We started out bright and early this morning, catching the 7:40 DART (barely) out of Sandymount to get to Dublin for our tour. We were a smaller group than usual, just being Bill, Karen, Anders, Ashley, Kelsey, Rob, and Logan. Everyone else was either out of the country (Matt and Mo went to Amsterdam for the weekend), or with family (Libby, Danielle, and Pat’s parents are all here right now). Our tour bus was picking us up at the top of O’Connell Street at 8:30, so we had plenty of time to stop for breakfast and get caffeinated.
We got on our bus and traveled the 45 minutes northwest to the most historic area in Ireland. Our first stop was the Newgrange Passage Tomb, which at 5,000 years old predates the Pyramids of Giza by 1,000 years, and Stonehenge by 500. It was discovered in 1699 and is the only known mound tomb in the world still intact. It is believed that it had large religious significance as well as being a tomb, due to its use as a sort of solstice calendar; during the winter solstice, the sun rises directly into the passage, illuminating the entire tomb for a window of 17 minutes.
The outside of the mound is decorated with white quartz and granite taken from the Wicklow mountains (70 miles away), and huge decorated sandstone curbstones including the famously decorated entrance stone adorned with the triple Celtic spiral.
After Newgrange we drove past the River Boyne, the site of the great Battle of the Boyne of 1690 during the Williamite War of Ireland. The Catholic King of England James II faced his Protestant son-in-law William of Orange, who’s well-trained and better equipped soldiers easily beat the Irish Catholic volunteers fighting for the king. James II spent the rest of his life in exile in France, while William was crowned King William III and implemented Protestant supremacy in Ireland.
Our next stop was the Hill of Tara and the Village of Slane. Tara was the political and spiritual capital of Ireland dating back to the earliest Celtic influence, up until 1169 when the Earl of Pembroke invaded the island. It was the symbolic seat of the High King of Ireland and was a gathering place for the entire community.
Nearby Slane is considered the birthplace of Irish Christianity, as it is where St. Patrick lit the Paschal fire in 433. The High King Laoghaire had forbidden any fires to be lit in view of Tara at this time due to a pagan festival taking place, but Patrick lit the fire for the Easter season anyway. It’s said that Laoghaire was angry, but also impressed with the priest’s defiance, and allowed him to continue his missionary work. Laoghaire himself was eventually baptized by Patrick, and is thought to be buried at Tara.
By some dumb luck, we also found St. Patrick’s Well a little ways from the Hill of Tara. This completed our tour, and we returned to Dublin where Logan and I walked up and down Grafton Street and around St. Stephen’s Green for awhile before meeting up with Lu, Lydeah, and Tom at Molly Malone. They went to the National Library to check out the Yeats exhibit, and I met up with them a little later in Temple Bar. While I was waiting, I was asked directions to various different restaurants and bars in the district, which made me glad I had given a tour of the area and knew where almost everything was. More interestingly, I also heard a folk band do a cover of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance and Train’s Hey Soul Sister.
Tomorrow Logan’s heading to Cork with Lu and Lydeah, and I’m looking forward to plenty of homework. Cheers.