Beth had done a fabulous job of driving last year on the one day we rented a car, so this year we planned to drive the whole time. While we felt a little regretful about the environmental impact, and about not being able to buy oatie biscuits and Barry’s Tea from the tea cart on the train, the car is so much more flexible and enhances one’s ability to wander.
So after a round of delicious Merrion oat porridge with stewed fruit, brown bread and most important, TEA, we went to the airport, picked up the car and set off for Newgrange.
Newgrange is an ancient mound with interior passages, built around 5,000 years ago in a beautifully green swathe of Irish countryside.
The first thing you notice is the exterior wall — reconstructed, of course, so you can’t be sure of how it originally looked — but as best they figure it had this lovely pattern of white rock punctuated by round black rocks that stick out.
The entrance is guarded by this long rock with carvings of spirals. This apparently helped protect it from looting over the years as people were afraid to cross the rock and run afoul of whatever supernatural being(s) they feared — God, gods, spirits.
You have to be on an official tour to enter the structure. You can only go in for ten minutes and photos are forbidden, which was kind of a relief because it means you’re wholly undistracted. You have to squeeze through a narrow stone passage before popping out into the interior room. It’s decorated with more spirals as well as diamond and triangle shapes. After we had a good look around, the tour guide arranged us expertly by height so we could all see, and then turned off the lights and turned on a simulated beam that shot into the room through a special window over the entrance. This is how light enters the interior during the winter solstice. It gave me goosebumps.
We had lunch at the surprisingly delicious museum cafeteria, including some Junk Food of the Week-worthy Roast Beef and Irish Stout potato chips. They didn’t taste very much like roast beef or stout to me, but they were pleasantly spicy.
We debated side trips to various stone towers, ruins etc. but finally decided to just drive on to our destination for the night: the old walled and castled city of Trim.
The castle was built in the 1100s and used through the 1600s but it never really got a makeover, so it’s a fairly pure example of Norman architecture. We took a tour through the rooms and imagined toughing it out in a stone building on this windswept hilltop without central heating or plumbing. The tour guide showed us a grate-covered hole in the corner of the master bedroom where the ruler would allegedly pass solid waste. Said waste fell down the exterior of the castle, and its healthy color was meant as a warning to would-be attackers that the big guy was well-fed and strong.
Afterward we went to our B & B and tried to warm up, but we couldn’t. It was freezing at the castle and cold in town and cold in our room and just cold, cold, cold. Finally we drove back into town to the Trim Castle Hotel and had a drink and a plate of local cheeses and meats in the bar. We looked out at the castle, which is lit up at night, and at last we got warm enough to go home and go to bed.