The Black Fort
Trip Start Sep 06, 2004
50Trip End Nov 23, 2004
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That day I walked along the road out of the small town of Kilronan where the ferry docks, heading for the Black Fort. There was almost no traffic at all. Of the vehicles I did see, quite a few were either tour vans (run by villagers, they line up in front of the ferry waiting for the tourists to disembark) or pony carts (the quaint way of doing it). Impressions of Inishmore? No trees except for those growing in yards. Earth tones, muted, like Connemara. Lots of rocks, mostly made into walls (fences) that marked off fields, many empty, others holding scattered cattle or sheep
I was walking away from the island's main tourist attraction, so there were few signs and no people. At forks in the road, small signposts pointed the way to the Black Fort. But the road got rougher and rougher as it climbed a hill away from the harbour and past some cattle, ran back, and turned again. I had assumed that because the island was so small, finding my way wouldn't be a problem: surely the ocean would always be visible? It wasn't. Fortunately I had brought my guidebook with its map, but even so I remained in some doubt. The road became a track running between fields, no longer leading to any houses; the track grew rougher, impassible by ordinary vehicles, and finally ended at a low point in one of the stone walls.
I stood there staring around. No fort was to be seen. No signs. No buildings nearby. Still no people. Just the stone walls and the muted grass. I stepped over the wall and kept walking forward. The sound of waves was coming from somewhere, and abruptly I realized that the earth ended not far ahead. I stopped, then went on more slowly, halting well back from the edge
I sat down on a rock to take it all in. Most of the rocks around me seemed to be rooted to the island, with grass and moss growing between them. The rocks themselves were dark grey with the misting rain; dry spots revealed that they were actually just a medium grey. Here and there lay a spiral shell. At first I thought that the waves had somehow thrown them up to the tops of the cliffs without breaking them, but they were actually snails going about their own business.
Eventually I saw another person coming up from the low spot in the wall. He didn't come near me but wandered up onto a higher section on the other side of another wall that ran perpendicular to the first. I got up and started exploring too. Numerous walls ran back from the cliff, dividing the area into sections
The walk towards the fort took me over numerous walls. Between them were flat stretches of bedrock with grass between, so I rock-hopped...slowly, because the mist had made the rock wet. As I continued, I realized that the fort wasn't actually that far away, so I could reach it after all despite the slowness of my progress. The fort was built on a tongue of land, surrounded by cliffs on three sides. From my vantage point, I could see only one fort wall, running all the way across the tongue. It stood twice as tall as I at some places. By this time, a third person had appeared, a young woman. We kept our distance, allowing each of us to have this experience alone.
There were still no signs except for one asking visitors not to climb or damage the wall, so my understanding of the place was limited to what I could gather with my senses and what little my guidebook told me
Eventually I got up and started making my way back to the track that had led me here. But the whole landscape was filled with walls and it all looked the same. I had no idea which rectangle was the right one, just doggedly kept on until I stumbled across it with relief. I hadn't walked all that far since I set out that morning, but I was exhausted. No place to sit down, though, just the occasional farmhouse. I made it back to the B&B at last, sat down in my damp room for a while, and then headed out for supper. Just down the road, I relaxed in a restaurant with some delicious (and expensive) salmon. Night had fallen by the time I returned to the B&B, and I spent a quiet evening relaxing.