Janice and I had been looking forward to taking another trip together and we settled on Ireland. I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland – beautiful country, Irish culture and some of my family roots. Janice has been to Ireland several times before and so we decided to explore areas she hadn’t seen before. The exception to the Janice-hasn’t-seen-it-rule was Dublin – all roads lead to Dublin – or more accurately our flights were in and out of Dublin. Since I’d never seen the city we decided to spend a couple days and explore – starting with a good Irish breakfast and a tour of the city. Our walking tour was fantastic and our guide was hilarious and friendly. We got along so well with him that the rest of our plans for the afternoon went out the window after he invited us to grab a pint. We ended up in a pub for the rest of the day… While in Rom.. Dublin? That evening we walked along the river for awhile before having dinner and crashing after an extremely long day – we had gotten on a bus to the airport at 2am the previous morning.
The next morning we got up early to head back to Trinity College and see the Book of Kells and the Long Library. Unfortunately the Book of Kells was undergoing restoration but we did get to see some other manuscripts and hang out in the Long Library – I definitely could live there with the beautiful old books and the polished wood! Then we scurried over to catch the bus for our tour – we had decided we wanted to see some ancient Irish history and so our first stop was the Hill of Tara. Despite the damp the majesty of the site was evident through the fog. Tara is the ancient seat of the High King of Ireland and the place of rituals associated with the kingship and although only the earthworks remain, or perhaps because of that, its a powerful reminder of the loss of autonomy Ireland experienced.
Next our tour took us by the River Boyne where the Battle of the Boyne took place in 1690 between two rivals for the English and Irish thrones – the Catholic King James and the Protestant King William. The valley is beautiful – even in October – and has great archaeological and mythical significance. Along the way we passed the handsome Trim castle – the ruins of a Norman castle on the banks of the Boyne and all the while our guide chatted away about Irish history and myth. We were headed to Newgrange – otherwise known as Brú na Bóinne – a World Heritage Site in County Meath, Ireland. It is the largest and one of the most important prehistoric megalithic sites in Europe. Archaeological research suggests that it is an ancient ritual centre and a Passage Tomb – one of several in the area. Newgrange is one of the most impressive and has a very unique feature – the structure is designed to be lit by the sun once a year as it rises on the winter solstice. This impressive feat of design is clearly no accident and theories abound for why this is the case -some of the best theories suggest that throughout the year, the cremated remains of important individuals were placed in stone basins within the tomb but the burial ritual was not completed until the sun rose on winter solstice reaching into the depths of the tomb. The site – like other Neolithic sites – suggests that these were a people with complex religious practices and impressive building techniques. The site itself was clearly well-planned and construction would have taken great resources over several generations. The site also has architectural links through stone and construction to the prehistoric populations in Portugal, Spain, Brittany and Denmark – suggesting that Neolithic peoples were much better traveled than modern perceptions might lead us to believe.
That evening when we arrived back in Dublin we happened to stumble across the Garden of Remembrance – a park dedicated to all those who have given their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom. As it began to rain we took refuge in a teashop for some hot chocolate before setting out to explore Dublin’s historic Georgian neighbourhood with the ultimate goal of getting across the city to a Nepali restaurant for dinner – an ambitious goal requiring another several hours of walking.
Along the way we stumbled on the Department of Education with its hilarious hand statue – perfect for climbing! We then walked along the river stopping to admire the Jeanie Johnston – the old famine ship – before crossing the Samuel Beckett Bridge. On the other side of the Lifey then we passed Merrion Square Park, the National Gallery and Natural History Museum as well as the beautiful Government buildings before reaching out destination. We both chose Nepali specialties at the restaurant and while I cannot remember my food I do recall the very unique and tasty dumplings Janice chose – apparently the more memorable of our dishes! Dublin is certainly a place to eat well.
Next we traveled the rainy, rainy road to Belfast – closer to my ancestral roots and back into the United Kingdom. Adventures to follow!