Day 3: Newgrange and Trim to Kilkenny

Trip Start Aug 28, 2005
Trip End Sep 05, 2005

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Where I stayed

Flag of Ireland  , County Meath,
Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Day 3 we got up very early to have another Full Irish Breakfast. The dining room in Tigh Catháin was adorable. Marie had very fancy china set out with orange juice in wine goblets and cute little containers of home-made jam. This place didn’t scrimp on a full breakfast either. The meal started with toast and jam, coffee or tea, then came the eggs, rashers, Irish bacon, tomato-half, and the infamous black and white pudding! Which we thought was some type of overcooked sausage patty and ate and didn’t know the difference!

After breakfast we went upstairs to pack again we had to rearrange all the luggage in the car because Lauren and I were almost sitting on some of our things and Michelle couldn’t see out of the back window. We ended up taking part of the hatch-back off.

Next we went into the center of Trim. We stopped in An Oifig Fáilte to pick up some maps and pamphlets. I bought the Ordinance Survey of Ireland on my friend Lynn’s suggestion. Michelle bought the new Foo Fighter’s cd because our car gets shitty radio reception.

One of my friends from Ireland gave me this site, the route planner its sort of like Mapquest for Ireland. We used the site to map our way to the Brú na Bóinne Center. The road to the Brú na Bóinne said it was going to take about 25 min. It took us about 45 min and we got turned around several times even with the map and directions. Things are not well sign posted in Ireland. At the very least we got to see some extra beautiful Irish countryside.

Alot of Ireland is pretty farmland, in a way it reminds me of rural areas of Pennsylvania. I can see why lots of Irish immigrants settled in PA, it must have reminded them of Ireland. The roads are windy and narrow and not well marked, sort of like Schuylkill County!

We finally got to the Brú na Bóinne Center and were on time for the 1:15 tour. We bought our tickets and spent the remaining half an hour walking through the display area. They were really interesting and informative. You had to take your ticket and walk across a big bridge and up a path to where a bus was waiting to take you to either Knowth, Dowth or Newgrange. We only had time for one since we wanted to tour Trim Castle so we picked Newgrange. The bus drove about a mile to the portal tomb.

The first sight of it was beautiful. It sat all alone on top of a green hill. There was another tour group inside when we arrived so we had to wait until they came out for our tour to start. While we waited I took some video of the countryside all around Newgrange. You could see most of County Meath from the hilltop. It was really pretty.

There were other smaller unexplored portal tombs around Newgrange as well. While we were waiting for our tour to begin we were invited to walk around the exterior of Newgrange to view the carvings on the curbstones. There were tons of spirals and diamond type patterns carved into the massive stones. No one really knows what they mean. Some archaeologists believe they are religious symbols, some think they represent the heaven and stars.

We walked around a bit more taking pictures and looking at the carvings. We had some other tourists take our picture in front of Newgrange for us. Newgrange is considered a sacred ritual space and photography is not allowed inside. I was a little disappointed until I got inside and saw it was too dark to take good pictures anyway.

Entering Newgrange you had to duck because the passageway is short and narrow. The inside of the chamber is much smaller than I though it would be by looking at the outside. The consensus of scientists is that the Brú na Bóinne is an ancient ritualistic site where members of Irish nobility and warrior classes were ritualistically cremated.

There are 3 different altars and depending on your status in life your body was burned on one or another of the altars. Inside the chamber our tour guide shut off the lights. She then simulated the rising of the sun on the Winter Solstice. The light creeped in through a light box above the entrance and illuminated the entire passageway and all three altars. It is believed that this proves that ancient man knew the movement of the sun and stars and correctly aligned a building with those coordinates.

We were also told that it would take 80 men all day of dragging to move only 1 of the stones used to build Newgrange. The tomb took nearly sixty years and 2 to 3 generations of people to build. Newgrange is free standing and contains no mortar holding it together. It has survived nearly 5,200 years of Irish wars, invasions and weather. It is rain tight and older than the pyramids in Egypt.

After our tour we headed back to Trim and had a much easier time finding the way back! We got into Trim about a half an hour later and decided to do the tour of the Keep and grounds of Trim Castle. Our tour started at 4:15 so we killed some time by walking around inside the grounds and reading the information on the plaques and taking some pictures. We took ome pictures of the ruins of the castle walls and St. Peter’s Cathedral. We also took some pictures of ourselves sitting around the castle grounds.

Our tour started and we had the cutest little old lady for a tour guide. She told jokes and was entertaining. She told us Trim was used as a film location for the movie “Braveheart” it was the English castle that the King throws his son’s lover out of the window, that scene was shot at Trim with a few others.

The inside of the castle was smaller than I thought it would be. The hallways were very narrow and the stairwells were spiral and treacherous. I kept praying that I wouldn’t fall and break an ankle. The tour goes through the entire castle and they show you the murder holes, the banquet hall and even the bathroom system.... one of the neat parts of the tour is going to the roof of the castle. The view from the top is great. I got some good pictures of Trim and other buildings. I could even see our car. Trim is considered a partially restored ruin. It is maintained by the Irish Heritage Commission it is not furnished, its just an empty shell.

After our tour we walked back to the car. We needed to get some lunch before heading to Kilkenny. We decided to drive around and check out the restaurants. Everyone seemed to have a craving for hamburgers so we went to the Silver Swan Cafe and found some good double cheeseburgers. This restaurant toasted the buns and also had the odd ketchup. The food was good and at a good price too. After we ate we went back to the car.

We left Trim after 5:00. We got out our directions for County Kilkenny and set off. The drive took almost an hour longer than the directions said it would. The drive was pretty and through lots of farmland as we entered the Kilkenny border we passed the turnoff for a little village named Clogh. Clogh has a large settlement of people with the surname Purcell, the same as mine. It looked to be a tiny little village. About half an hour later we passed through Castlecomer, another village with Purcell connections. Many of the men that immigrated from Castlecomer settled into Schuylkill County and became miners. Its possible that my great-great-great grandfather may have come from one of those villages.

Nearly 15 minutes later we passed the turnoff for Jenkinstown and the Foulksrath Castle. We turned around and pulled into the driveway. By this time the sun was starting to set but it looked like Foulksrath was a large Norman Tower. I was excited to stay here, 1st off because it was a castle and 2nd because it was built by the Purcell family. It was easy to see that this was an old castle. It had a full wall surrounding the property and gatehouse on the inside of the courtyard. There were roosters and hens and a few dogs running around inside the courtyard. There was another inner wall that you had to walk through before getting inside the tower.

We decided to find out where our room was before unloading the car. We were in “Seomra 2” on the second floor. Foulksrath is a youth hostel that is set up dormitory style. There were a few bunks taken so we claimed ours and went back to the car.Foulksrath has a huge spiral staircase with tiny little steps so we decided to take only the barest of necessities up to our room. We got ourselves situated in our room and went to check out the rest of the castle. There was very old looking dining hall, a kitchen, bathrooms, showers and a common room in various areas of the castle.We decided to take it easy and hang around in our room. We were all tired from the drive. We sat around reading, talking, laughing and working on our journals. We discovered that one of the people staying in our room was a very hot British guy in his mid-twenties. He was really nice and talked to us about our trip. He certainly wasn’t shy either, he just took his pants off right in front of us when he went to bed! Apparently young British guys prefer boxers...........

There were some very weird noises coming from outside the window of the castle. We guessed it was some type of farm animal...Michelle went to the bathrooms in the other wing of the castle and said she could see some type of little courtyard over run with plants and weeds and apparently something that looked like the stick figure from the “Blair Witch Project”! Katie decided that the noises that we heard were goats being sacrificed in the “Blair Witch Garden” behind the castle! We all agreed that’s what it was. We had the British guy laughing his ass off. We laughed and carried on some more before going to bed for the night. We decided to go to Kilkenny City the next day................
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