I think Mom, Dad and I are all in agreement that we are just about ready to go home. After walking around Dublin most of the day yesterday, and everything else we’ve done in the past two weeks, we are worn out. Dad hasn’t been feeling well for about four days, and yesterday I started now feeling well either.
However, we were not about to let being tired or sick keep us from making the most of our last few days in this amazing country. Today, we had a full day. We decided to head back to Newgrange (again, very early in the morning so we could be there when the doors opened so we could make sure we got tickets). We ended up doing a dual tour, seeing Newgrange first and then going to the nearby, lesser known but large tomb of Knowth. If we were going to be there and paying a fee, we might as well do both. And that ended up being an excellent decision.
Newgrange is one of the most well known Neolithic structures in the world. This site is a 5,200 year old passage tomb located in the Boyne Valley in whats known as Ireland’s Ancient East. The main passage and cross-shaped chamber are aligned with the rising sun at the Winter Solstice, where full sunlight will shine inside for only 6 days in December. This structure is remarkable for a multitude of reasons, such as how it was built by Stone Age farmers, and with materials from as far as 80 kilometers away from the site. Many of the the 97 kerbstones weigh a few tons each. Each of the three chambers house a basin stone. These stone were where the ancient people placed the cremated remains. It is still unknown just who these persons were, or what ceremonies took place inside the tomb, but it was very clear that the people of the time had an advanced sense of engineering, architecture, religion, and rituals. We can only begin to ponder what life must have been like for the inhabitants of this region all those years ago.
Knowth is a different yet similar structure. It is much lager, and also is varied by having two entrances. These two passages line up with the east and the west, giving the believe that the passages were tied with the other season. These passages are unfortunately blocked off to the public, but we were able to go in far enough to glance down the eastern passage way. Knowth is also different because hundreds of years after being abandoned, people returned to Knowth and lived on top of the structure, building houses, and carving out the surrounding landscape to create what are known as “ring forts” or small communities and their live stock, all living in a round walled area, protected from outside invaders. It went against Irish traditions of the time to live on or around a tomb such as this, but for some reason, people were drawn to the area for hundreds of years and made it their home.
After leaving Newgrange and Knowth, we attempted to head for Trim Castle. This escapade was of Dad’s doing, as he really wanted to see this ruin. Apparently, a majority of the film Braveheart was filmed at this location, not that you would recognize it because they built a lot of set around the current structure, and of course had to take it all with them when filming was over. It took us a while to find Trim since the roadways were poorly marked coming from Newgrange, but it was an interesting stop once we made it. It also boasts being one of the largest castles in Ireland, so says my father (I am not sure how true that is). After walking around the grounds and reading all the plaques, I took time to sit on one of the low walls and stare out at the castle, trying to bring to life in my mind what it would have looked like nearly one thousands years ago when it was being built, and as it grew and changed over the following generations. If only time machines existed. I do not think I would live in another time extensively, but it would be amazing to be able to visit for a day or two, and see what life was like in Ireland over the last thousand or so years.