Day one: Newgrange and Tara
First up, it’s Europe’s most impressive passage tomb: Newgrange. Built around 3,000BC (making it older than the Great Pyramid of Giza and Stonehenge), Newgrange, when teamed with its more diminutive neighbours Knowth and Dowth, makes up a very ancient UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In an act of epic ancient engineering, the tomb was built so that every year on the Winter Solstice, the rising sun would illuminate the central passage.
The Hill of Tara
Introducing the epicentre of royal life in Ireland. Great mounds, tombs and the remains of several structures dot the hill and it’s said on a clear day you can see half the counties of Ireland from. Tara’s tales didn’t come to an end with Ireland’s royalty. In 1899, a group of British-Israelites were convinced the Arc of the Covenant lay buried here. They may not have found it, but it sure adds atmosphere to the place.
Atop the hill stands what looks like it could be a prop from The Lord of the Rings. It’s not. It’s the Lia Fail (Stone of Destiny). Legend states that when the rightful king touches the stone it gives a great roar. Try your luck, give it a pat and brace yourself.
Day two: The Hill of Slane and Trim Castle
Hill of Slane
It was here on the Hill of Slane that St Patrick lit his legendary Pascal fire in defiance at Ireland’s pagan rituals. The pagans, who were busy doing something similar at Tara, believed that if Patrick’s fire was allowed to burn, it would envelop Ireland, just like his Christian beliefs. The rest is history. Today, monastic ruins add delicate decoration to the grassy hill making it the perfect place for a picnic in scenic surrounds. Green-fingered folks take note: the majestic gardens at Barmeath Castle are only a 30-minute drive away.
Mel Gibson loved Trim Castle so much that he shot a chunk of his Oscar-winning movie Braveheart there. This was the embodiment of English rule and remains Ireland’s largest Anglo-Norman castle. Wander around the castle you picture the battles and that played out within. And if you spot Mel, tell him we said hello.
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Day three: Loughcrew and the Battle of the Boyne
The Loughcrew Cairns are three impressive burial tombs dating from around 3,300BC. In Gaelic (native Irish language) their name means Mountain of the Witch. Legend has it a witch created them by dropping rocks from the sky. On the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox the backstone of the central cairn become illuminated by the rising sun. Magic.
Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre
Our last stop is the site where two English kings waged a bloody war. It became known as the Battle of the Boyne. Here on the south bank of the River Boyne, the largest number of troops ever deployed on Irish soil stood ready to fight. Ultimately, William of Orange was victorious over King James II. The Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre located on the battlefield itself, reveals all the gritty details via audio-visual displays.
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