Thursday, August 26, 2010

Three Ancient Irish Places

The Boyne Valley, full of Irish History.

The Hill of Tara is one of the most revered sites in Ireland.  It has always been considered a place of great power, both spiritual and political.  This is were the High Kings came to be crowned.  This is were the Druids held power, and the Head Druid still visits.  The Hill contains 2 rings, with chambers underneath, a mound, where you can see inside the chamber, and a smaller ring to one side.  All is now covered in grass.

Standing stone on the Hill of Tara.

On one edge of the site is a tree covered in offerings, bits of string, keychains, shoestrings, business cards, papers.  I decide to weave some pieces of grass into a wee braid and tie it to a branch. You never know....

The Hill of Tara. 
Finding Newgrange was a challenge.  They have built a gorgeous new visitor's center, while changing the way the access and tours are handled.  It works beautifully, except, they forgot to change the signage on the highway to reflect the change of only one way in.  Maybe that's in next year's budget?   We are greeted by a docent who explains that the tours are timed.  Did we want to visit both sites?  Are we on a strict schedule?  It's at times like these being retired and basically without schedule are priceless.  Tours timed and paid for, we visit the cafe.  The food is surprisingly good and we each have a glass of white wine with our lunch.
The restored mounds at Knouth.

Decorated curb stone at Knouth.

Entrance to the first chamber at Knouth.
Decorated curb stone at Knouth.

The sights of Knouth and Newgrange are accessed by two 24 passenger shuttle buses per tour. They arrive every 30 minutes, but each tour is allowed to stay for 1 hour. It means there are less than 100 people on each sight at any given time.  At Knouth, we have a tour guide who explains what we are looking at, then stays around if we have any questions.  At Newgrange, the guide explains what we are looking at, then takes us 24 at a time inside the tomb.  What a unique experience.  While explaining how the tomb was used, she asked it we would like to see what it looks like with the lights off;  pitch black.  Then instead of turning the lights back on, she shows what it looks like at the winter solstice when the sun lines up with the window above the door and gradually lights the entire chamber.  Stunning!
Main tomb at Newgrange, now restored. 

Entrance to the burial chamber at Newgrange with the light window over the door.
Decorated curb stone at Newgrange.

Bill at the entrance to Newgrange with the carved stone.

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