Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Day Three: Boyne Valley

So the morning after the wedding we had a big Irish breakfast (meat meat and more meat with some meat on the side). And headed north to County Meath and the Boyne Valley.

This was, for all intents and purposes, the day aside from the wedding I was most excited about. I have wanted to see Newgrange for years now. Back when Sam and I only IM'd back and forth during the day, we would talk about where we someday would like to visit. It was so long ago these conversations were often framed around where he *or* I would go someday; not as a couple. This was a placve I foudn during those conversations, and I bookmarked it, in hopes of someday getting the chance to go.

The Boyne Valley holds quite a few ancient and legendary sites, not least of which was tops on my list: Newgrange.

I can't explain why, just that it seemed so mystical to me. So magical. I have, for over a decade now, marked my years by the sun and moon. Solstices and equinoxes always held special meaning. The solstices especially. And the thought that thousands of years ago there were a people who felt the same . . well, I wanted to stand where they stood. I'm not sure how else to describe it.

In case you don't know, here's some info on Brú na Bóinne:

"The Megalithic Passage Tombs of Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth, Fourknocks, Loughcrew and Tara are located in the present day County of Meath on the east coast of Ireland. The Boyne Valley Mounds at Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth were built around 3200BC making them older than Stonehenge in England and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

Judging from the splendour and magnificence of Newgrange and Knowth it is likely that these temples of the ancestors were places of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance, much as present day cathedrals are places of worship where dignitaries may be laid to rest."

I was, to say the least excited. Here's Sam and I on the bus from the Brú na Bóinne Visitor's Center to Knowth

And Knowth itself

Which, while from this angle might not look impressive, truly is. This was built before the wheel was invented, and the rocks used at the mounds are between one and ten tons. And they're from the mountains, miles away. That alone boggles my mind; not to mention how they're decorated. They are truly beautiful . . . and have lasted FIVE THOUSAND years . . .

They had a woodhenge, too, that was fascinating - and so old it put stonehenge to shame. (I have since made Sam promise someday when we have a little house on lots of land, we'll build one.)

But the best was getting to go into the mound and look down the passageway. It was breathtaking.

We then climbed to the top and looked out over the Boyne Valley. I can't put words to how happy I was.

And we were just getting started! From Knowth we then headed to Newgrange.

"The Megalithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange was built about 3200 BC. The kidney shaped mound covers an area of over one acre and is surrounded by 97 kerbstones, some of which are richly decorated with megalithic art. The 19 metre long inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. It is estimated that the construction of the Passage Tomb at Newgrange would have taken a work force of 300 at least 20 years.

The passage and chamber of Newgrange are illuminated by the winter solstice sunrise. A shaft of sunlight shines through the roof box over the entrance and penetrates the passage to light up the chamber.

Megalithic mounds such as Newgrange entered Irish mythology as sídhe or fairy mounds. Newgrange was said to be the home of Oenghus, the god of love. The Passage Tomb at Newgrange was re-discovered in 1699 by the removal of material for road building. A major excavation of Newgrange began in 1962; the original facade of sparkling white quartz was rebuilt using stone found at the site."

And, well, it's amazing.

We went inside, no pictures allowed, to witness how the sun lights up the chamber every solstice (they have set up lights inside to simulate it) - and the chamber was so very cool. It's beautiful, really. The stones are stacked beehive-like for at least ten feet above our head, with beautiful carvings all over them.

There was a crazy sense of peace there. We had time to walk all the way around the outside and wander along the lawn. The weather was perfect and beautiful.

It was a wonderful afternoon, and everything I had dreamed it would be in the years I had only imagined going. But the greatest thing was, we weren't done! We discovered on our way out that we were on a "Heritage Trail" and just miles from quite a few other amazing places. So we piled in the car and began a roadtrip through the small winding roads of Meath. . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

{{sigh}} Me thinks that would be an amazing trip.. I love the pictures!