To read about this trip from the beginning, start here!
Drive on the Left! (part 5)
One of the delights of taking a trip like this alone is that I could follow any road sign that looked interesting. On the way to Quin I saw signs for Knappogue Castle. Now, how do you pass up a castle? Honestly. So, I began to follow the signs. Over hill and dale, literally, I drove on little country roads that were often barely one lane. Fortunately I rarely met other cars, and when I did, they or I scooted over off the road to allow the other to pass. At last I drove up the castle driveway. Frankly, it wasn’t much of a castle. But there was a nice gift shop where I bought a cheap umbrella as it had begun to rain.
Then back into the car and down the road again. Finally I came upon the hamlet of Quin, and there in the center of town I found Quin Abbey. When I was 18 and in London I fell in love with a stone church that was bombed out in WWII. I’ve always wished that we’d gotten married there – in a church but outside at the same time. Frankly, Quin Abbey is even more beautiful! Built in the twelfth century, it looks like a small Westminster Abbey – but open to the sky. The roof is gone. The windows are gone. The entire building has been abandoned for nearly 200 years, and Nature has moved in. Grass grows in the dormitory. Pigeons roost in the sanctuary. An old man and his dog look after the place as people wander through. The graveyard has crept inside as people have buried their loved ones within the walls of the abandoned nave. The spirits of monks long dead seem to linger in the cloister with its twisted stone columns and Gothic arches.
The building is simplistic beauty: the body of a great cathedral without the embellishment of hundreds of years. Instead, she wears the green of Ireland in the grasses and daisies and dandelions of spring and the blue grey of a stormy sky. Through the window frames you see the rolling fields and ivy-covered stone walls. Beneath a tree graze three beautiful cows. It sounds romanticized, but it was poetic.
Quin is a cute little village, and I ducked in to a pub for lunch during a rain shower. Then I got back into the car and continued on. I felt confident and ready to carry on. Now that I’d gotten this far, I had one goal: the Burren. The Burren is a geological freak: an area where limestone buckled and heaved into a bizarre landscape of stone. R and I had seen something on the Discovery Channel about it, and I wanted to see it in person.
On the way, though, signs for Dysert O’Dea distracted me. With a name like that how could I resist? Once again I was traipsing through the country, following signs and praying each time that I was taking the correct turns on the correct side of the road.
To be continued...