ireland 1999 (Part 4)
Based on the recommendation of the B&B owner, we went up to the Hill of Slane. On top of the Hill of Slane was a ruined gothic castle. Supposedly St. Patrick lit the Paschal (Easter) fire here was a challenge to the pagan High King. Our host had mentioned climbing the tower to get a view, so up we climbed. I really don’t think we were supposed to be up there. There were no signs, but the tower stairs were very narrow, the ceiling low, and it was very dark in the tower, so climbing up probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but hey, when has that ever stopped me? Colleen wisely stopped at the first level, but I went up to thetop. The wind had picked up a bit and it was brisk in the early morning and I felt great. The view was only okay since it was cloudy. We walked around the ruins for a bit and then headed to Newgrange. Newgrange is the site of a man-made hill like passage grave thatactually pre-datesStonehengeand the pyramids. A rind of stones forms the basis of the hill/grave and there is a small opening that leads to the center. The guide from thevisitor center was very knowledgeable and talked about how the rocks were from very far away and what they think some of the markings on the rocks mean. Then she took us into the grave itself. It was definitely interesting, but not a good thing if you are claustrophobic. The passage was narrow and parts of the ceilings were low. When you get to the center, there is a big chamber. At dawn for the first 5 days before and after the winter equinox, sunlight comes in through the roofbox, which is just above thepassage entrance, and lights up the central chamber. They did a reenactment and it was pretty weird being in complete, and I mean complete darkness, and then it slowly grew lighter. To come for the winter equinox viewings, you have to register years in advance. Imagine the bummer if you wait for three years and then the day you go it’s cloudy.
After Newgrange, we headed to Monasterboice which is famous for it’s 10th century High Crosses. One of the crosses wasengraved with scenes from the life of Christ. It also had n old ruined round tower, which the monks used to hide in when someone raided their monasteries. Next we went to Mellifont Abbey which was the first Cisterian monastery in Ireland. The monastery was huge and mostly in ruins, but one of the most impressive ruins was the lavabo. This eight sided building housed a fountain where the months would wash their hands before meals and prayers. We spent some time there before heading to Dublin.
We made it back to Dublin and returned the rental car. When the girl behind the desk asked if there was any damage, I was just stunned for a moment. Thankfully one of the attendants came in and said, “Oh yes, there’s damage, but no new damage.” How aptly put. We made it to our hotel in Dublin, walked along Grafton Street (a major shopping street), and then made our way to the Temple Bar area to find a pub to have dinner and watch the Ireland vs. Romania game. The game was good and Ireland won so there was lots of excitement and lots of drinking. The next morning, we headed to Trinity College which is where the Book of Kells is located, a medieval manuscript with amazing illustrations and calligraphy. We spend to the rest of the day just bumming around. But that night we went on a musical pub crawl. It was awesome. At each pub, we would sip on a pint while the musicians would not only sing and play music, but also tell us some of the history behind the different types of Irish music. It was fascinating. The evening was not supposed to be a hard core drinking night, but we didn’t plan our food intake very well so we were pretty hammered when the pub crawl was over.
The next day, we headed back to London where we had one day to play tourist before Colleen returned to the US and I returned to Naples. And so ends my trip to the Emerald Isle!