribute this to the serene landscapes and the authentic feel of the area or be honest with myself and say that it was the luxury of an American sized bathroom that made the trip (kidding, but it definitely helped.)
Over the few days we had to explore the city, Galway impressed me with its traditional preservation. Even though it is well known and what most people imagine when they think “Ireland,” Galway is not necessarily touristy as I was pleasantly surprised to find out.
When we ventured over to Inis Mor, I saw the authenticity of the area even more. These people make their living off tourism but continue to cherish the history of the island. Seeing the old fort at the top of Inishmore as well as the “Seven Churches,” the original Irish style cottages, and even the mini leprechaun houses is something to be appreciated.
Inevitably, I miss aspects of home but this experience is already changing many of my views on the United States. It is easy to be naive and be convinced that you are a part of the best there is whether talking about countries, teams, or schools. I have come to realize that this is what most other nationalities view Americans as; snobby.
This being said, most of what America is known for is man-made tourist attractions, the entertainment industry, and corporations. In other words, we are known for our capitalism; which isn’t exactly something to be admired.
I don’t want to turn this into some political rant so I will just say that living abroad amoung the very different Irish culture is giving me a new appreciation for the more simple things. Being in Galway and out of the fast pace of Dublin for a while gave me reflection.
The trip to the west of Ireland last weekend will definitely be one of the highlights of my time this semester. Before coming to Ireland, I knew that I wanted to visit Galway, and no trip to Ireland would be complete without seeing the Cliffs of Moher. Rather erroneously, I did not consider the Aran Islands before visiting, but that turned out to be my favorite part of the trip.
Inis Mor is different from the bits of Ireland I have seen so far. The obvious points are it is less populated, and therefore quieter, but it is also different because the main language is Irish. While the only language I am fluent in is English, I have always been interested in other languages and cultures. So I thought this aspect of the island’s culture was very interesting. I can only assume that part of the reasoning for this is the seclusion from the mainland. The influence of the British would have been less likely.
I think that listening to the language being spoken was beneficial. I remember sitting in the coffee shop next to the Spar talking with the woman – who I am sure we overwhelmed with business – one moment, and then her turning to another kid from the island and speaking with him in Irish. This is a part of Irish culture that people do not always consider.
I’m from a city in the U.S. that likes to hold on to its history in part because of the tourism industry it has built a portion of its economy on. It seemed to me that the people of Inis Mor benefit from tourism, but they hold on to their history and culture because it is actually a part of their daily life. They don’t benefit only economically.
Having the opportunity to see the beautiful west side of Ireland was amazing. From Inishmore to the Cliffs of Moher, almost every site seemed unreal. The perfection of the cliffs was mind blowing because of the huge size.
My favorite part of the weekend was visiting the Cliffs of Moher. Growing up watching The Princess Bride helped me to appreciate the beauty of the cliffs. Although the wind was brutal, the scenery was breath taking and did not seem real.
It was crazy to be 390 ft. above the Atlantic and I can only imagine how beautiful the view would be from a boat below. Even though it was not a sunny day, the fog made the cliffs picture perfect.
It was relaxing to be somewhere that was quiet for the weekend. I was happy to have a break from the loud and busy city for a few days. Having a big bed and normal shower was a plus too.
Learning the history of Galway and the Aran Islands was interesting to me. I still cannot believe Inishmore did not have electricity until 1975. There are many differences when comparing the Aran Islands to how we live in the U.S. and also comparing the Aran Islands to life in Dublin.
Hearing Gaelic spoken more often than in Dublin was intriguing because I am not used to hearing it being spoken.
Overall, I enjoyed the weekend on the west. It was a great learning experience and I hope to travel back some day.
An Irish man I met said to me, “Galway is what you would expect Ireland to be”. When thinking of Ireland, the image that seems to be engraved in the minds of all tourists are the green rolling hills and stones set up along the historical island depicting the exact picture we all encounter in movies and books. This picture is exactly what you come to find driving into the west of Ireland and the Aran Islands. Arriving at Inishmore was an adventure all on its own as I stood on the top deck of the ferry ride hanging on for dear life as I was looking down at the rippling waves. The walk up to Dun Aengus was a cobblestone path surrounded by a wall of stone that separated the path from the green fields reinforcing the fact that I was indeed still in Ireland. Walking into the doorway of Dun Aengus was an experience I will never forget. Standing inside of a prehistoric fort, that was not only bigger than expected, but perched on the edge of the island giving me a spectacular view that beautiful afternoon. The history and sights surrounding me was overwhelming. As I took Donal’s place to sit upon the edge of the cliff within the fort, I could not help the adrenaline rush that came from sitting on the edge. The view that I saw was inspirational and as the weather was great, I was able to take a couple worthy pictures that I can keep with me for years to come. As we were driving back from Galway on our way to the Cliffs of Moher, the cows that were being herded through the street alongside the bus seemed to be just the cherry on top of a nice Irish getaway.
Last weekend was incredible. Galway was such a gorgeous and quaint little town. It was really nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The first day we just sat in a local pub and drank Irish coffee and got to know one another. We walked around a little bit to see some of the town, but didn’t spend a ton of time looking for the character and history of the city itself. The second night we went to a pub and listened to live music, which was one of my favorite things.
The places we visited were so magical, to say the least. The Dun Aengus Fort on the Aran Island was so spectacular. It’s rich history and views were unforgettable. The ferry ride was a bit of a struggle, but the pictures really made up for the nausea. The Cliffs of Moher was a place I had been dying to visit since I decided I wanted to study abroad in Ireland. I couldn’t get over how windy and cold it was, but it actually was kind of what I was expecting in the first place. Everyone thinks of Ireland as rainy anyways, so it was fitting that the weather wasn’t fabulous. The cliffs were breathtaking and the fact that they were in The Princess Bride made me want to watch the movie again. I loved walking through the museum and watching the video of all of the animals that rely on the cliffs for shelter.
I am really glad I was able to visit this part of Ireland and see what beauty is on the West coast.