Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Hill of Tara and Brú Na Bóinne

Our brief stop in Liverpool surprised me. The lovely parks and blend of old and modern architecture we viewed "In the Footsteps of the Beatles" quickly dispelled our ideas of a sooty, industrial city. We had great fun seeing the haunts and homes of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, including a museum dedicated to their rise to stardom.
By the next morning, our ship had crossed the Irish Sea and berthed in Dublin Port. We set out early with my aunt and uncle for a day trip back in time, to the royal county of Meath. Our tour began with a visit to the Hill of Tara, seat of the High Kings of Ireland. Here we are with the Lia Fáil, the Stone of Destiny, said to roar when the rightful High King touched it, though it remained silent beneath our reverent touch. Our knowledgeable tour guide described the standing stones, King Cormac's House, and the Mound of the Hostages, pictured to the right behind Diane and me. Despite years of excavation, much remains unknown about this mystical site.

Our next stop was UNESCO World Heritage Site Brú Na Bóinne, Irish for the Palace of the Boyne, often referred to as the Bend in the Boyne, more commonly known as the Boyne Valley. This fertile area of County Meath contains the remains of forty or so neolithic passage tombs built around 3,000 B.C., which makes them over 5,000 years old, older than the pyramids of Egypt. The enormous megalithic tombs of Newgrange (pictured), Knowth, and Dowth dominate the landscape. Mike and I had visited Newgrange twice, but this was our first visit to Knowth, where the largest number of tombs to date have been excavated. The ancient people who built them constructed the famous facade of Newgrange from white quartz they quarried fifty miles south in the Wicklow Mountains.

Passage tombs are found throughout Atlantic Europe, particularly in France and Brittany. They are circular mounds containing a passage and at least one chamber. The mounds are encircled by kerb stones, many of which display mysterious designs and carvings.

The Knowth complex lies at the western end of Brú Na Bóinne. The massive passage grave is ringed by 127 large kerb stones decorated with neolithic artwork. Visitors are allowed partway inside for a glimpse into history. After we enjoyed the eerie sight, we climbed to the top of the mound and enjoyed a breathtaking view of the valley. Wondering how the area had looked 5,000 years ago and what the people who'd lived here were like, we wandered around the ancient mound and its eighteen satellite tombs until it was time to
return to the ship.


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  2. Awesome, Pat!! I love the pics!! Would love to visit this site!
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wonderful pictures, Pat. You've inspired a whole new list of "things to see when I go back to Ieland," hopefully in the next few years.

  4. Gwynlyn, Nicole, and Cynthia: Thanks for "touring" with me. I enjoyed your company! The first time we visited Ireland on our own, we asked our hotel what we should see if we only had one day in Ireland. She answered without hesitating, the tombs at Newgrange. We took a Bus Eireann tour to Tara and the tombs, but it poured all day. We were so happy to have good weather for our return visit!

    Kathleen, in Ireland they pronounce Knowth "Nowt" (rhymes with 'snout')"All Together Nowt" "Where Are You Nowt That I Need You?" "Take a Look at me Nowt" "If I Had Shot You When I Wanted To I'd Be Out By Nowt." Thanks for the smile!

  5. Thanks for the walk through history, Pat The pictures make me want to book a trip. I hope there is more to come.

  6. Andrea, the pictures don't do the sites justice, not by a long shot, but I'm glad to have them.

    Dawn, sad to say, this is the last blog for this trip, but I'm doing my best to finagle another one in the not too distant future :-)

    Thanks, ladies!