October 17, 2018
From Athlone to Dublin with a stop at Newgrange Monument
Our drive today from Athlone to Newgrange Monument to the Airport was a little over 200 kilometers by the map, but I found a way to make it a little longer, unlike this post, which I intend to make pretty short.
Newgrange Monument is also known as Brú na Bóinne (Bend of the Boyne) is the location of a collection of megalithic monuments including several “passage tombs.” It is a UNESCO Heritage site and was well worth finding and visiting. The “finding” part was more troublesome than it should have been because the GPS delivered us to an empty lot instead of the visitor center. We knew we were close but the signage was sparse and we missed a key indicator, adding about 20 minutes to the journey.
The visitor centre was created and run by the Office of Public Works (OPW) as was the site we visited yesterday. Here again they have created a well- organized and run exhibit facility that must, during the summer at least, be overrun with tour buses and visitors. We saw a good introductory film and toured the exhibits before walking down a hill and across a bridge over the River Boyne to catch a bus to the Newgrange Monument.
This megalithic site, which was created around 3,200 BCE (before the Pyramids and Stonehenge) doesn’t have “ruins” in the same way that Clonmacnoise or Carran Church does. Instead, what you first see is a hill, and on top of the hill is a grass-covered mound. But this mound covers an acre and is constructed of stone and earth. The circumference of the mound has 97 large “kerbstones” which are 3 to 4 feet high and about 6 feet long. Many of them are decorated with symbols about which we know nothing.
The face of the the monument comprises quartz and river-smoothed stones. On the southeast side of the mound is a passageway that leads about 60 feet into the structure. It is laid out such that around the winter solstice, the sunlight is directed into the passageway through a clever “window” above the entrance and reaches a circular chamber and lights the passageway. Above the circular chamber is a corbelled roof (a way to creat an arch over an empty space) and in three small side chambers are more decorations.
The passageway is narrow and low and some people might get a feeling of claustrophobia in the chamber, especially if there are 20 other people in there at the same time. Once we got in–with a guide, of course–there is an explanation and then the lights are turned off before the solstice lighting is simulated. It was pretty neat to see the dark passageway light up in a golden color and to see the light creep along the floor.
Then, out you go and in comes the next group. This is perhaps the least pretentious and least commercialized site we have ever been to and we enjoyed our visit.
It was time to return our car to the airport and spend the night at a nearby hotel. The theory was sound, but my execution left a little bit to be desired. The GPS accurately guided us back to Dublin and the exits for the airport. However, at one point the GPS said “take the fourth exit” and I took the third. Next thing you know, we were headed into Dublin and it took us a while to get re-oriented and back to the airport. Hence the extra distance today. Avis was happy to get their car back and I was happy, by now, to give it back to them. The attendant and I agreed that there was really no way to know who was responsible for the scratches on car, so I didn’t have to negotiate an insurance claim.
We are now tucked in for the night. We leave for Boston tomorrow morning. Well spend the night there before flying to Albuquerque on Friday.
Here is a nice short write-up of the site: Newgrange Stone Age Passage Tomb
There is no track for today, but here is a map of the site. If you zoom in, you can see the mound.