Hi everyone. I hope you are all keeping well. So this week we end our latest traveling around Ireland series with a trip to the ancient east of the country. Ireland’s Ancient East covers a wealth of historical sites and ancient monuments, including the iconic Newgrange Passage Tomb in Meath. We begin our journey in that very county which was once Ireland’s fifth province. Derived from the Gaelic “Mide” meaning middle, this province bordered the other 4 provinces of Ireland and was home to the seat of Ireland’s high kings at The Hill of Tara. So let’s begin there!
Traveling Around Ireland. The Ancient East
1. The Hill of Tara, County Meath
There’s something truly magical about reaching the summit of Tara. The views of the surrounding Meath countryside are simply stunning. Hard to believe that this has been a place of burial and ceremonial gathering for over 5000 years. The top of of the hill is marked by the royal enclosure known as the Fort of The Kings. Two earthworks, Cormac’s House and the Royal Seat are linked by a central standing stone. This is known as Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny). The story goes that when a true king held the stone, a piercing shriek could be heard in the four corners of Ireland. It was also near Tara that one of Ireland’s ancient treasures the Tara Brooch was discovered in 1850.
2. Knowth Passage Tomb, County Meath
We stay in County Meath for our next stop. Knowth passage tomb forms part of the World Heritage Site, Brú na Bóinne. Less famous than its sister site, Newgrange, it is certainly no less impressive. The Great Mound houses two passages and is surrounded by 18 smaller satellite mounds. The eastern passage is 40 meters long making it the longest megalithic passage in Western Europe. It also displays the largest European gallery of megalithic art.
3. Kilkenny Castle
Next up we head into the city of Kilkenny for a visit to its iconic castle. The infamous Strongbow was the first to build a castle on this site, way back in the 12th century. The first stone castle was completed in 1213 by William the Earl Marshall. Then came the Butler dynasty who took up residence for over 500 years! In 1967, Arthur Butler, the 6th Marquess of Ormonde sold it to the people of Kilkenny for the nominal fee of £50. The Irish state took control of the castle in 1969. It is now a major tourist attraction with beautiful surrounding parklands.
4. Brownshill Dolmen, County Carlow
We now head into neighboring County Carlow to see the very impressive Brownshill Dolmen. This megalithic portal tomb is situated in the midst of a peaceful meadow landscape just east of Carlow town. The capstone weighs a colossal 150 metric tonnes and is thought to be the heaviest in Europe. The estimated age of the tomb is said to be between 4900 and 5500 years old.
5. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly
So we end our tour of the ancient east with a trip to one of Ireland’s most well known and oft visited monastic sites. Beautifully situated on the banks of the River Shannon, it was founded in the 6th century by St. Ciaran. The site holds the ruins of numerous churches, a cathedral, two round towers and some of Ireland’s most impressive Celtic crosses.
As always, its been wonderful to have your company on the virtual road. I also want to say a big thank you for all your lovely comments on this latest travel series. Its always so great to hear about your journeys and adventures.
Take care of yourselves and each other,
Slán go fóill!