Our first stop was Newgrange. This prehistoric site predates BOTH Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids! It is a passage grave that also aligns perfectly with the sunrise during the Winter Solstice. That is the only time that the sun illuminates the inside of Newgrange, however it rarely actually happens since it's typically cloudy. There was white quartz on the outside of the structure which I would have loved to see on a sunny day, but it was a typical cloudy day in Ireland when we went. However, still breathtaking! There were also several small grave sites surrounding the massive structure.
Outside of Newgrange
View from Newgrange (it was on top of a hill) and nearby, smaller grave sites
Smaller gravesite next to Newgrange
We were able to go inside the structure at Newgrange (refer to the top picture--yes, we had to squeeze in through that tiny door!). It was very cramped but so cool! There were markings on the walls and our tour guide even had a light that simulated what it would look like during the sunrise on the Winter Solstice. It was incredible!!
Next stop: The Hill of Slane. The Hill of Slane is where it is said that St. Patrick gave a speech on Christianity in order to convert the Irish. It's also where he lit the Pascal fire on the evening before East Day about 1600 years ago! This is also where the king would reside because the castle ruins were way at the top of the hill and the king had to be able to see all that was coming towards him. We were able to go in the ruins and walk (and climb) around. It seemed like it was just a public place. No fees, no official tour guides, no fences. I LOVED taking pictures here with all of the ruins and the graveyard. Also in the pictures, you'll notice bright yellow patches in the background which are rapeseed (or canola) crops. They made for a great pop of color on this dreary day!
From the bottom of the hill
the graveyard & canola crops
the graveyard through the ruins
On top of the ruins
View from the ruins
Next stop: Trim Castle! Trim Castle is the castle that was used in the movie Braveheart! Obviously, since it was used in the movie it was still intact for the most part. Inside there was so much moss growing everywhere but they are working to preserve it! I learned that the spiral staircases in the castle were specifically placed so that if there were any invaders, the soldiers defending the castle would have the advantage. Another interesting, but gross, fact was the bathroom situation... They would let their waste stew and then stir the pit, which would release ammonia gas which would then clean their clothes. So, they were basically doing their laundry with their waste. Very gross to me, but I guess if it got the job done, then it works. But, I am SO glad that method is lost.
front of Trim Castle
view from the top of Trim Castle
Next stop: Mellifont Abbey. This place was definitely overflowing with history. The lands started out as a monastery and was then purchased by the Moore family. After that, they allowed their workers to take stones from the massive structures to build homes for their own families. There was one building that was still in tact: the chapter house. The chapter house was the dining room for the Moore's who had a friend named Hugh O'Neill. O'Neill was "playing" both sides of the war: the Irish and the English so he would not have to chose sides. When he was found out by the English, the Queen demanded that he sign over his land in order to pay off the English soldiers. So, some soldiers were sent out to find him and they found him hiding in the Moore's chapter house. That was where he signed the treaty, signing his land over to the Queen. This resulted in the creation of Northern Ireland. Unbeknownst to O'Neill, the Queen died a few days prior to the signing, making the treaty invalid. However, since O'Neill signed it, the deed was done. It was so interesting learning that this man is pretty much the sole reason for all the dispute between the Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland.
the ruins of Mellifont Abbey
Inside the chapter house
Next (& final!) stop: Hill of Tara. Alright, so the Hill of Tara wasn't much to look at really because it's pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a big hill, surrounded by other hills. But the history that went with it was amazing! It seemed to be mostly oriented around the kings who would rule Ireland. On top of the highest hill was the Stone of Destiny, which determined who would be king. Over near the church that was later erected, were 2 stones that the would-be king has to ride his horse through, and if the stones moved to let him through, he was good to become king. Then, he had to ride his horse all the way to the Stone of Destiny, where he would place his hand on the stone and if it let out a screech, he was the rightful king. Speculations surrounding the Hill of Tara seemed to be rather endless with stories of fairies and the leprechauns living under the hill. These were definitely cute little folklore tales, but they all seemed so out there, I wonder how they even originated.
Everyone on the Hill of Tara
The sun finally peaked out!
The Stone of Destiny & tombstone
The trip to Boyne Valley was so beautiful! I highly recommend it just for the scenery. Definitely do some background research beforehand though so you can focus on the folklore and personal stories from your tour guide!