Boyne Again

This morning I was up early and down at the Molly Malone statue before 8:00 for my tour of Newgrange, Monasterboice, the Hill of Tara, and the Hill of Slane. On my first trip to Ireland, I took a tour of Newgrange and the Hill of Tara that you can read about here, but this tour offered a few more stops, and the weather was much nicer this time.

There were so many companies picking up tours at the statue that I thought for a while  that I had missed mine, but our guide showed up right on time. Apparently, he had planned for earlier, but there was a real traffic tangle because of an accident on one of the Dublin ring roads.

I am glad I hadn’t missed the tour. On my last trip to Ireland, I used the same company to take a tour to Trim Castle and Glendalough, and it was one of the best tours I’ve been on, thanks to the very excellent guide. I had booked this exact tour last trip, but it got canceled because of not enough people signing up for it.

Anyway, off we went to Newgrange.

It was a bright, shiny day, and that made so much difference to the way Newgrange looked. The white facing of the wall practically glowed.
I still love the threshold stone at Newgrange, with the megalithic art on it, and the symbolism of having to climb over it to enter the underworld of the passage tomb.
This is one of the 90-odd curb stones ringing the base of the Newgrange mound. I’ve tinkered with the contrast and stuff to try and bring out the patterns etched in the stone. Apparently, true megalithic inscriptions consist of these types of abstract, geometrical patterns. There’s lots of disagreement about what they actually mean.

From Newgrange, we went to Monasterboice. I had heard about this place – a monastery that had faded when the Cistercian Order came to Ireland, and didn’t leave much in the way of records. Left a lot of high crosses in the graveyard, though.

This is the tallest high cross in Ireland, at about 7m. The damage at the base was apparently done around the time of the famine, 1845-1850, as locals who were emigrating chipped bits off to take with them as they left home. Also, that’s one of the tallest round towers looming in behind it.

From Monasterboice, we went to the Hill of Slane.

The Hill of Slane features the ruins of a Franciscan abbey and school. The story is that St. Patrick violated the rules of the High King at Tara by lighting a fire on Slane Hill on Beltane – Easter – to announce the arrival of Christianity. The King didn’t punish him, and allowed Patrick to begin his mission to convert the pagans to Christianity.

Apparently, each Easter, the church re-enacts this, lighting a small fire on the Hill of Slane. I asked about whether or not they have someone watching for the fire over at the Hill of Tara, where the High King had seen Patrick’s fire, and was told that the fire is now to small.

But, my guide said, several years ago, RTE1 conducted the experiment: they lit a large fire on the Hill of Slane, and apparently it could be seen very clearly from the Hill of Tara, 15km away.

And the Hill of Tara was our next stop.

This is the view down from the central mound of the Tara earthworks. You can see the rings of berms and ditches, and the outer ring way down near the flowering blackthorn trees.
And, of course, the Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny, which was used to crown the kings in ancient Ireland. Apparently, it used to sit on the high point of the Hill of Tara, the passage tomb called the Mound of Hostages, but was moved here after the Battle of Tara in the 1798 rebellion.

And then it was back to Dublin, back to the flat, and catching up on the blog. Tomorrow, I get on the hop-on-hop-off bus tour. One of the things I’m planning on seeing is Glasnevin Cemetery, which I haven’t visited before.

  1. The national television network in Ireland. []