Today we had a pretty easy 120 mile drive back to Dublin from Belfast with a couple of stops along the way…including Ireland’s last World Heritage Site that we haven’t been to yet.
Our first stop was Saint Patricks Catholic Cathedral (the Catholic one) in Armagh still in Northern Ireland. The town is built on the former site of Ar Meagh which was the ancestral home of the kings and queens of Ulster. Supposedly Saint Patrick stood on the hill in town in 455 AD and said “Build a church here.” and they did…then tore it down centuries later and built a cathedral named after him. It’s the tallest cathedral in the entire country of Ireland and Northern Ireland and was constructed in stages from 1841 through the late 1890s. So…it isn’t that old but the church it replaced was really old.
Hmmm…only 11 apostles above the door…guess Judas didn’t make the cut.
The tabernacle in the right side transept.
Another beautiful organ.
One of the angel sculptures on the ceiling…you can see their location 3 photos back…they’re up on the ceiling immediately to the sides of the darkest brown portion of the roof structure.
And the top of the Anglican Saint Patricks Cathedral across town…taken from the top of the hill where we were standing…this is known as Meagh Hill after the original city.
From there it was off to Brú na Bóinne…which is better known as Newgrange and Knowth which are passage tombs. Newgrange which we visited is about 200 feet in diameter and 40 feet high sitting up on top of the hill. It was built with a single passage facing due east so that on the Winter Solstice the sun would rise and illuminate the cross shaped chamber at the center of the tomb. This tomb, nearby Knowth, and the 40 or so smaller satellite tombs around the area all date from about 3,300 to 2,900 BC…which makes them 500 years older than the Pyramids in Egypt and 1,000 years older than Stonehenge in England. The builders were clearly sun worshipers but nothing is really known about what the purpose of the structures was. Cremated human remains were found inside during archeological excavations…but whether they were solely tombs or also served other religious purposes is unknown. Nothing remains of the megalithic tomb builders societies except these mounds. The mounds were abandoned about 2,500 BC…whether this was due to changing religious beliefs, famine, warfare, migration or some other cause is again unknown. The builders just left. The tombs fell into disrepair and were overgrown with vegetation until they were rediscovered in the 1700s. They were left open for public access until the 1800’s at which time they came under the control of the government for preservation. Detailed archeological excavations were undertaken starting in the 1800s and continuing through the 1950s.
The River Boyne…which you have to cross on a foot bridge to catch the shuttle to Newgrange.
Newgrange complex looking north.
The entrance to the passage at Newgrange…the upper square opening is where the sunlight enters between 0858 and 0915 on Dec 21. There’s a lottery for people to come and actually stand inside the chamber to watch the sunlight come in…but they don’t guarantee the weather and it’s winter in Ireland so most years there’s overcast which means no sunbeams coming in. The stone with the spiral art dates from the earliest period of construction of the complex…again it’s older than both the Pyramids and Stonehenge. The passage is about 4 feet high and varies between 2 feet and less than 1 foot wide. The interior of the chamber is about 12 feet high and all of the stones are held together by gravity alone…no mortar was used in the construction…and it’s lasted over 5,000 years. Pretty good engineering for a society that generally survived by farming and who we would consider primitive. Inside the chamber are large basin shaped stones that were put into place before the structure was built and then it was built around them as they’re too large to fit through the passage. An outstanding engineering feat I think…having to have it all laid out so that when it was eventually finished some 300 years after construction started the portal and passage lined up perfectly with the solstice sunrise.
One of the smaller satellite tombs about 50 yards away from the main complex…this one is about 40 feet across.
This is some sort of inscription stone covered with writing that looks a lot like hash marks…again nobody has any real clue what it means.
Another shot of the complex looking basically west…I left a few people in the picture on the left hand side so you can see the scale of the thing. It’s huge.
From there we journeyed to the Hill of Tara…which has some spiral shaped earthen structures. At least one of them is a tomb and the two largest ones are maybe 50 yards in diameter. Unfortunately…by this time it was raining on and off so we didn’t get any really decent photos. Here’s what we got though. You can’t see much of the spiral structure in the ground level photos so I’m including one that Neil cribbed from the Smithsonian site so you can see what it is supposed to look like.
With the rain and lack of an airborne camera…this one was actually sort of underwhelming though.
The tomb in the small mound on the left of the airborne shot.
An overhead view…courtesy of the Smithsonian site. We climbed up to the top of the larger spiral and the view didn’t get any better…in fact it started raining harder so we zipped up our rain gear and headed back for the car.
We hopped back in the car and made it to our hotel in Dublin. We’re at the Pembroke Townhouse B&B which is more of a guest house/small hotel than a B&B as it’s got probably 40 rooms in an old Victorian brownstone house. We got our stuff repacked for the plane flight tomorrow and then went down the street to Searson’s Pub for some dinner and brews…then came home and rested.
So that pretty much ends our vacation to Ireland. Off to the Dublin airport in the morning and we’ll pass through Dulles in DC before arriving back in Kansas City in early evening. We’ll overnight near the airport then drive on to check on the status of our house upgrades and repairs Monday morning.