Awoke to a sunny day today, was only forecast to last until after lunch and the forecast was correct. We're starting to get the GPS routing organised and under control so that process is improving dramatically, both time-wise and the final route. Today was programmed around seeing the landmarks of the area and seeing as much countryside as possible as tomorrow we head into Dublin for a few days before flying back to London.
First stop, Slane Castle at Slane. This castle is still in use. Built around 1785, the castle is situated beside the River Boyne, the site of the famous Battle of the Boyne. The castle is a regular host of famous singers and bands and their concerts. A fire in 1991 caused extensive damage and the castle was reopened in 2001.
From Slane we headed to Newgrange, the site of a prehistoric monument dating back to around 3200BC. We slipped up here and hadn't done our research. We arrived quite early in the day but were surprised by the small number of cars and the people just standing around. Apparently, due to lack of parking space, they don't sell tickets at the site. No problem, the man on the gate says, just drive back to town, about 15 mins, buy the tickets, catch the bus that runs every 30 mins and come out again, then catch the bus back to the car. That worked out to be at least 1 hour before we would get in and probably that long again until we were back in the car. Sorry, as much as I wanted to see it, we had other things to see. Took photos of the outside, not original but supposedly recreated/replicated from
material and information gleaned from excavation. There are other mounds in the area, not as big and haven't been commercialised.
We headed toward Drogheda but on the way came across the ruins of a gatehouse behind a new electronic gate. Didn't quite match up. Turns out it is the gatehouse for a property, Dowth Hall which was purchased in 2013 for 5 million euros and is currently being restored. From there we took a second detour over the Obelisk Bridge over the River Boyne. The bridge, built in 1869, put us on a narrow local road through the area where the Battle of the Boyne was fought. There is a small secondary flow of the river on one side of the road and if you look closely at the photo, on the right-hand side you will see a life-presever. This is common through Ireland, along any public accessible that we walked beside, even the docks and boardwalks in the city, these are placed at regular intervals.
Into Drogheda to see the famous St Peter's Church. Oliver Plunket was the Bishop of the town and developed the first nondenominational school in Ireland but was later hung, drawn and quartered by the English, Relics held in the church include the door of the cell in which he was kept, some of his bones and his complete head. After the church we drove past the St Laurence's Gate in the centre of town then up to the highest point in Drogheda to the site of a former Dominican Friary constructed around 1224. All that remains is the Magdalene Tower built in the 14th century as the belfry tower. Magnificent sight.
From here we meandered north through a number of small towns to Ardee on the banks of the River Dee. Another stop, another castle but this one, built in the 15th century, is now owned and was renovated by the local council a number of years ago. The castle has been closed due to a deteriorating roof. While looking at the castle, the owner of a small shop came out to talk to us and tell us a story about the closure of the castle and how he convinced the council to open it for one day four years ago so he could get married in it. His shop is stocked with all locally made souvenirs including mugs, jewelry and embroidered items made by his wife and local people.
As with a lot of people that we meet, once started he had to continue with the story of the sculpture in the town's car park. Sorry about the quality of the photo but it was snapped through the rain as we drove past but is is of a warrier, Cuchalian, carrying his dead foster brother and adversary, Ferdia, after a three day fight to resolve an issue between opposing parties of a King and Queen from different parts of the country. Instead of both groups fighting with great loss of life, the chosen warrier from each was to fight to the death to resolve the issue.
We went to look at the ruin of the Chantry College built around 1487. Apparently the chaplains living there used the building to chant or celebrate mass for wealthy people and taught various groups. It really wasn't worth the walk.
Onward then to Dromiskin to see a tower that is all that remains of the Dromiskin Monastery built before 900AD. Alongside is a church built in 19th century but is deteriorating with the roof starting to collapse. Sad to see this happening but the cost of trying to keep these old buildings alive once they have been allowed to start to crumble must be horrendous. We just love the work, history and stories that are ingrained into these historic landmarks scattered throughout this island.
Back in the car and in the rain heading back to Navan via Kells. We are just about there and tomorrow we pick up the last couple of sites and roll into Dublin.