On our first day of driving around Ireland, we drove 118 kilometers and we are still only 46 kilometers from Dublin in the little town of Trim.
We spent the day enjoying the countryside, but also looking at some very interesting archeological sites. The first of these, in the Boyne River valley was Newgrange, the site of one of a series of Neolithic Tombs.
This passage tomb is 5,200 years old which makes it 800 years older than the pyramids of Egypt, and 1000 years older than Stonehenge. It covers more than one acre in area, and its surrounding wall has 97 large kerbstones, all of which would weigh more than a couple of tonnes. They appear to have been hauled from over 30 km away. Some of these are highly decorated with the entrance stone, for example having a series of swirls, spirals and other geometric shapes. Perhaps it was a map of the local area, perhaps it told the story of the sun’s movement through the seasons. An internal passage leads to a chamber where the burned bones of ancestors were placed. This chamber has a roof of interlocking stones known as a corbelled roof. The phenomenon which makes this site so famous is that on each winter solstice – 21st December – the rising sun shines through an opening above the door of the tomb and illuminates the entire passage.
We found a little deli in the town of Slane for lunch and then checked out the ruins of an abbey on the top of the hill above the town. This is where St Patrick reportedly lit a Paschal fire in 443. The Slane Mill stands on the north bank of the River Boyne beside the old 14th century bridge over the river. It is an interesting looking five story stone building. When the mill was completed in 1766 it was the largest flour mill in Ireland. The water powered mill continued to be a flour mill until the 1870s when roller mills replaced grindstones. The mill was then converted to produce flax.
By late afternoon, we had reached our destination at Cranmore Lodge B&B in Trim.
In this town, there are the ruins of a large castle that was first constructed around 1100. During the late Middle Ages, it was the centre of administration for Meath and marked the outer northern boundary of an area known as The Pale. In the 16th and 17th centuries it had declined in importance, except as a potentially important military site, and the castle was allowed to deteriorate. During the 15th century the Irish Parliament met in Trim Castle seven times and a mint operated in the castle. It fell into decline in the 16th century but was refortified during the Cromwellian wars in the 1640s. It has been now restored to a safe condition and was opened to the public again in 2006. Recently, it was used in Mel Gibson’s film, Braveheart.