Bits of Ireland

New Grange Meath

This 5000 year old Newgrange Stone age neolithic Passage tomb near Dublin, Ireland, continues to be a mystery. It predates both Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids. We do know that one of their purposes was for the spiritual  passage of the dead but not much else. Newgrange (above)  was structured so that  the sun directly entered the main chamber only on the Winter Solstice.

NewgrangeThe Winter Solsticesun shines through this passage way.

The entrance stone and the structure were all done by hand—no metal tools—only stone on stone carving  and physical brawn for moving the stones. These boulders were counterbalanced perfectly, obviously, having  remained stable for 5000 years.


Old Stonehenge


Restored Stonehenge

The Irish Stonehenge, County Meath, are tombs with upright stones, from 3200 years ago. After being plundered and with eventual  deterioration, they were extensively restored.

The “passage tombs” were not limited to any one country but spread  about and covering a a period over 5000 years..


Vetulonia passage

The following was uncovered in Tuscany. This Vitulonia Etruscan passage tomb is dated about 5000 years ago and is included because of its similarity  to Newgrange.

All done by hand, stone balanced on stone with a central corridor with burial rooms opening to the sides.

Late that night at our hotel by Newgrange, an incident occurred that restored my faith in the Irish. September is the month for weddings and our hotel was packed with pre-and-post  attendees. About 2am there came a loud shouting from below our window. It continued for a bit and then I saw the most vocal man pound on a bus. And then quiet.

At 4am another disturbance erupted. Shortly another man beat on a curb-side cab. Then quiet. My husband started grumbling. I said “No!” (Being Irish) These are MY people and they settle disputes differently!

The next morning  we were off to Trim Castle. Built in 1174, it is now notable for being used in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart  film.

Trime Castle

Because of the usual battles, It had to be rebuilt in 1224. The main outer wall was erected in 1250, and although tattered by many conflicts, is a most impressive fortification yet.

Trim Castle present

Trim Castle present

We walked around the luscious, green fields, watching the sheep as they trimmed the grass. Inside the castle walls, we were surprised to see safety measures –probably added both for Braveheart and tourists.

See the added picture of the staircase.

Trim Castle Interior

Onto Bunratty Castle which, being strategically located on the Shannon estuary near Limerick, and the Irish Sea,  was constantly attacked.

Built around 1200, it was a ruin by 1950 when Lord Gort  purchased  and restored it to the original state. He spared no expense in the beautiful restoration. But he should have added an elevator. Six flights of Stairs!


Over time they added a” Folk Park”to the back, including a 15th village containing transported structures taken from area towns: weaver’s shop, laborer’s cottage, corn mill …..and thankfully, a Pub.

We then continued to Galway for respite……which was not to be. Our hotel had 7 beautiful pubs on different levels and only one restaurant, which, thankfully, was quiet.
The Irish are a very vital and social people! After dinner we took “The Long Walk” down to the harbor and the Spanish Arch which was built in 1584 to protect the Spanish traders unloading their ships.
Luckily our hotel room was distanced from the bars so we had a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we drive to Limerick and my reason for this trip. My great grandfather and great grand mother were originally from  Limerick and after immigrating, they met and married in New York. I wanted to see where they lived and their town.
As we crossed the Shannon River we saw King John’s Castle across the water and it was magnificent!
Having mailed  my info to the Limerick ancestry months earlier,  they told me to come in and see what they had. We did and it was depressing. There was the info where each had lived but the area had been removed.
Mike suggested  I check out “Murrays” in the phone book but there were over a hundred. He said call some but be prepared for a response about the old family castle that just needs the back taxes paid. I compensated for this historical  loss by walking the city…and it was lovely.  We crossed the bridge and  entered the back of King John’s Castle for a tour.
I pictured my “Greats” having walked these same pathways and seeing the same sights. I loved this city!
A bit wiser, we ended our trip to Ireland  by heading for the Rock of Cashel on the Tipperary Plain. Begun in the 5th century, it was the seat of the Kings of Munster who then got tired of the cold and gave it to the Church in 1101.      
And it was abandoned  in the 18th century. But luckily for us, the sun was shining while we walked the site and ended up in the roofless—but magnificent Cathedral.
Back to the car and on to Dublin where we would fly back to San Francisco.

About carolinebotwin

Caroline Botwin and her husband Mike are retired educators who have always had a yen for travelling: he with a PH.D and teaching Architectural Engineering plus California wine education, and she having taught high school English, speech and drama. Both wanted to learn first hand about other cultures. While Mike predominately studied buildings and structures and met with winemakers, Caroline hunted for ancient sites and peoples. And kept journals of all their travels.
This entry was posted in Ireland. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Bits of Ireland

  1. I enjoyed traveling with you through Ireland because of the sights and history but more because it was a personal journey for you tracing your Irish roots. I can imagine your momentary disappointment from incomplete ancestry records. I liked Mike’s sardonic remark about the Murray’s unpaid back taxes! One of your best blogs.

  2. Ann says:

    Fabulous posting. The photos are wonderful. Felt like I was walking along with you guys. Sounds like such a wonderful trip!

  3. carolinebotwin says:

    Reblogged this on 2Independent-Travelers and commented:

    I couldn’t resist the beauty of Rock of Cashel which we visited at the
    end of our trip to Ireland!

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