Hello Fans of Finn!
As you’ll remember last week, Finn McSpool and his entourage (me and Mr Husband) rolled into Dublin. Well, after spending a whopping 17 hours in the city we ditched it. No, not really. There’s plenty of more Dublin to come, but for our second “Dublin” day we’re heading to the nearby countryside to go back in time. Way back in time.
Yes, we did a tour. Since we tend to stick to public transportation to get about on vacation, there are some sites that we miss out on. However, I was determined to see Newgrange on this Irish trip. There are ways to get to Newgrange by bus, but they all seemed like a nightmare and would truly involve an entire day just to see one site. The small-group tour I found not only whisked us off to Newgrange, but also to a few other places I was curious to visit.
So, let’s get up crazy early and grab our seats on the Day Tours Unplugged van!
Off to Newgrange
If you’re scratching your head wondering what in the world a Newgrange is, let me clue you in. Newgrange is a burial mound in the Boyne Valley that’s roughly 5000 years old. Yeah, that’s older than Stonehenge or the pyramids, if you were about to check your calendars. There’s a couple other mounds at the Newgrange site (Knowth and Dowth), but Newgrange is the one most often visited.
Now, you’re probably looking at that picture above and thinking, “Man, that thing looks in great shape for being so old.” Well, that’s because the exterior stone work isn’t that old. After some excavations in the area in the 1960s, it was decided that the site should be spruced up using some of the materials they found near the mound. And then this happened…
So, outside, not-so ancient. However, the interior chamber is all original (okay, except for a few lights so tourists don’t trip) and contains an amazing corbeled roof and megalithic art. But before you get to see this fabulous work of human ingenuity and creativity, you have to wait.
Because they don’t want a gob of people cramming the site, the visitor center allots times to catch a shuttle van out to the mound. But while you wait, you can wander through the museum and learn all about what life was like in 3200 BCE. Finn felt right at home…
He even got some fashion tips….
And, of course, you can wander the gift shop. I should know better than to let a monster loose anywhere, but Finn found this puzzle and began accusing the gift shop attendant of infringing on his trademark name (it’s not really trademarked, but he likes to feel special). After many apologies to the lady, I informed Finn this puzzle wasn’t designed for him, but for his namesake….
Luckily, before Finn tried to get into my wallet to buy the puzzle, our shuttle van was ready to go. And a few minutes later we got corralled to enter the tomb.
Behind Finn is the famous kerbstone with its spiral carvings at Newgrange’s entrance, and now we get to go in…finally!
Once inside the tomb you walk along a fairly narrow stone chamber for a few minutes before coming out into a small “room.” This is not the time to realize you are claustrophobic because it is very tight and there’s only one way out and it’s going to be blocked by 15 other tourists. Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures inside, but this website has some terrific images of the interior and that corbeled roof I mentioned above.
Back in the Van and Off to Monasterboice
That’s a mouthful of a name, isn’t it? And yes, Finn thought it was Monster-boice and couldn’t be convinced otherwise.
Monasterboice was a religious site and graveyard founded in the 5th century and contains some impressively huge Celtic high crosses and a round tower. You’ll remember round towers from way back in our Kilkenny days. That round tower at St. Canice’s is intact and measures about 30 meters tall. The round tower at Monasterboice is broken, but still tops out at 28 meters!
And just how impressive is that high cross you see in the foreground? The Cross of Muiredach measures about 5.5 meters tall, making it one of the tallest high crosses in Ireland. Not being religious in any sense, I still had to appreciate how well-preserved the Bible-based carvings were…
What? The Van’s Leaving Again?
No, just kidding. The tour guide gave us plenty of time at the site, but there’s only so many gravestones you can look at before you’re ready to move on. And the next stop was the Hill of Slane.
You might have heard of this guy named St Patrick (patron saint of green beer, I believe). Well, legend has it that on Easter Sunday 433 CE, Patrick wanted to show up those pesky pagans. The Druids were hanging out on the Hill of Tara (just across the valley) for their own spring party.
Apparently the druids were a little superstitious about their party that included lighting a fire to kick off the celebration. They worried that if their flame wasn’t lit first, they’d lose their power. Now, if that was the case, why weren’t they more on top of things? Anyway, Patrick got his fire going first on the HIll of Slane (probably had lighter fluid), and the druids popularity waned except in fantasy fiction.
The structures (ruins of a monastery and college) on the Hill of Slane mainly date from the early 1500s, but these were reconstructed from medieval buildings. And after riding around in a van, it was great fun to be able to climb into the tower and explore the old building.
Oh, and look, another cow came over to say “Hi”!
Final Stop – The Hill of Tara
The Hill of Tara is where the ancient kings of Ireland liked to hang out and held its importance for well over two thousand years. In the photo below you’ll notice some undulations in the landscape.
This is part of a burial mound on top of the hill that contains a passage tomb called (ominously) the Mound of the Hostages (eek!). You can’t go into the passage tomb, but you can wander around it and all over the hill.
Back to Dublin
As you can see from the lack of Finn photos, he was well worn out by the time we started heading back to Dublin.
What do you think? Do you ever take day tours on vacation? Ever been to Newgrange? Ready to pack your bags and go? Share your comments below!!
As for me, if you’re on my website reading this, you may already notice a few changes have taken place in the Great Website Remodel. I’m not quite done, so don’t poke around too much. Next week Finn will find some mummies in Dublin, and next Wednesday I might just be ready to show off all the new stuff I’ve been working on this week. See you then!!!
And here’s an aerial view of the Hill of Tara to see those mounds better…