Day 14 - County Meath Ireland (Friday July 5th)
After a full day in the city we were ready to get out of town and see some sites. County Meath is just North of Dublin and has several days’ worth of sites to visit. Since we just had 1 day, we crammed in as much as possible. The Boyne Valley has been inhabited for at least 9000 years and has sites dating back 5000 years.
We started at another UNESCO World Heritage site, Brú na Bóinnem, which is 5,000 years old and we visited the burial sites of Newgrange and Knowth. Knowth contains more than a third of the total number of megalithic art stones in Western Europe! I have some pictures of these, including a 5000 yr old sundial stone. The whole mound is encircled with them. The passage tomb itself is not intact; some later people thought it was a great hill to build on and disturbed the original design. Newgrange is much larger and more famous, but with only a few carved megalithic stones. The highlight there is the intact passage tomb that, 5000 years later, the rising sun on the winter solstice still shines directly into. We went in and they simulated the rising sun for us, which wasn't too exciting. They have an online lottery for tickets to be in there during the solstice, just hope there are no clouds. Between visiting the two sites we had an excellent lunch in their cafe, we've eaten in many museum cafeterias over the years, and this was one of the best.
From there we headed to the town and castle of Trim, the largest Norman castle in Ireland. The keep & walls are in good shape and it’s recently famous for standing in as the castle of York in Braveheart. Like most actors, it needed a lot of makeup before being on the big screen so what we saw wasn't very recognizable. While at the top of the keep, we were looking down onto a rooftop party with an event going on for a Jonathan Swift Satire Festival. We couldn't hear any satire, but could hear the worst Lynyrd Skynyrd cover ever; maybe they were being satirical. Trim is a cute little town, but of course, we were off to the next site.
The Hill of Tara is the legendary seat of the High King of Ireland, sort of equivalent to the Stone of Scone in Scotland. There's not much there today; just lots of lines of raised grass, a small passage tomb and a couple of monuments. It does have great view across the Boyne Valley and was a peaceful spot to end our touring day. We drove to the town of Malahide on coast for dinner. A bustling town, it had lots of good non-pub food to offer. The Dublin Airport was just a few minutes away and we dropped our rental car and took a bus back into the city. [Our rental car was a Ford Focus. It was a diesel with a 6 speed manual transmission and when it was in neutral and your foot was on the brake, it turned off! Put your foot on the clutch and it turned back on! Try getting that car in the states. In our day of country, highway, backroad, and city driving, I got 49MPG.]
Of course we missed many sites in Meath, the town of Kells, more castles, more abbey ruins, more cute sea-side towns.