Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lough Gur, County Limerick

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Lough Gur in County Limerick is one of the most important and remarkable archaeological landscapes in Ireland. This small, horseshoe shaped lake has been surrounded by human settlements and activity going back over 5,000 years ago to the first farmers in the Neolithic period, though it is likely that this area was occupied even earlier, during the Mesolithic, though as yet no archaeological evidence has been found dating to this period.

The site is possibly most famous for its Neolithic settlement. Several houses, forming a small village, have been excavated on the south-facing slopes of the Knockadoon peninsula, which extends out into the lake. Both rectangular and circular houses were discovered. They were constructed by driving double rows of posts in 1m apart, these posts supported a hipped roof and screens made from woven hazel rods known as wattle. The screens were covered in daub, a mix of dung, clay and straw which when dried, would have been an effective breathable, but water and draft-proof, wall. The houses may have been insulated with a layer of earth sods, reeds or straw. An example of one of the rectangular buildings and a circular building have been reconstructed and now serve as Lough Gur’s Interpretation Centre.  

The Centre itself is very well laid out, with great information on the archaeology, history and folklore of Lough Gur. It has a number of superb reproductions of the incredible artefacts discovered at Lough Gur, and has informative interactive panels and exhibits making it fun for all ages. The visitor centre is an essential introduction to the complexity of archaeology in the region.

The foundations of an early medieval structure and field systems at the 'Spectacles'
From the Visitor Centre, your first stop will be a lovely walk that takes you past ‘The Spectacles’ where you can see the foundations of a number of buildings and field systems dating to the early medieval period. As you follow the path beyond the Spectacles, you climb ever higher and get spectacular views over Lough Gur. From here you can see the castles built by the Earls of Desmond in the later medieval period, and the earlier crannogs, small artificial islands, on the lake.
The foundations of one of the circular stone built ringforts (or cashels) at Carraig Aille

When you have finished your visit to Knockadoon, a short drive up the road will bring you to the cashels of Carraig Áille. These well-preserved early medieval stone ringforts have quite spectacular views, and are well worth the short climb up a hill. I will be featuring these forts in their own forthcoming blogpost.

The Lough Gur Wedge Tomb
 Another short drive from Carraig Áille and you can find a wonderful example of an Early Bronze Age wedge tomb, similar (though smaller) to that of Labbacallee in County Cork. Again, I will feature this tomb in it’s own blogpost as it is a fantastic site in its own right.

The lovely and peaceful Teampall Nua

Our next stop again just minutes along the road was the church ‘Teampall Nua’. This church is thought to date to the seventeenth century (though some architectural features look more medieval to me). It replaced an older chapel used by the Earls of Desmond.


Our final stop was Grange Stone Circle located just on the west of the lake and very easily accessible from the Limerick–Killmallock Road (R512). This stone circle is just incredible, it  is massive measuring nearly 50m in diameter. It is a near perfect ring of 113 contiguous stones (all the stones are touching). The entrance is marked with the tallest stones that are mirrored on the opposite side of the circle, apparently forming an alignment with the midsummer moon. The site is spectacular and will certainly feature in a separate blog post.
As an archaeologist I found the visit to Lough Gur to be almost like a pilgrimage. It is such a beautiful part of the country, and our visit barely scratched the surface of the sheer wealth of archaeological and historical sites clustered around the lake. A visit to Lough Gur is an absolute must for anyone with an interest in archaeology and history! You can find more information on Lough Gur from their website at

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Gas Price Plummets! - Mon., Oct. 28

Last week we paid $3.00/gallon for regular unleaded. Yesterday we filled the tank with gas that cost $2.94/gallon. We haven't seen prices that cheap since 2009.

It's a busy week. I'm working every day through Saturday. On Sunday, we're doing a New Braunfels Wurstfest Volksmarch with our good friends Jim & Peri who are back from their summer road trip. All paid walkers ($3 per person) get free admission to the Wurstfest ($8.00 value). Sounds like a lot of fun.

Bob felt good during his 11-mile run on Saturday and on our 10.2 miles of walking yesterday; however today his knee hurts and he's putting ice packs on it. Not good timing because he's training for the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on November 17. Hopefully it will go away with rest, elevation and ice.

When I arrived home at 6:00 p.m. Bob was already here. What a nice surprise. He had replaced the blue water filter on our incoming fresh water hose, took out all the recycling (boxes from Costco and cans from making chili), and made a nice salad. I told Bob how nice that was and he said, mocking me, "Where is my husband and what have you done with him?"  Well, Bob, I don't have to say that because you're always helping out around the 5er. <3

Short little blog today to balance out yesterday's long one.

Yesterday Sunnie was in a box. Today, it's Bowie in a boot box...

Travel Bug out.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Favorite Flavor Cherry Red - Sun., Oct. 27

Quick, from what song is the title lyric above? The topic came up this morning because the sponsoring Volksmarch club, Hill Country Volkssportverein from Fredericksburg, Texas, had Halloween treats out in plastic pumpkins. I chose a cherry Tootsie Roll Pop and said, "My favorite flavor cherry red." Then I challenged Bob, "What song is that line from?" For the first three miles of our Volksmarch this morning, Bob puzzled over that. In the middle of another conversation, out of the blue, Bob  says, "The Rolling Stones, You can't always get what you want." I had to stop and think what he was referring to. Then I high-fived him and said, "You're right. I can hear the music for it in my head."

So started a 7.1 mile Volksmarch in Waring, Texas, at 9:00 a.m. We walked that distance in two hours, 20 minutes.

Our walk started at the Welfare Cafe, four miles from Waring. We saw the second-place scarecrow winner in the Creative category.

Welfare history.
Bob in front of Welfare Cafe.
 The following photo has Great Mullein (Verbascum, thapsus) in bloom.

No, we didn't go on this trail...we're not that old yet.
Creative scarecrow.
Fall color, Texas style.
The vines are showing fall colors.
Big Joshua Creek just before its confluence with Little Joshua Creek.
Along the way, we saw Olympic Gold Medalist Josh Davis's house, complete with natatorium. Josh Davis won medals in swimming in the Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Josh Davis' house
Josh Davis' natatorium
Our first Volksmarch of the day took us along Little Joshua Creek, out through scenic countryside and into the town of Welfare.

Little Joshua Creek.
Lightly traveled gravel road through private property.
A beautiful morning for a walk.
Little Joshua Creek.

RV Park in Welfare on the top of a hill.
We have driven through this RV park just to check it out. It looks okay, but some of the rigs are old and have seen better days. Other RVs are very nice. There are also cabins for rent here.

Cabin at Top of the Hill RV Park in Welfare, Texas.

After losing 20+ pounds, Bob is a shadow of his former self.

Susan and Bob's shadow selves.
An old establishment.

More fall color.
Big Joshua Creek.

Great mullein
The variety of fall wildflowers surprised me...most were white, lavender or yellow.

Frostweed (Verbesina virginica)
Frostweed (Verbesina virginica)

Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii)
Sneezeweed (Helenium amarum)
Tickseed (Bidens aristosa)

Blooming bamboo

Bob and I had a few good laughs on our walk. We had to go through an area with cows and found the following sign:

"Loose livestock" took on a whole new meaning.
I said, "We're walking where the cows go."

We picked a good day to do this Volksmarch. The Waring Volunteer Fire Department was doing their annual fish fry fundraiser for lunch. After our walk we were HUNGRY and paid our donation for the fish fry. We had catfish, hush puppies, French fries and seasoned French fries, cole slaw, water, and Girl Scout cookies for dessert.

In addition to the fish fry, the Volunteer Fire Department had their engines on display and an AirLife helicopter flew in from San Antonio. The town of Waring is very small, yet the fish fry was the happening place to be for over three hours this afternoon. We made it through the food line before it got super busy.

Taking donations for lunch.
Fish fry lunch.
All the tables inside and outside Waring Hall were full!
After lunch, we took off on a 5K (3.1 mi) walk in the Waring countryside.

Almost finished. You can see all the cars in town for the fish fry.
On the way home, we saw these ... In Texas, you always have to be on the lookout for big game! There are many ranches that raise exotic animals. These guys live right next to I-10 in Welfare, a few miles east of Comfort.

From there, we headed to Costco; then home, where I zonked out and napped for two hours.

Today was a welcome respite from work. Last week, I worked Wednesday at the insurance office, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at the RV park office. One day off, and I work Monday through Wednesday at the insurance office and Thursday through Saturday at the RV park office. Whew. Busy, busy busy.

Bob, too, has been busy. Not only has he been working long days, he has also been helping out at Random Event Center in the evenings. He is also in training for the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon coming up on November 17. On Saturday, after an 11 mile training run, Bob vacuumed and did laundry while I worked. What a sweetheart!

Wow, this is a long blog today. Thanks for reading to the end.

Travel Bug out.