On a recent trip to the west of Ireland, I visited the island of Inishmore, the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher, and the vibrant city of Galway; each location was more beautiful than the last. I was surrounded by the beautiful gray sea, plummeting cliffs, and rocks. Rocks everywhere. Rocky terrain seemed to be a reoccurring topic throughout the entire trip. I had a very stereotypical idea of what the west of Ireland would look like—miles of lush rolling green hills. I had no idea there would be so many rocks. I was told that the early settlers would make walls out of all the rocks in order to clear the ground for farming. Many of the stone walls that covered the land were built ages ago. I appreciated this little surprise but did not consider the rocks any further.
Then, while learning about early Irish history, it became clear to me. The rocky terrain of the west essentially preserved and now symbolizes authentic Irish culture. During the Plantation of Ulster in 1610, England sent in farmers and landlords to settle in the north of Ireland. Eventually, English planters were spread all around Ireland, with only a few around the west. These planters generally avoided the west due to the rocky land not being practical for farming. Fast forward four hundred years and Galway is one of the last Irish speaking counties in Ireland. Much like the rocks, the language has also survived the ages. While walking through Galway, I was pleased to hear the beautiful language spoken in casual conversations.
During the trip, I got the sense that people from the west are a bit rougher, their accents a bit harder to understand. The rocky terrain is a symbol for the west and the traditions it still upholds. Although the citizens of Galway may be a bit rough, they exude authentic Irish energy. All thanks to some rocks.