Ireland – May 2005

Clifden Glendolough Kenmar
Newgrange Tramore Kinsale Ireland Home

CliffsofMoher2cOur flight out of Charlotte to Atlanta was late and we worried about our connection to Dublin but that flight too turned out to be late. Also found out that our cell phones had no service despite the assurances of 3 different Verizon agents. (Turns out if someone had told us all it took was a one time purchase of a Global Support Product (sim card) we would have been fine and it was cheap! As Ireland is divided into it’s own independent nation for the most part, a section of Northern Ireland still comes under British Rule and I think that’s where we got the wrong message from Verizon.

We arrived in Dublin Sunday AM and drove all the way to Clifden … west of Galway ,, about as far west as you can get. The weather that greeted us as we stepped out of the terminal was fantastic. We could not have asked for better all week. We went equipped with raincoats and umbrellas and never needed them. The main road between Dublin and Galway was a “breeze”.. Made our trip that far easy. However then the roads started to change all the way down to a one lane road that our B&B was on – Ardmore House Sky Road, Clifden Co. Galway. Ireland.

The Irish people we met all along our stay were wonderful to us and always had a pleasant greeting to send our way as we moved about the country.

Our stay there was great and sooo peaceful, After checking in and getting settled along with idling about on the porch with other travelers we then went for a walk. A short walk from Ardmore House, along the cliffs and there was a small whirlpool just below us. When we got away from the cliffs by a few feet we couldn’t hear the water crashing on the rocks below us but could hear the waves across the bay… So strange. It wasn’t until we came out of the restaurant after dinner that we realized it was 9:30pm and the sun was still up. Sunrise is at 5am and sunset at 10pm.. We may have gone to bed with the sun down but we certainly didn’t get up with the sun.

Monday morning we headed out for the Bogs and the Connemara National Park. Of course we found the first of many gift/craft shops right off the bat and bought two of the Aran sweaters I have wanted for years. I think there may be a picture or two of me in one of them. The peat bogs provide heat and fuel for the Irish and are sold in the form of “bricks”. As you can see from the pictures of us among the northern bogs, there had been a lot of harvesting going on.. Since the process was automated there has been a lot of damage done to the bogs. After the Bogs we headed for Connemara National Park which you’ll find in the heart of the West of Ireland in County Galway, Connemara National Park covers some 2,000 hectares (The hectare is a unit of area, defined as 10000 square metres) of scenic mountains, expanses of bogs, heaths, grasslands and woodlands. Some of the Park’s mountains, namely Benbaun, Bencullagh, Benbrack and Muckanaght, are part of the famous Twelve Bens or Beanna Beola range. Connemara National Park was established and opened to the public in 1980. It is one of six National Parks in Ireland managed by The National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. In the Park’s Visitor Centre there are 3-D exhibitions of the Connemara landscape, information on land use and flora and fauna of the area.

After leaving Connemara we kept going around the loop to Kylemore Abbey (Irish: Mainistir na Coille Móire). We wandered the grounds a bit and admired the scenery and lake before heading back out again. It is a Benedictine monastery founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. The abbey was founded for Benedictine Nuns who fled Belgium in World War I. Originally called Kylemore Castle, it was built between 1863 and 1868 as a private home for the family of Mitchell Henry, a wealthy politician from Manchester, England who was also MP for Galway County from 1871 to 1885. Architects were James Franklin Fuller and Ussher Roberts. After the death of his wife Margaret in 1875, Mitchell did not spend much time there. He and his wife are both buried in the small mausoleum near the church in the grounds of the abbey. Notable features of the abbey are the neo-Gothic church (built between 1877 and 1881, also designed by Fuller), a miniature replica of Norwich Cathedral, made from local green Connemara marble, and the Victorian walled garden. The abbey houses a secondary girls’ boarding school, Kylemore Abbey International Girls’ School. The house and gardens are open to the public. The nuns have decided to close the school in 2010, although they do not plan to sell the property and will continue to reside there. The name Kylemore originates from the Irish words Coill Mhór – meaning Great Wood.

On Tuesday we headed out along the road and stopped at the Cliffs of Mohar on our way long the Southwest Irish Coast. . Spectacular! Oh … the wind was almost always blowing. I don’t think I have a picture where I am not windblown. I think that’s why there probably are no mosquitos in Ireland … the wind is too strong for them to find a place to land and stay there. The Cliffs of Moher (Irish: Aillte an Mhothair, are located in the parish of Liscannor at the south-western edge of the Burren area near Doolin, which is located in County Clare, Ireland.

The cliffs rise 120 meters (394 ft) above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag’s Head (Irish: Ceann na Cailleach), and reach their maximum height of 214 meters (702 ft) just north of O’Brien’s Tower, eight kilometres away. The cliffs boast one of Ireland’s most spectacular views. On a clear day, the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay, as are the valleys and hills of Connemara.

O’Brien’s Tower is a round stone tower at the approximate midpoint of the cliffs. It was built by Sir Cornelius O’Brien, a descendant of Ireland’s High King Brian Boru, in order to impress female visitors. From atop that watchtower, one can view the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, the Maum Turk Mountains and the Twelve Pins to the north in Connemara, and Loop Head to the south.

Had a loonng drive then down to Kenmar and were doing great until we were about 30 miles out in the middle of no where when our car developed a busted fuel pump. (No cell phones as we didn’t rent in the US as planned and didn’t know until we got out of Dublin we had no service) and so a very nice Irish lady stopped and while she didn’t have a cell phone said she would stop back after her quick errand. She came back and picked up the Hertz info and ended up talking to her neighbor and friend who works for Hertz. They came out and picked us and the car up and got us to Shannon Airport 20 miles away and gave us an upgrade. That really put a cramp into some of the things we wanted to see along the way to Kenmar but at least the day was saved with a replacement car.

We did manage a dinner stop in Abbeyfeale but couldn’t find any Graneys/Greaneys. There are so many people who have no idea what their family history is so even if we had encountered another Graney it probably wouldn’t have helped… but at least I can say I was there where the Graney family came from.

We got into Kenmare at 9:30 Tuesday night.. I don’t think we’ve had dinner before 8-9pm each night and gotten to bed about 11pm and slept great,

Abbey Court Bed & Breakfast – Killowen, Kilgarvan Rd., Kenmare, Co. Kerry, Ireland was our destination for three nights. Low and behold here in Kenmare we have a two bedroom suite B&B with kitchen etc. They like all of them serve the traditional Irish breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon, tomato and fruit, Hold all the sausage and just one bacon please, Went to a small farmers market in the morning and wish we could have bought all that fresh fruits and vegetables and fish. Then we drove the Kerry Ring which was gorgeous with lots of bay and inlets along the 4 hour trip.

While we were staying at Abbey Court we also went up to the Bay of Dingle and met up with their dolphin Fungie. We took a boat trip out into the bay and had fun watching him as he swam with the boat. We were out for a little over an hour and had many sightings and beautiful scenery from the water looking back at the shorelines.

Fungie the friendly Dingle Dolphin, co. Kerry -Ireland Email
Since Fungie, a wild bottlenose dolphin, chose to come and stay in the beautiful mouth of Dingle Harbour in 1983, he has made friends all over the world. Thousands of people have been able to see this wonderful, playful, always smiling and friendly dolphin, in his natural habitat. Although Fungie is a wild dolphin, he seems to enjoy the company of people. Once you get to know him, he will surely steal your heart away. Dingle can be proud of this wonderful creature.

Understand he’s been around for years and guides the fishing boats in and out of the harbor. Mike and I took a glorious ride along the coastal peninsulas to get to Dingle and took the one hour adventure out to meet Fungie. The replacement rental car is running just fine and has been getting us to where we want to go. The country roads are narrow – sometimes only wide enough for one car … and you should see us trying to pass tour buses coming toward us … boy do we squeeze into the brush on the side of the road, Harder when it’s ocean on our side of the road. Another stop on our back and forth between Killarny was Muckross House and Gardens. We spent some time there in the park area stretching our legs and enjoying the great weather.

On our way out of Kenmar we stopped at the Bonane Heritage Park which is unique in that it has an abundance of well preserved multi-period archaeological sites spanning the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages right up to pre-famine times. It includes one of the most significant Stone Circles in Ireland. The Park provides visitors with a 2,000 metre walk on gravelled paths through 5,000 years of history while enjoying some breathtaking scenery. We also stopped at the The Old Head of Kinsale, (in Irish, An Seancheann) which is a headland near Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland. An early lighthouse was established here in the 17th century by Robert Reading. It is notable for being the nearest land point to the site of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915.

The bursitis in my hip has been way better .. though getting in and out of the wrong side of the car on the passenger side is a bit of a challenge. Take a few aleve periodically for the bursitis but on the whole it has done well and the knees with arthritis have been good. Mike has been driving a manual transmission car … left handed with the shift and driving on the wrong side of the road. Keep Judy on the curb is our mantra. Have a GPS which helps a lot as Ireland has so many places that are not on the maps. The “funny” thing is that the B&Bs we were driving to had no real street address and we could never find them on the GPS. Would get to the towne or village and then poke around until we found someone who knew which direction we should head. Also saw lots of small villages … sometimes consisting of just 3-4 houses and a gas station.

We pulled into the congested and tiny town of Kinsale and finally found our bed and breakfast: Four Winds Bed and Breakfast. The best way to get around was on foot. The streets were narrow and there was lots of traffic. I had time to leap out of the car at the ATM machine and back again before Mike got to the corner to make a turn. We found a wonderful place for lunch and then a great place for hot chocolate and tea a little later. Mike found another shop with Scones (not English Style) but I think he ate them both as don’t remember seeing them after they went into the bag.

Kinsale in County Cork is one of the most picturesque, popular and fashionable resorts of the south-west coast of Ireland. Famous for its beautiful yachting, sea angling, Dolphin & Whale Watching Trips, gourmet restaurants and golf. Kinsale can easily claim its place amongst Ireland’s most historic locations for this has been a centre of population, commerce, trade and fishing far beyond memory and record. In its earliest days the estuary of the Bandon River gave it great importance as the river is tidal as far as Innishannon and water transport was dominant until the 18th Century. The estuary also provided excellent anchorage for ancient shipping which went in peril of the vagaries of the weather. The Town nestles between the hills and the shoreline, a maze of narrow streets, never far from the water and little changed in many hundreds of years. Amongst buildings of later periods are those of another age with historical links to the French, Spanish, British and Americans.

The Battle of Kinsale, fought in 1601 between a combined Spanish, an Irish force and English armies, was a turning point in Irish history. The harbour is guarded by two very fine star-shaped fortresses built in the 17th century: We took time out to visit Charles Fort but unfortunately by the time we got there it was closed. We wandered around the outside for a bit. Charles Fort (Irish: Dún Chathail) is a star fort located on the water’s edge, at the southern end of the village of Summer Cove, on Kinsale harbour, County Cork, Ireland. Charles Fort is built on the site of an earlier stronghold known as Ringcurran Castle, which featured prominently during the Siege of Kinsale in 1601. The fort, which is named after Charles II, was designed by the Surveyor-general Sir William Robinson – architect of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. The fort was built in the 1670s and 1680s to a star fortification design – a layout specifically designed to resist attack by cannon. The in-land bastions of the fort however are overlooked by higher ground. A fact which was of critical importance when the fort was besieged by the Duke of Marlborough in 1690 during the Williamite War in Ireland.Repairs were made following the siege, and the fort remained in use as a British Army barracks for several hundred years afterwards.

The fort was relinquished by British forces following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, but it fell out of use after being burned by the retreating anti-Treaty forces during the Irish Civil War in 1922. The complex was named a National Monument of Ireland in 1971 and has been partly restored by Dúchas, the Irish heritage service.

We took a trip to the Old Head of Kinsale for magnificent cliff scenery. It was off here that the Lusitania was sunk in 1915 with a loss of over 1,500 lives.

Hook Head is a headland in County Wexford, Ireland located on the east side of the estuary of the three sisters rivers (the Nore, Suir and the Barrow). It is part of the Hook peninsula and is adjacent to the historic townland of Loftus Hall. It is situated on the R734, 50 km (31 mi) from Wexford town.

Hook Head is said to have found its way into common English usage in the saying “By Hook or by Crook.” It’s claimed that the phrase is derived from attempts to take Waterford by Hook (on the east side of the harbour) or by Crook (a village on the west side of the harbour) by Oliver Cromwell.The area is renowned as the location of Hook Lighthouse. Hook Head is the oldest lighthouse in Ireland, and one of the oldest in Europe still operating. In the 5th century St Dubhan set up a fire beacon on the headland as a warning to mariners. After his death his monks kept the beacon going for another 6 centuries. Between 1170 and 1184 the Normans built the present lighthouse. It was built from local limestone and burned lime mixed with ox’s blood. Even today traces of the blood-lime mix can be seen coming through the paintwork. The walls are 9 to 13 feet thick and 80 feet above the ground.[1] In 1665 King Charles II granted letters patent to Sir Robert Reading to erect six lighthouses on the coast of Ireland, one of which was at Hook Head on the site of the older lighthouse, the others being at Howth, one to mark the land, the other to lead over the bar; the Old Head of Kinsale, Barry Oge’s castle (now Charlesfort, near Kinsale), and the Isle of Magee

Beach Haven Accommodations was our stop in Tramore. We enjoyed the seaside town for one night and had dinner at a local pub. Tramore is one of the most popular destinations for family holidays in the Southeast and indeed Ireland as a whole. A wonderful 3 mile beach with its 30 metre high sand dunes helps to make Tramore the popular destination that it is.

To quicken our journey just a bit we took the Passage East Ferry. The Ferry operates a continuous Car Ferry Service across the River Suir linking the villages of Ballyhack in Wexford and Passage East in Waterford, Ireland. The present car ferry service commenced in 1982 replacing a small boat ferry service that had been in place for hundreds of years. Passage East (a.k.a. As Pasáiste) Passage East is the name of a town — in between the large land masses bordering the mouth of the Suir River. East of Waterford, the Suir becomes the border between Waterford and Wexford Counties. What a gorgeous drive this was, too! We followed the river bank, passing through some gorgeous farmland and a number of dinky little boroughs with a token pub or restaurant. The Suir suddenly opens wide as its turns south toward the ocean, and this was our view. Passage East is another old fishing town that has reinvented itself a bit.

After our hike a few days earlier (400 km – up hill) we stopped at Mahon Falls (a.k.a. Eas na Machan) and were surprised by how pretty they were among the rocks. It turned out to be a two mile walk to the falls and I was very frustrated at the last minute to not be able to make the leap across the brook to get “up close and personal”. The bursitis in my hip made it too unstable for that one last leap so I used the zoom lens a lot.

Mahon Falls is a tall cascade on the Mahon River that empties from a mountain lake overlooking the southern coast. The cascade runs down the center of a high and wide valley, populated with many types of vegetation, jutting rocks, and herds of domestic sheep and goats. The Mahon Falls are deceivingly tall, and the valley deceivingly wide. Mahon Falls can only be approached by car, and accessed on foot. The route is well marked off the highway between Waterford and Dungarvan, and this route takes you through a series of picturesque open valleys and farms. This is where the ‘deception’ comes in, because the walk to the falls is far longer than it looks.

Dungarvan (a.k.a. Dún Garbhan) – Dungarvan is a handsome harbor town about a thirty to forty minute drive west of Waterford. Unlike Dunmore, Dungarvan has shed much of its old fisherman character and has become more touristic. The harborfront, now holds as many fancy sailboats as it once did fish trawlers. It also hosts several very nice and relatively new apartment houses, Dungarvan Harborhotels, and pubs. The downtown is small and pleasant, similarly refurbished. You’ll find several churches high on the hill and a park on a peninsula jutting out to sea. I had a nice dinner in one of the pubs, the seafood was superb.

Dunmore East has two faces to it — the Strand and the old harbor. The strand is a really nice wide beach surrounded by cliffs on both sides and a whole block of nice pubs and shops on the overhang. The strand draws plenty of people on a nice sunny day, but it doesn’t get nearly as overcrowded as beaches back in the states.

Meanwhile the harbor is still a true fishing harbor, complete with old-style metal trawleys and that wonderful permeating dead-fish smell. In amongst all of these locations are villages too numerous too mention, and scenery too gorgeous to forget. No pictures can do justice to the landscape and the life in this part of Ireland. But it was fun trying.

It’s been way too short a visit. I could have spent at least two weeks at every peninsula along the way. The land is gorgeous and the cliffs and oceans spectacular. Stay away from the major cities though … Too much like NYC, Paris, London, Tokyo and LA. For those of you from the San Diego area there was one road we traveled that reminded us of the road over to Palm Springs from Temecula … there was a switch back road (called bends here) between Dingle and Kenmar we traveled frequently. Kept reminding us of that switchbacks going down into Palm Springs after you got over the mountain. We’ve seen our share of lighthouses both old and new and lots of coastal areas.

One of our stays was in Glendalough. Glendalough (Gleann Dá Loch, “Valley of the Two Lakes”)(Tudor Lodge Laragh / Glendalough \ Co Wicklow / Ireland is a fascinating monastic settlement in a spectacular natural setting just an hour south of Dublin. The monastery was founded by St. Kevin, a hermit monk who died about 618 AD. The extensive ruins of Glendalough include several early churches, a graceful round tower, and various sites associated with the life of St. Kevin.

The area is ideal for walking at all levels, ranging from a short stroll around the ruins to demanding mountain hikes. Glendalough is “truly one of the most beautiful places in Ireland and a highlight of any trip to the island.”

The story of Glendalough begins with St. Kevin (Irish: Coemhghein), a descendent of one of the ruling families of Leinster. As a boy he studied under three holy men (Eoghan, Lochan and Eanna) and as a young man he went to live at Glendalough “in the hollow of a tree.” He returned later with a small group of followers. After a life of sleeping on stones, wearing animal skins, barely eating and (according to legend) making friends with birds and animals, Kevin died in about 618. Glendalough flourished for the next 600 years, with the deaths of abbots and various raids featuring heavily in the Irish Annals. By the 9th century, it rivaled Clonmacnoise as the leading monastic city of Ireland. In its heyday, the settlement included not only churches and monastic cells but also workshops, guesthouses, an infirmary, farm buildings and houses. Most of the buildings that survive today date from the 10th through 12th centuries.

The two lakes of Glendalough are known as the Lower Lake and Upper Lake. The main parking area, Visitors’ Centre, the Glendalough Hotel, and most of the monastic ruins are located near the Lower Lake on the east end of the site. The Upper Lake also has a parking area but no facilities. Excellent walking trails connect the lakes and all the ruins.

We had one night in Glendalough and headed for Newgrange above Dublin and back to our B&B in Dublin for our homeward bound flight on Tuesday June 1st. Mke has adjusted to driving and shifting on the “wrong side of the road” and so Judy stays “on the curb most of the time. A group at our B&B this morning were from Statesville, NC not far away from us with one daughter going to San Diego and another to Washington, DC … so many places we have all been.

On the road to Sally Gap, there are spectacular views of the surrounding blanket bog and the Wicklow Mountains. Sally Gap is one of two east-to-west passes across the Wicklow Mountains and the narrow road running through it passes above the dark waters of Lough Tay and Lough Dan. It also passes over the Luggula Estate, which covers most of the valley as far as Lough Dan and the area forms part of the famed walking trail, known as the Wicklow Way.

Lough Tay is fed by the Cloghoge River and then drains into Lough Dan, located to the south. The beach on the northern side is bright white sand. It was imported by the Guinness family who’s estate runs through part of the Lough Tay area.

The 26 km section from Hollywood to Laragh is known as the Wicklow Gap Road and it is one of only two routes crossing the Wicklow Mountains from east to west, the other being the road through the Sally Gap in North Wicklow. The road through the Wicklow Gap is both an important regional route and a very popular tourist route as it travels through some spectacular scenery. Blessington Lake. These manmade lakes cover 5000 acres of water and were made by the building of the dam and hydroelectric station. Drive along the lake drive or enjoy a whole host of activities.

Newgrange is the best known of the three great Irish passage tombs of the Bru Na Boinne complex. Bru Na Boinne is about 8km inland from Drogheda and is the name given to an area rich in archaeological remains, which include Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, situated within a bend in the River Boyne. In recognition of the international importance of these monuments and the many associated sites in the area, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has designated Bru Na Boinne a World Heritage Site.

Constructed during the Neolithic or New Stone Age, the passage tombs at Bru Na Boinne are about 5,000 years old. The people who built these monuments belonged to a thriving farming community who used simple tools of wood and stone. Nevertheless, they had within their society expertise in architecture, engineering, geology, art and astronomy. As the name implies, passage tombs consist of a passage leading into a chamber where the remains of the dead were placed. A large mound of stones or earth covers the passage and chamber, which in turn is retained at its base by large boulders, called kerbstones. The time and labour invested in the construction of the tombs implies a well-organised society with specialised groups responsible for different aspects of work.

The passage at Newgrange points to the south east and is just less than 19 metres long. It leads into a chamber with three recesses. A corbelled roof covers the chamber. To construct the roof, the builders overlapped layers of large rocks until the roof could be sealed with a capstone, 6 metres above the floor. After 5000 years the roof at Newgrange is still water-proof. The flattopped cairn or mound covering the chamber is almost 0.5 ha. in extent. It is roughly circular and is estimated to weigh 200,000 tonnes in total. It is made up of water-rolled stone from the terraces of the River Boyne. Excavations showed that white quartz stones, from quartz veins in the Wicklow Mountains and other areas and round granite boulders, from the Mourne and Carlingford areas, were used to build a revetment wall above the kerb along the front or south side of the mound. As is usual in Irish passage tombs, the Chamber recess on the right as one enters is the largest and most ornate. On its floor are two stone basins, one inside the other. The upper basin, worked with flint tools from granite, is a superb example of the skill of the Neolithic craft workers. The lower stone basin must have been positioned before the roof was closed because it would have been too large to bring inside once the chamber had been completed. The other two recesses have sandstone basins-treasure hunters broke the basin in the back recess at the end of the 18th century.

These basins held the remains of the dead although how many people were buried at Newgrange is unknown because the chamber was disturbed before archaeological excavation took place. However, the remains of at least five people were recovered during excavation. Most of the bones found had been cremated although small amounts were unburned. Grave goods of chalk and bone beads and pendants, as well as some polished stone balls were placed with the dead. Presumably these objects held a special significance in the burial ritual.

The art of the passage tomb builders has stimulated interest since the monuments first came to notice. Some of the art is
Corbcllcu ruui spectacular-wonderful combinations of spirals, lozenges, chevrons, triangles and arrangements of parallel lines and arcs. The designs were first lightly incised and then picked out with a flint or quartz point. Sometimes the area around a design was picked away to form a relief or else the entire stone was pick-dressed after the designs were completed. The entrance stone at Newgrange and Kerbstone 52 at the back of the monument are highly-accomplished pieces of sculpture, regarded as some of the finest achievements of European Neolithic Art.

The designs on many stones continue on to surfaces now hidden. Excavation revealed that many stones are carved on their undersides and on the sides turned inwards to the cairn. Whatever their significance to the artists, it was apparently not always important for the whole design to be visible. Perhaps the art was to be seen by the spirits of the dead or the deities. Perhaps the act of carving transformed the stone into something extraordinary and that once this had been done, it was no longer necessary for the art to be seen. Whatever the significance of the art to the builders of these monuments, we can no longer interpret it.

Winter Solstice – Of the many notable features at Newgrange, certainly the most famous is the small opening, the roof box, situated above the passage entrance and discovered in 1963 during archaeological excavations. At dawn on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year (December 21st), and for a number of days before and after, a shaft of sunlight enters the chamber through an opening in the roof-box. The rays first hit the edge of the broken basin stone at the back of the chamber floor and then, as the sun rises higher, the beam broadens and moves down the passage. The alignment is so accurate that there is very little chance that it was accidental. Modern research suggests that Newgrange is probably the oldest known deliberately aligned structure anywhere in the world.

Astronomical calculations have now proved that, 5000 years ago, the initial thin beam of light would have reached right to the back wall of the chamber. That it no longer does so is due to changes in the earth’s orbit relative to the sun over the intervening years.

To the Neolithic farmers the winter solstice marked the start of a new year, a sign of rebirth promising renewed life to crops. It may also have served as a powerful symbol of the inevitable victory of life over death, perhaps promising new life to the spirits of the dead.

Around 2000 BC, new people or new ideas reached Ireland. Called the Beaker period because of the distinctive pottery type associated with it, this time coincides with the rise of metalworking, even though stone tools continued to be used. When Beaker people were living beside Newgrange the monument had fallen into disuse and its entrance was probably blocked by the collapsed cairn. However, its attraction as a focal point for ritual had not waned. Within 10 metres of the passage tomb, Beaker people constructed a huge enclosure which served as a religious centre as important in its day as the passage tomb had been. Archaeological excavations revealed it to be a large double circle of wooden posts (c.100m. in diameter) within which portions of animals were cremated and buried in pits. Archaeologists refer to this monument as the Pit Circle.

Stone Circle
Newgrange is also surrounded by a circle of standing stones whose purpose is unclear although recent research indicates that it could have had an astronomical function. The Stone Circle was erected sometime after 2000 BC since excavations have shown that one of the stones of the circle lies directly on top of the Early Bronze Age Pit Circle. Originally, there may have been more stones, which have since been dislodged.

Newgrange showing the restored facade of white quartz and granite. This was the final phase of building at Newgrange.

From the Celts to the Present With the coming of the Celts about 500 years BC, Newgrange was transformed from a place where people gathered into a place where their deities lived. In Celtic mythology, Newgrange or Sid im Brug (the Fairy Mound of the Br i) as it was then known was the home of the greatest of the Celtic Gods, Dagda Mor and his son Oengus. The stories of these deities inspired such awe that Newgrange was revered even by visitors from Roman Britain as late as 400 AD. Their votive offerings of coins and jewellery were recovered from around the periphery of the entrance to the tomb. Even though Newgrange appeared as a large overgrown mound, it was recognised as a construction rather than a natural feature, but lay undisturbed most likely because of superstition, well into the Christian era.

After the foundation of the Cistercian Abbey at nearby Mellifont in 1142, the land around Newgrange was acquired by the order. It became a grange, an outlying farm, of the abbey thus giving the passage tomb and the surrounding townland its modern name.

The chamber at Newgrange has been accessible in modern times since 1699. Newgrange became a place of interest to various antiquarians and reports on it are well documented. However, it was not until 1962 that the major excavation of the site began under the direction of Professor M. J. O’Kelly. After the excavation, he directed the conservation and restoration of the monument. The interior passage was straightened and, to relieve the pressure of the weight of the cairn on it, it was enclosed within a second passage (now unseen). The original facade of white quartz and granite was rebuilt using stone found at the site, its height and angle deduced from how the original wall had collapsed.

After seeing Newgrange we headed for our final night at Broadmeadow Country House, Bullstown, Ashbourne. What a delightful and lovely place to spend our last night on the Emerald Isle.

June 1st we were on our way home and back in Charlotte about 7:30pm with my suitcase among the missing. I think it arrived home about 11:30pm. Ours was the last flight out of Atlanta before closing the airport down for thunderstorms.

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