This is slightly different to my normal posts as it only involves a teeny bit of walking. BUT if you ever find yourself in the boarder area between Northern Ireland and Ireland, I have some cool historical sites to share with you. You’ll need a car, or at least a bike and bundles of energy!
At the start of September Marc and I zoomed back to Europe, to Ireland for an amaaaaazing wedding. One of Marc’s little brothers, Alex, married his soul mate, Louise, in a celebration that spanned two countries, and included both a cathedral and a castle. It was epic! But as Marc and I have both only just stared our jobs in Canada, we didn’t feel like we could take a long holiday. So we rushed back for a couple of days before the wedding, and then used a Canadian bank holiday (and a weekend) to give us 5 days away.
My parents wanted to spend time with us while we were in Europe, so they kindly came over to Dublin to meet us. They then drove us around, so we didn’t even have to hire a car! Parents are the best! Although my mum likes seeing Marc and I, she also didn’t want to waste the opportunity to visit some ancient Irish historical sites. So Marc and I tagged along to some tombs, churches and standing stones as we drove around Northern Ireland and Ireland.
We began at Dowth, in County Meath where there is a megalithic mound which mum said is 600 years older than the pyramids in Egypt, and more than 1000 years older than Stonehenge! My photos flatten it a little, but it was actually quite high up. We were treated to some pretty views of the Irish countryside.
You can peek inside to some of the passageways, but there are gates so you can’t actually climb in and explore. There is also some ancient rock art showing wheels on some of the giant slabs of rock around the outside of the mound. Mum mentioned that the carvings normally face inwards, so you can’t actually see them on most neolithic mounds.
Next, mum showed us what Dowth would have looked like originally by driving past a similar neolithic mound that has been restored at New Grange. If you want to visit this one, you have to go to the visitor center, and then take a bus for a guided tour around the site. This is a similar age to the mound at Dowth – from around 3200 BC.
It looks pretty impressive from the back. Although it sort of looks like those hills from the tellytubbies! When we drove around to the front of the monument you can see the walls that create the mound. There is some amazing rock art on display as well, but we couldn’t get close enough for me to take photos.
This tomb is well looked after. While we were there there was even a remote-controlled lawn mower cutting the crass on the top of the tomb!
Next we popped in to see the ruins of Mellifont abbey in County Louth. This was the first Cistercian abbey to be built in Ireland in 1142. The Abbey stopped being used in the 16th century, so it is looking a little worse for wear these days.
It looked like it would be an interesting place to explore. Marc and I were getting pretty sleepy with jet-lag by this point. Marc was so knackered that he didn’t even get of the car for this one!
This is the ruins of an early Christian settlement. Monasterboice was set up in the 5th century and was used until Mellifont abbey (above) was was established six hundred years later. The compound has a couple of churches, a really old, round tower, and two of the very best high crosses in Ireland, according to my mum.
There was a really friendly lady who gave mum information about the stories behind each of the carvings. To be honest, I was a little out of it by the time we reached Monasterboice; So I didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to the meaning behind all the gorgeous carvings on the high crosses. BUT I did notice that there were kitties carved all around the bottom of one of the posts. You can easily see their whiskers and curly tails. I approve of 10th Century Christians that are cat-fans.
After this we had some lunch. And then both Marc and I collapsed for a sleep in the car, while my parents found the way to our next adventure! We woke up just as dad parked the car by a field…
We’d moved over the boarder into County Armagh, and gone back in time again. This granite pillar is thought to be the earliest christian monument in Ireland. It is dated at around 700 AD(ish). Mum said that the standing stone was pre-christian and had been reused. There are 11 crosses engraved onto the stone. Some plain ones on one side, and curly, decorated crosses on the back.
Killnasaggart wasn’t very easy to find! It has a sign post, but it is hidden by a bush! Mum and dad at explored on google street view before they left home, but we still had to ask two locals for help. Then we had to wander through several fields to find it!
So, that was our historical tour on the way to the wedding! On the morning after the wedding, we stopped off at one more amazing site on our drive back to Dublin. I’ll include that too!
This amazing portal tomb is located on the edge of a golf course(!) on the grounds of Ballymascanlon House Hotel. It is a bit of a wander (especially in the rain)! First you walk past a wedge shaped grave, then you can see the amaaaazing portal tomb. There is a huuuge capstone balanced on top of two other massive stones. I couldn’t imagine how people ever managed to drag the stone up! Mum said originally the whole thing would have been covered by a mound. They must have lugged it up the mound!
Apparently if a visitor lands three stones atop the dolmen, they will be granted a wish, or will be married within the year! I didn’t know about the wishes. It is lucky that I didn’t know, as I would probably have spent a while attempting to add three more pebbles in the rain!
So, there are some historical larks in County Armagh, County Meath and County Louth. I wouldn’t have known about any of these if it wasn’t for mum; So I thought I should share her wealth of knowledge. I should give a shout out to dad as well, as he was the chauffeur for all of these adventures.