A History Nerd's Irish Adventures to the Past

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Sunday I left Galway but not before having a fun academic, political, and religious conversation with Mary, the B&B owner. She was so fun to talk to and she understood so much about American, Irish, and worldly aspects and I enjoy having great productive and engaging conversations like that with people around the world. 

It was a 2.5 hour trip back to Dublin from Galway…all on 5 hours of sleep thanks to the spring time forward. I made it to Dublin, returned my rental car, found a taxi, and headed to my next AirBnB. It took a bit to find but I finally found the right place! I put my things down and took a nap. A girl has to have some energy to do all of this exploring. 

When I awoke, I headed to the National Museum of Archeology. It was only open until 5 pm so I wanted to hurry there before it closed. And it was worth the walk! This museum housed so many interesting artifacts from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age to the Golden Age of Irish history. The Bronze Age is my favorite because it’s the Celtic age of Ireland. 

My favorite artifacts were the ornate and well-crafted gold jewelry, the long boat, the amazing weaponry, and the mummies that had been well-preseved thanks to the bogs of Ireland. Although it was kind of creepy to see human remains with red hair and leathery skin it was still kind of cool to see what people looked like long ago and to read about these individuals, how they passed, and who they may have been. I would absolutely recommend this place to anyone visiting Ireland.

 

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It was so great to see this one dad there with his two daughters under the age of 5. He was showing them the Argdagh Chalice and explaining why it was so important to the Irish culture. He was teaching his daughters about their Irish history and getting them involved at such an early age–two thumbs up to that dad!

 

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I didn’t do much in the evening besides eat an amazing stew! It was made with this thick rich Guinness sauce and was to die for! I have to find a recipe! One of the best meals I’ve had so far. 

Today, the day before my birthday, I had scheduled a trip to the Hill of Tara and Newgrange. These sites are national treasures of Ireland. Newgrange, an astronomical burial site, is older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge. On the other hand, the Hill of Tara was where the Celtic kings of Ireland held court. Both sites are located in the Boyne Valley, just a bit north of Dublin. 

The tour was fantastic. I met a girl from Portugal who was also traveling alone and we became de facto buddies on the tour. Our tour guide, Mary Gibbons was so knowledgeable and began the tour as we left Dublin starting with the Stone Age and ending in the most recent century of Ireland’s history. She had so much knowledge and was very easy to listen to. I highly suggest you use her as your tour guide as do many many travel guides of Ireland. She’s the real deal! 

On a side note, she did say that Ireland is reducing visitors to Newgrange by 40,000 people this year so if you want to see this place before it gets shut down, go soon! Mary Gibbons seems to have some great connections there so just another reason to use her. 

We started at the Hill of Tara. It was a cold and rainy day but well worth it to see these old sites of Ireland. The Hill of Tara is comprised of a standing stone, the Mound of Hostages which is a burial mound with Celtic symbols etched into rock in the inside, and hills where structures once stood such as the hill known as Cormac’s House. It’s interesting to walk up and down these hills and imagine what once was and and try to listen, smell, and feel something from the past. 

  

  

  

 

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After the Hill of Tara, we went and ate lunch at a small farm near Newgrange. I had a lovely piece of Banoffee Pie which seems to be a popular dessert in Ireland. Delicous I must say. It’s made up of toffee, caramel, bananas, cream, and chocolate. Yum!

 

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Following lunch, we went to Newgrange and were taken inside the mound by a tour guide from the site. Unfortunately you can’t take pictures inside the mound but I was able to take pictures outside. The stone in front is an original stone and one would have to jump over it to enter the burial place when Newgrange was first built. Newgrange housed cremations of people and seems to have been a spiritual resting place as well as an astronomical one. During the winter solstice, the sun illuminates the dark chamber with a shaft of light thanks to the roof box at the top of the entrance, an astronomical feat of the time. 

  

  

As for the inside of the cairn (the hill stucture), you have to lean over and walk in a crouched manner through a small narrow passage. On either side of you are stones, some with ancient carvings, and others with 200 year old grafitti.

You arrive in a small chamber, quite small compared to how big the outside looks. There are three small chambers connecting to it and they each housed large stone bowls where human remains and artifacts once were. Only one of these chambers still has a bowl. In another chamber there are three touching spiral that are carved into a large piece of stone, the most significant and repeated symbol found at Newgrange. 

The chamber rises high above your head almost to a point thanks to stones laid in an overlapping form. The tour guide told us that each stone has grooves carved onto the top of them to keep rain from coming inside the chamber which I thought was a very smart engineering feat. It’s quite amazing to look up and wonder how the stones keep all those tons of rock and earth above them from falling on your head. 

It smelled like earth and magic inside Newgrange and it is a great experience if you are looking for a way to connect with the past or just want to experience some national treasures of Ireland. I’m a sucker for ancient history and so I was happy to touch and feel this place that could be closed off from the public in the years to come to prevent further damage to the site (condensation and even people breathing in the chamber is ruining the stones inside). So if you want to see a wonder of the world, one of the oldest places in the world of its size and magnitude, you must go to Ireland!

 

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The rest of my day was pretty relaxing although it got colder and windier in Dubiln as the night wore on. Apparently this brought out the scaries of the evening. I saw a guy who I thought was dead for a moment. He was laid out on the ground. Some young guys checked on him and he was thankfully alive. Drunk I believe. 

Then some crazy drunk lady came up to me at the LUAS tram station and basically wouldn’t let me get to the checkout to get a ticket because she started pushing buttons. That was the deciding factor in me walking back to my AirBnB. Still you needn’t worry my friends, alls well this evening and I’m in bed ready to bring in my birthday which is less than an hour away…Dublin time. šŸ˜€

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