Day 14: Beaghmore Stone Circles and Belfast

October 15, 2010 17:01 – 17:01

We set out this morning in search of Beaghmore Stone Circles. I found a National Heritage page that gave the longitude and latitude of the circles, so I put those into my GPS receiver. The coordinates took us right to the circles!

Before that, however, Karen needed a restroom. So we headed into Cookstown along the way to find a likely restroom. We came upon a huge hypermarché named ASDA. According to its sign, it’s related to Walmart. While I might not care that much for Walmart’s employment and location policies, I do like the fact that they have restrooms near the front of the store, so, we decided to stop. I also perused the aisles to see what they have. They have groceries, clothing, and household items. The latter isn’t nearly as extensive as Walmart, but ASDA was by far the largest such store I’ve seen in Ireland or Northern Ireland. Still, it’s not as large as Carrefour and Tesco stores on the continent.

Upon leaving ASDA’s clean restrooms, we next completed the trip to Beaghmore—just a few miles from Cookstown.

“Stone CircleS?” I asked? “Yes,” replied Karen. There are seven of them.

Woo! This map shows the locations, but I honestly didn’t count seven on the map. I counted only six. E appears to be missing.

In any case, six is plenty. Too many to see in one fell swoop, in fact. At least from the ground, which happened to be our only option this morning.

These all had a lot more stones than the 15-stone circle we saw earlier in the trip. Here’s the first one that came into view.

And another…

And another…

This one was the strangest stone circle I’ve seen yet:

It was filled with stones—not just the outlining circle. My theory is that ancient people brought sticks to this circle. Each stick when pounded on a rock yielded a different musical pitch. A tribal chief would signal the tribe members which rocks to strike, and under his direction, they would make music. Yes, my friends… these were the earliest rock musicians!

Moving on… Here’s EHS’ own lame theory.

But, I like mine better.

I climbed to the top of a grassy knoll for better pictures. In addition to the circles, I could see lots of farmland all around.

And circles. These two almost formed a figure 8:

There was also this one, which was quite different from any I’ve seen elsewhere:

But it wasn’t just circles. There were also straight lines:

Here, I asked Karen to take my picture, so I could prove I’d actually stood there.

Leaving the stones, we decided to head back into Cookstown for lunch. We’d seen several Subways on the island and were curious about how they differ from Subway in the U.S. They’re more alike than different—a choice of bread, similar kinds of meat and trimmings, etc.—but they lacked my normal choice—roasted chicken breast. So, I went with steak & cheese, and Karen went with the barbecued rib sandwich. Both were okay, but the cheese on mine definitely doesn’t work perfectly with beef. Still, any port…

Back on the road—now heading for Belfast—we passed a jewelry store that piqued Karen’s interest.

The proprietor has a buzzer locking system, and you have to be buzzed through two locking doors to get in. A sign tells you to remove all headwear and sunglasses when entering. I suspect D&K has been robbed a few times. Once in, the visible selection was meager, and there was a strong stench of perfume. I couldn’t stand it for more than a few seconds—my eyes and nose were burning. So, I left & took a few pictures of the surroundings:

Given a choice between cow manure and perfume, I’ll take the former smell any day of the week.

Moving right along… we decided to stop at our cottage for some tea. Fortified with tea, our next stop was in the Ulster Museum.

They allow photography in some parts of the museum, but not all. This is part of a children’s art room, where kids contribute to an ongoing work of art-in-progress.

The following two guys must be pretty bad characters. They’re kept in a glass case, but oddly, in the children’s art room.

There’s also a special exhibit going on—it started today and will run for a month.

Here’s the view from the fifth floor:

And here’s a sculpture next to the entrance:

The museum is free. We had parked in an “urban clearway.” So, we needed to vacate our space by 16:30. Arriving at the car at 16:28, we quickly set a course for our next stop—the Belfast Castle. Along the way, we took a few pictures from the car when traffic stopped.

Upon entering the park where the castle is located, be began ascending a hill. We stopped at what we thought was a scenic overlook. It turned out to be a popular dog walking spot. It took me 15 minutes to clean my left shoe. Yuck.

At the top of the hill—tada!—one castle.

The castle has a cat theme. The garden next to the castle has at least 9 cats (one for each life, I’m guessing). Here are a few, as well as some more views around the castle.

Here’s Karen taking pictures of some of the categorical information.

After seeing the exterior and the gardens, we decided to venture in to see what was on the menu at the castle’s restaurant—located in the dungeon. Okay, cellar. But, really… what’s the difference?

The castle turns out to be a pretty popular place for dining. Although it was early—only 17:30—we were told that we could have a table right then or after 9 pm. So, we decided to dine there then.

The results were mixed. The French merlot was pretty good, as were the warm chicken and bacon salads. The entrées however—braised beef—while okay, weren’t stellar. The beef wasn’t very tender—it needed a few more hours of braising. Some of the carrots were too hard to pierce with a fork. And, the sauce contained some kind of flavoring agent that didn’t seem to complement beef all that perfectly. Still, it wasn’t awful, and for £39.90, one could do worse.

Tomorrow is our last full day on the island. We plan to take in some more Belfast sights, and then make the turn back towards Dublin, where we’re due to fly out Sunday morning at 11 am. We’re booked at the Carlton, having been warned off of the Hilton.

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