October 31, 2006

Hanging On

Detail from woodland in Muckross House and Gardens, just outside Killarney, Co. Kerry.

"Ye're right to be heading home", said our taxi driver on Sunday night, "sure, would ye look at that", as a young lass the size of Idaho tottered in front of his car dressed in a Munster jersey and very little else. It's been nearly 2 decades since I visited Killarney, and I was down for the long weekend to do some hiking and hopefully see some native wildlife of a different sort.

As it turned out , I managed to see both a red deer and a red squirrel within 30 minutes of each other on Monday morning near Ross Castle…by nearly running over them in the car. Apart from the jaw-dropping number of hotels and guesthouses clustered around the town, Killarney is staggeringly beautiful at this time of year with the Autumn colours and the dramatic cloudscapes. For a place that depends so dearly on tourism, a few things surprised me:-

(1) There were still plenty of jaunting cars operating. None that I passed on the road had either a light or a reflector, despite operating in darkness

(2) The Gap of Dunloe is an internationally promoted part of the Ring of Kerry, and a wonderful drive. If you approach it from the far end (I.e. from the Black Valley and driving north), you won't see a single sign for it. Better still, Kerry County Council are resurfacing it, so on a Bank Holiday weekend, tourists are forced into the verge or have to do plenty of revering to make way for a constant flow of sand trucks

(3) For one of the main starting points to hike up to Carrauntoohil (Glancuttaun Upper), there isn't a single parking spot provided. It's one of the busiest climbing routes (outside of Wicklow), you have to drive there, and it hasn't occurred to anyone to level a bit of ground to provide safe parking.

Despite several warning signs by Kerry Mountain Rescue, people still insist on hiking in the Reeks without adequate preparation or in very small groups (groups of 4 are recommended). On the day we did Carrauntoohil, a young couple tagged along with us because they were lost. We found them on the Caher ridge, one thousand metres up in zero visibility drizzle, and one of the two didn't have waterproof gear. In fact, we came across a few groups of pairs and, while they were probably experienced climbers, two people climbing face a dilemma if one of them gets into difficulties - stay or go for help ?

By European standards, the Reeks (or indeed any Irish mountain range) are not high. But they can be dangerous - during Christmas 2004, two climbers died - both were climbing alone, and one of them, a Swede, has never been found [UPDATE Nov 02 2006: It looks like the remains of the Swedish climber have finally been discovered].

When I was driving home yesterday, the news had a report that a family had to be rescued off Torc mountain just outside Killarney. It's only just over 500 metres and there is a well-defined path, but even the best path can't be seen in the dark.

Despite the rain, the climbing was good fun on both days, and we even got to see a bit of scenery between the showers and the fog.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 100-400mm@400mm, ISO=250, aperture=f5.6, speed=1/640 sec.


Posted by Monasette at 01:28 PM | Comments (3)

October 25, 2006

Low Winter Sun

First rays of dawn light burnish the waves lapping on the beach at Silver Strand in Galway last Saturday week (picture taken about an hour before the one below).

Posted by Monasette at 12:02 AM | Comments (1)

October 24, 2006

Seaweed Point

What was happening during the seventh century BC ? The Assyrians were busy fighting insurgents in Mesopotamia, the Greeks recorded their first ever naval battle and the book of Deuteronomy had turned up in the temple of Jerusalem. In northern Europe, the weather had become colder and wetter, driving Scandinavian tribes further south into Europe.

I doubt if the inhabitants of the west of Ireland knew much about these events, though the last event may have led to the emergence of the Celts. At Seaweed Point [above], a small gravely peninsula beyond Gentian Hill in Salthill, the first Galwegians lived their lives by the sea, two millennia* before Galway was 'born' as a city. Archaeological excavations on the hill establish that the Galway fondness for Oyster Festivals has a long history - oyster shells predominate the middens there. They would have had a great view of Galway Bay from Seaweed Point. Of course, today, pinpricks of light blink in every direction - ships arriving into port, houses, pubs and hotels in Salthill, and cars driving along the Burren coast road to Ballyvaughan across the bay. Back then, another point of light would have been more significant - another Iron Age barbecue by the sea.

* Carbon 14 dating place the midden [I.e. pile of left-overs] at about 650BC, give or take a century.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 24-105mm@67mm, ISO=200, aperture=f11, speed=1/15 sec.


Posted by Monasette at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2006

Evening Veil

Shower falls in Galway Bay this evening. Despite the odd shower, Sunday was a warm and sunny day - and there's not many of those left this year.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 100-400mm@100mm, ISO=160, aperture=f13, speed=1/500 sec.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:12 PM | Comments (3)

The rot sets in

This ash twig will never grow up to be a hurley, but it may provide the fertilizer for an ash tree that will. It will have some help on the way to becoming compost. Already, Laccaria laccata mushrooms are using it for food (these mushrooms are also called 'Deceiver' and are apparently edible) - one of them is providing a good vantage spot for a greenbottle (Lucilia caeser) - a creature that feeds on anything rotten - vegetable or animal. The path of the ash twig is the path that faces us all one day - and the greenbottles will help us on our way.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 100-400mm@400mm, ISO=100, aperture=f11, speed=1 sec, tripod.

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Posted by Monasette at 08:40 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2006

Glensaul River

riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay

Glensaul River, behind the church in Toormakeady, Co. Mayo.

Posted by Monasette at 08:29 PM | Comments (2)

October 15, 2006


To be a rock and not to roll...a ice-shattered rock slab (the size of a small car) balances on the edge of a ridge on Mweelrea, the highest mountain in Connacht at a little over 800 metres.

Kerrist! I'd forgotten just how hard it is to hike to the top of Mweelrea. We approached it from the western edge of Doo Lough, and it's basically like climbing a 700 metre staircase to get to the summit ridge. Mweelrea is the ominous looking mountain sitting on the northern side of the mouth of Killary Fjord. It's usually topped with cloud, and this morning was no different. We did have more than a little luck today - as we climbed, the cloud in front of us cleared, so that we spent most of time on the top in bright, and somewhat unseasonal, sunshine. This is the third hike this autumn where this has happened - I think some of our walk leaders must have taken the optional Divine Intervention module on their Navigation Skills course.

For once, we kept bumping into other climimg parties. Two chaps set off just before us, and made it down long before us. A girl on her own navigated in near-zero visibility across a couple of the ridges, and in a cracking time too. She is obviously an accomplished walker, but Mweelrea isn't really the sort of climb to do on your own. And then there was the NUIG walking club, who practically ran all the way up and much of the way back. That's very bad for morale, even if most of them are nearly half my age.

Alas, poor Yorick...I fleeced him well...

We didn't see much in the way of wildlife, other than a couple of annoyed ravens who circled overhead to make sure we were leaving. Oh, and plenty of sheep. Of course, not all of them leave the mountain breathing. And that's where the ravens come in...

Buy pictures of Mweelrea. Co. Mayo here

Posted by Monasette at 11:28 PM | Comments (2)

In the National Interest

Don't ask us about our litter policy either.

Burrows were creased, nay, furrowed when the Irish Times released their latest political polls over the weekend. the public were asked a few questions. Q. What was their main concern ? A. Public Services such as the health service. Q. Who would be best to improve those services? A. The Opposition coalition of Fine Gael and Labour. Q. Therefore, who will you vote for in the next election? A. Oh, the current government coalition of Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats. I suspect that, the next time, the Irish Times will include an extra question; Are you people nuts? [which was the gist of their editorial on the poll results].

The Irish Times must be particularly chagrined since they ran the story about private payments from businessmen to Bertie Ahern back in 1993, and for all the fuss it caused, the public don't love Bertie any less as a result. The ineptness of the opposition parties helped. They never succeeded in separating the issue of payments made to Bertie by his friends to help him pay for his marital separation, from the payments made to him by businessmen in Manchester for, er, um, having a nice smile? And none of the opposition latched on the implication made by Geraldine Kennedy (editor of the Irish Times, and former Progressive Democrat candidate) that Bertie's lawyers were attempting to ensure that these payments would never be made public by the Mahon Tribunal [the information used by the Irish Times was based on a document submitted to the Tribunal by Bertie]. An alleged cover-up would imply that Bertie knew these payments were wrong from the start, something he initially denied.

But, as the saying goes, all politics are local, and the Connacht Tribune analyzed a Mail on Sunday poll on the chances of the various candidates in Galway West [see here for results of last election]. There are five seats up for grabs and the first three, according to the poll, will go to the two serving ministers, Eamonn O Cuiv and Frank Fahey, and the third will go to former Labour minister, Michael D Higgins. There's a fair margin between the three and the rest of the pack - five candidates look to have roughly the same level of support (~6-7%) - the problem is that there are only two seats available. Padraig McCormack of Fine Gael has retired and will not defend his seat, so the two Fine Gael candidates (Oranmore-based councilor Fidelma Healy-Eames and popular former mayor Brian Walsh) will hope to retain it and maybe take the other seat. The other incumbent, Progressive Democrat Noel Grealish will also be hoping to retain his seat. The Tribune reports that internal polling indicates that the PDs are worried that he won't retain the seat - he managed to get elected in 2002 as a result of very clever vote management. Three candidates ran, and thanks to the magic of proportional representation and the single transferable vote, it was possible for Grealish to amass enough transfers to get elected. He's got some competition this time - apart from the two FG candidates, the Green Party, in the person of current mayor Niall O'Brolcháin, has a strong candidate.

The scrabble for seats means all candidates must stay in the public eye all the time. For the opposition, it means issuing press releases on a near daily basis. New bypass for Galway across the Corrib ? Need it now! Rush planning through for the "Connemarabahn" out to Clifden. Needed it yesterday !! Sometimes it gets confusing. When Frank Fahey called for more Gardaí, one wondered why he just didn't mention in a Cabinet meeting (since he's a Government Minister), rather than in the Galway Advertiser. For the government, no plan is too grand - when Bertie Ahern visited Galway during Race Week, he was presented with a plan to redevelop the docks and harbour area, involving moving the entire oil pumping and storage facility into a new site, along with building a new deep-water port. Bertie proclaimed it a great plan. And it will still be a great [and unfulfilled] plan in 10 years time. And when Sinn Fein decided to rally against new city plans for litter collection, they responded by stuffing more litter, sorry, a press release through the letterbox of every house and apartment in the city.

Galway West is one constituency that has, thus far, resisted the charms of Sinn Fein. Whether it's Udaras, European or national elections, Sinn Fein have not done well. Emphasising their nationalistic credentials probably doesn't cut much ice in a constituency where the most popular politician is the grandson of Eamonn De Valera; using the cupla focal doesn't mean much either - Galway is still a city where you'll hear housewives nattering in Irish in Tesco. And the traditionally left wing vote is more than catered for already, by Micheal D Higgins.

The advantage of an approaching election is that politicians are very much looking for your vote. Almost all of them run 'clinics' where members of the publics/cranks/voters [delete where applicable] can sit down and speak their mind, make demands or just chat. Want some trees planted in your neighbourhood ? Cousin didn't make bail ? Think all car clampers should be deported? Now's your chance. Between now and next summer, politicians will spend lots of time speaking to us all. Time to return the love.

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Posted by Monasette at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2006


Camera = Canon 350D , lens = Sigma 10-20mm@10mm, ISO=100, aperture=f11, speed=1/8 sec, tripod.

Sunset at Lilliput, Lough Ennell, Co. Westmeath


Posted by Monasette at 09:29 PM | Comments (1)

October 09, 2006

And they're off

Runners set off for a 10 mile run around Galway on Saturday afternoon, beginning and ending at the Claddagh. I'll post a gallery (probably on Flickr) later in the week but there's a couple of shots below to begin with.

Oh, and I finally managed to put together a gallery of shots from the Ballinasloe Horse Fair (I have hundreds of pictures in the backlog, and little prospect of posting them in the near future).

The difference between winners and losers...Gary Higgins takes a break just after crossing the line first [he made it around in around 56 minutes].

Regina Casey, first woman to finsh the race.

Posted by Monasette at 11:40 PM | Comments (2)

October 07, 2006

The Whole of the Moon

The high tide returned this weekend. Unlike the last time, the wind was much stronger, and the threat of flooding was much greater. However, it doesn't seem like much damage was caused. Going for a walk along the causeway between Salthill and Mutton Island wasn't an option for an hour or so this evening, though.

Posted by Monasette at 08:36 PM | Comments (4)

October 04, 2006

You can lead a horse to, well, you know...

Sean was wondering if all the religious pictures that appeared on the site in the last week or so had any significance. Well, I do have a confession to make - I've been on the road for the last couple of weeks, and as a result, to use one of my mother's phrases, I've hardly had time to bless myself.

I did manage to get to two horse fairs last week end - Westport on Saturday and Ballinasloe on Sunday. I hope to post galleries on both by the end of this week - the shot above was taken on Sunday evening - as the Dublin/Galway traffic inched through the town, there were plenty of happy buyers leading their newly aquired nags to trailers and a new life. Not all of the nags went willingly.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 24-105mm@24mm, ISO=160, aperture=f8, speed=1/50 sec.


Posted by Monasette at 06:55 AM | Comments (1)

October 02, 2006

Holy Shrine

Holy Shrine on the Clare/Galway border.


Posted by Monasette at 11:49 PM | Comments (3)