Birds and Turf

Glenveagh National Park

Each day we are offered “a full Irish breakfast” buffet although Jim says it is half English: fried and scrambled eggs (sometimes poached); Irish bacon (like ham); baked beans (English); cold cuts; a variety of cold and hot cereals; great heavy brown bread, rolls and white bread, jams and jellies; broiled tomatoes; black and white pudding; sausage; a variety of fruits; and fried mushrooms.

As a security measure, most of the hotels we have been in have required us to use our room keys (magnetic strip cards) in order to use the elevators.

When chatting with a ticket seller at Glenveagh Castle, I mentioned we were going to see a friend from Hershey, Pa.  He said a retired auto mechanics teacher from Hershey had just visited the castle last week. 

The castle was built as a home by another wicked lord who evicted about 250 people from the land so he could have it to himself.  Some went to America and some ended in “the workhouse.” He died a few years later and was succeeded by his widow, “a kind woman,” a man who mysteriously disappeared, another couple, occupied by the IRA in the 20’s who burned the furnishings as firewood,  and ultimately by a wealthy American who bought the 16000 acres and home as a summer home and hunting lodge in 1937 for only $24,000.  The American sold much of the land to the government and gave them the house in 1983 to become one of six national parks.

We toured the house, walked the gardens, hiked to a high view-point and spent lots of time with a man who had two falcons and two owls.  One of the owls posed with each of us on our arms and hooded heads (it was suggested we did not want him sitting on our hair.

We knew that peat was burned in England and associated it with low swampy bogs.  In Ireland, we learned it is called “turf.”  It can be as much as thirty or forty feet deep and can even be on the hillsides.  When the climate changed as much as 5000 years ago, grasses and mosses grew in the constantly wet climate.  The mosses remove the oxygen, so the dead plants never decompose (and sometimes the signs of early inhabitants buried in them).

In “modern” times, a trench is cut to let some of the water drain away and then the turf is cut into blocks which are stacked to dry more.  Then the blocks are put in open plastic bags to dry even more.  It becomes light weight bricks which are still used by some to heat and even to cook.  Others object to the smoke, dust and smell.  The European Union is objecting to large-scale cutting as destroying the environment, a very controversial policy.

And to end our day, as we drove down the road towards Donegal and our hotel, we stopped to watch an end of a “Gaelic Football” match on a “pitch” in a small town.  It is like soccer, but they can use their hands to carry the ball for three steps.  It is a national sport along with rugby and hurling.

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About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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