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Dowth, Knowth & Newgrange

Ireland 2008

View Ireland on spec (2008) on Stefmuts's travel map.

large_1297706_14348108455769.jpgToday we start of with taking some pictures in Carlington, Abbey, tower , city gate, the Mint and near the harbour King Johns Castle. Then off to Monasterboice, a 5th century settlement where there are three high crosses and a round tower, Muiredach’s Cross should be specially beautiful. The route was more difficult, the route planner gave destination reached in the middle of the highway (?) but we did find the site. The round tower is roof-less and there are also ruins of two churches. Near the tower is the 6,5m high West high cross and in the centre of the cemetery the beautiful decorated Muiredach’s Cross, North high cross is tucked away in the back and less decorated.

Then off to Newgrange [Newgrange-travel-guide-1309872], another ‘must see’ on my list.large_1297706_14348113229302.jpgMonasterboice, West high crossIt’s Europe’s most famous megalithic Passage Tomb dated around 3200BC which makes it older than Stonehenge. On our way to Newgrange we see the Dowth tomb, my book says not accessible to visitors so we don’t stop there, doesn’t seem much to see anyway. Dowth was unprofessional excavated in 1847, which left a crater in the centre of the mound, we later learn that the site itself can be visited and only the passage chambers are not open for the public. At the Newgrange visitors centre there are also tours to Knowth, one of the other important sites besides Newgrange. We decide to take the Knowth tour and a good choise it was! A bus took us to the site where we were greeted by a guide. The guide had a whole lot of story to tell in too short a time, about how the site over the years has been occupied by the builders, the early Christians and the Normans who even had their settlement on the mound.large_1297706_14348113868488.jpg The funeral ritual according to the experts: only the bones were after the cremation interred in the tomb. The tomb itself we were not allowed in, but we could go inside the corridor a bit, and we could take some pictures there. The site consists of a large double tomb hall and several smaller passage graves around it. The large tomb has ornate stones all around and the finest specimens are placed at both entrances. These stones are 1/3 of all decorated stones found in Europe of this age, so a really special site. Unfortunately, after the tour there was not much time to roam around on our own.

To Newgrange again by bus. Here the ornate entrance of the passage tomb has been restored as the specialists think and calculated it must have once looked like. White quartz stone with rounded granite boulders.large_1297706_1434811371447.jpg At the entrance is a stone carved with a three spiral shape that is adopted by the archaeological service as its logo. You can visit inside the tomb, but no photos or video, so I put my camera away (I know myself)

Through the gate with its skylight through the narrow corridor to the burial chamber, here are three richly decorated niches, in the eastern niche is a stone basin and the ceiling is decorated with spiral and zigzag shapes. In the days around December 21 (winter solstice) the sun shines in attendance about 17 minutes through the skylight on the northern wall of the recess. This was discovered in 1967, there were already stories about the midsummer solstice as at Stonehenge so they gathered around on June 21, but nothing happened. Then someone came up with the idea to come back on December 21.large_1297706_14348125139572.jpg

In the western niche again the three spiral shape, just like at the entrance and on the outside at the rear. To get an idea of what exactly happens at sunrise around December 21 they turned off the lights and when everyone is a little used to the dark sunrise is simulated by shining a light through the skylight. The real event must be a very special thing to experience, which is however only for a small select group of people. Each year there is a lottery held among people who want to experience it.

On the way out we can see the ornate stonework in the walls, upon entering your eyes are a little less habituated to the dim light and you don't see them. Back outside my camera clicked just in front of the entrance ... I just can't help myself!


Posted by Stefmuts 04:23 Archived in Ireland Tagged landscapes castle megalithic high_cross Comments (0)

Nothern Ireland in one day

Ireland 2008

View Ireland on spec (2008) on Stefmuts's travel map.

large_1297706_1434574371948.jpgToday we make the crossing to Northern Ireland, starting with Derry. Derry is a walled city and actually that’s it, the wall and it’s gates are nice but not much else to see so we continue on to the Causeway coastal route. In Downhill water falling from the mountain and you can see the Mussenden Temple on the rock, and we stopped at Downhill castle (not more than a ruin) and the walled garden. At the village of Portrush [Portrush-travel-guide-1258225] there are the ‘white rocks’, cliffs that are not spectacularly high, but have a distinctive white color.

A little further on Dunluce castle, which is built so close to the edge of the cliff that pieces of it already disappeared into the sea below, and even now with the restoration of the castle sometimes bits disappear.large_1297706_1434574409477.jpg In 1639 Duchess Catherine Manners got the shock of her life when a part of the kitchen collapsed and disappeared with staff and all in the waves, she then left Dunluce and refused to ever return, ultimately on the mainland a new castle was built for her.

Then off to Giant’s Causeway, parking the car at the visitor center and then taking the shuttle bus down. This was the main thing I wanted to see in Northern Ireland.The Causeway is composed of basalt columns that run into the sea, creating a sort of alien landscape. Legends tell of a giant named Finn MacCool that would have built the causeway as a bridge to the Scottish island of Staffa (there is a similar basalt landscape) to visit his beloved. In the cliff walls you can also see the basalt columns, including the so-called organ.large_1297706_14345744196326.jpg

We walked the path along the coast until the point the path was closed, you could see why it was closed, a bit further on the path was gone completely. A sign was placed to explain why the path was closed (!) and a map showing low hazard, green(ish), moderate hazard, yellow, high hazard , orange and very high hazard, red. The sign was placed on a spot coloured orange on the map (!!!) We walked back and spent some time on the rocks leading into the sea. Since there was more in the area we wanted to see we took the bus back up instead of walking the part.

Next on the list: Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, not for people with vertigo! It wobbles and squeaks. The island it leads to is only for a small part accessible so after taking a few pictures it’s back to the car.

We actually planned two days in Northern Ireland but we already been to our must sees so we decide to cross the border again and find a B&B in the Euro part. We found a nice one in Carlingford. We had dinner in the local pub and had a beer after. A really drunk guy was talking to me (hey blondie) but I couldn’t understand a thing he was saying. His mate was laughing his head off though. But I think he couldn’t understand the gibberish either.


Posted by Stefmuts 04:20 Archived in Northern Ireland Tagged landscapes castle natural_wonder giants_causeway Comments (0)

Killybegs to Buncrana

Ireland 2008

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large_1297706_14345728077761.jpgToday again a beautiful and sunny day. In the port of Killybegs, we were pointed to the presence of some seals, they did not come real close but you could see their heads sticking out of the water. Today on the program Slieve League, with 598 meters Europe's largest cliff. This is really spectacular. You can walk all the way along the edge of the cliff, we didn't follow the whole trail though. On our way back down we started a conversation with a photographer who was waiting for just the right lightfall, he wanted to know if the view was getting better further up, we said not better, just different. He would wait a bit for the perfect shot and then go down for a really bad cup of coffee. He stated the Irish can't cook and can't make a decent cup of coffee (nb. he's an Irishman himself) I don't think the Irish can't cook but on the coffee part I think he's right.large_1297706_14345728317621.jpg

We drive to Dungloe and through the Derryveagh Mountains. Nice view on Errigal, highest mountain of Derryveagh. It looks like there's snow on the top but that only the light color rocks.

Then Letterkenny and on to the Inishowen peninsula. We visit Grianán Ailigh. The first building in this place dates back to 5th century BC and the current form is the result of the restorations that have taken place around 1870. Through narrow stairs on the wall you can climb the terraces where you have a beautiful view of the surroundings.large_1297706_14345728544630.jpg

Then we drive to Carndonagh, there should be a beautiful 7th century high cross there. We start our search at the cemetery, up till now all high crosses were at the cemetery, not this one though! We asked a local about it and he said follow me I will show you where it’s at. We walked up to the street, got in his car (!), drove a bit (not too far) and there it was, just by the side of the road. The man told us it used to be on the opposite side of the road but was moved with road works. He offered to wait to bring us back to the cemetery but we thought it would be fine to walk back, it’s not that far, so we thanked him and he left. The high cross is really beautiful and obviously very old. It’s the first one with its own roof to protect it for the effects of the weather.

Then a walk back to where we parked our car and on our way to our next B&B in Buncrana. Navigating is a bit more difficult because the lead language in Donegal [Donegal-travel-guide-936171] county is Gaelic and though most signs are both in English and Gaelic some are just in Gaelic. So is Letterkenny in Gaelic Leitir ceanainn and the city Centre is an lár. but we managed to get to the right place


Posted by Stefmuts 04:18 Archived in Ireland Tagged landscapes cliffs high_cross Comments (0)

Deflecting to Carrowkeel passage tomb cemetery

Ireland 2008

View Ireland on spec (2008) on Stefmuts's travel map.

large_1297706_14345715699880.jpgIn Roscommon there is a castle ruin you can visit, the outside walls are still there but inside not so much. No entrance fee like most places here in Ireland. Back home they would have put a big fence around it and a ticket stand, here you just have to close the gate (because of the sheep) In Boyle we visited another Abbey, here restoration in process. You get a ticket at the entrance, but again no entrance fee, I guess they just want to know how many visitors they get a day. On billboards you can read all about the history and how the restoration works, explaining the numbers on the bricks (It's just a big jigsaw puzzle)

At Lough Arrow we drove into the mountains, a roadside sign made us curious 'megalithic cemetery'. It was just a small sign and we didn't know what to expect since I hadn't read about it in my guide (turns out there is a small section on it hidden away in lots of text about the area) The road got smaller and smaller and then a gate.large_1297706_1434571615908.jpgBoyle Abbey, The big puzzleA sign on the gate asking to close it behind you (sheep again) told us we could still continue our drive, though I got more and more the idea we were driving on private property but there were no signs telling us so. A bit further up the road there was a small parking area and a sign saying busses could not continue after this point. We were not a bus so we went on. The road was more like a path here but the tire marks in the dirt told us we still were on the right way. On the end of the path again a even smaller parking area and from there we went on foot.

We followed the path up hill to what looks like a light grey pile of stones but it's not, it's the first of a number of passage graves (14 says Wikipedia), three of them are in reasonable state. The first one from the path is the most beautiful of the three. Above the entrance is a light opening and in front of the entrance a keystone, one could maneuver around it and enter the tomb but I only stuck my hand with my camera inside.large_1297706_14345716595992.jpg It's still a grave so it didn't feel alright with me to enter, though a box of matches was placed in a crack near the entrance. The tomb is placed in a way the sun shines inside on the summer Solstice (21th june), I looked it up on the internet. The second and third tomb don't have the 'skylight' above the entrance and at fourth tomb there isn't an entrance to be found, caved in perhaps? Here on top of the hill you can see more tombs shattered around the area but we think we have seen the best preserved ones so we leave it there.

We went on to Drumcliff by Sligo [Sligo-travel-guide-1311086], visited the cemetery where W.B.Yeats is buried. The cemerery also has a beautiful high cross and a nice view on the mountain Ben Bulben. Then Donegal, again to late to visit the castle. We found a nice B&B near Killybegs


Posted by Stefmuts 03:36 Archived in Ireland Tagged landscapes mountains nature tomb megalithic Comments (0)

Skipping the cliffs of Moher & visiting the Burren

Ireland 2008

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large_1297706_14339646699663.jpgNext morning at breakfast we met an Italian couple also staying in the B&B, their route is opposite ours so we could exchange the must sees ahead. First we went back to Quin [Quin-travel-guide-938508] to take a picture of the abby right across the streed from the pub where we had dinner last night. Then its off to the famous Cliffs of Moher. At Lahinch we started following the coastal route again. At the Cliffs of Moher we found out that parking only already cost €8,- I really thought that was crazy much! So we skipped those famous cliffs. A bit further up the route, at Doolin we could see the cliffs in the distance and I must say I don\'t think they are specially more beautiful than the ones at Portmagee [Portmagee-travel-guide-938466] although those are not 8 km long. At Doolin we could take a boat trip to the cliffs but it was rough seas, we just got off a boat (Skellig islands tour) and we kind of had it with those cliffs. Off to the next site!

Well actually we are already at the next site, the Burren, it means rocky place, and so it is.large_1297706_14339646703953.jpgAnd across the pub, the abbeyThe limestone pavement as they call it looks really weird but beautiful. It is such a special landscape that there actually was a film crew filming. We visited Aillwee cave, how that was discovered is a nice story: In 1940 a farmer saw his dog disappear in a hole, he went home, got some candles and went in after the dog. The animal was alright sitting on a ledge in a cave with stalagmites and stalactites. the farmer took the dog and went home not telling about the cave for 33 years. In 1973 he finally told about what happened and the cave and today it is open for visits. The cave was formed by an underground river carving a egg shaped corridor, after the river dried up the sides caved in which gives it the special shape it has today. Entrance fee was €15,- but besides the cave you can also visit the bird park with lots of birds of preyand a cheese making farm.

At Poulnabrone we visited the famous dolmen, it is said to be a prehistoric gravesite (I was told the dolmens in the Netherlands weren\'t graves so i\'m not sure this one is) We had to wait for a whole bus Dutch seniors to leave but then we had the dolmen all to ourselves.

Next B&B in Clarebridge is right next to the pub, great!


Posted by Stefmuts 03:34 Archived in Ireland Tagged landscapes cliffs nature coastline Comments (0)

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