Ireland 2014 – Day 2 (Tuesday, June 17)

Planned Itinerary

  • 9:00-12:00 – Newgrange and Knowth
  • 12:30-14:30 – Hill of Tara
  • 15:30-17:00 – National Museum of Ireland-Archaeology
  • 18:30-22:00 – An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies (The Brazen Head)

The alarm went off at 6:30am after only about 4 hours of sleep, but we had places to go and we weren’t going to let a lack of sleep slow us down.  We did let breakfast slow us down, though, and we didn’t get on the road until a little after 8am.  This meant we got to experience Dublin rush hour as the road we needed to take to get out of town was packed.  A lot of stop and a little go.  Fortunately, it didn’t last all that long (at least in terms of distance; time was another matter).  Once we broke free, it was pretty much clear sailing to Newgrange.  Except that the GPS wanted to take us to the site instead of the Visitors Centre. Once we figured out that that’s what was going on, we resorted to old fashioned sign-following and got there without much trouble.

Walking into the Newgrange/Knowth Visitors Centre

From the parking lot, we walked through a tree-covered pathway to the Visitors Centre where we were greeted by a typically delightful docent who got us signed up for the tours and gave us the stickers with the times our buses would depart.

Newgrange

Newgrange

Our timing couldn’t have been better as, following a 5-minute look-around, we realized that it was already time to walk down the path and across the bridge to get on one of two buses leaving at 10:15am.

Newgrange

Newgrange

The drive to Newgrange took all of about 5 minutes.  We spent the next hour exploring this burial mound.  This included going inside a tunnel that at times was so narrow I had to turn my shoulders to the side.

At the Newgrange site

At the Newgrange site

Once inside, we were able to see the three recessed areas as well as the dome shaped ceiling. The tour guide used the light they had installed to simulate the sun rising on the Winter Solstice.

Cattle crossing the road

Cattle crossing the road

After our hour was up, we got on the bus and went back to the the Visitors Center only to load back up for the trip out to Knowth. As we made the slightly-longer journey, we encountered the stereotypical herd of cattle crossing the road.  With the bus at a complete stop, the cattleman maneuvered the herd of twenty or so cattle around the bus and down the road.  There’s at least a chance the whole thing is staged for the tourists, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

Knowth burial mounds

Knowth burial mounds

Surrounded by something like seventeen smaller mounds, Knowth was impressive in a different way than Newgrange. Because the tunnels haven’t been stabilized, tourists can’t go inside in the same way that you can at Newgrange.  You can, however, look down the tunnel through the gate they’ve installed to get a sense of how deep it goes.  You are also able to go to the top of Knowth and see where the house(s) would have been in later centuries.  The views from both Newgrange and Knowth were spectacular.

Back at the Visitors Centre, it was well past lunchtime so Kristalyn had a french bread pizza and I had Irish lasagna at their little restaurant.  While waiting on the bus, I had realized that buying a Heritage Card would have saved us some money since we are going to several of the sites.  So, I talked to the ticket agent about the possibility of applying the cost of our tickets to the cost of a pass.  She couldn’t have been nicer about it and we are now proud holders of Heritage Cards.  After shopping in the gift shop (and purchasing a postcard we sent to the boys), we headed out, but not before plugging “grocery store” into the GPS.  This took us to a little convenience-type store in Donore where we bought a big jug of water, hairspray, and some bananas.

Because it was so late, we decided to skip the Hill of Tara and head back into Dublin.  We were able to find the parking lot I had scouted out online (but not before nearly heading down the road the wrong way when a bus, trying to make a right turn onto the street we were on, got stuck because the turn was too tight; in trying to get out of his way, I ended up going the wrong way down a one-way street for a very short period of time).  Fortunately, everybody – including the cop directing traffic – was very patient with the tourist driver.  Not far from our parking garage was the National Museum of History-Archaeology which had the distinct advantage of being free.  Following the tour directions in Rick Steves’ Ireland guidebook, we explored the museum until it closed at 5pm.

The Brazen Head

The Brazen Head

Having some time to kill before we needed to be at The Brazen Head, we walked through St. Stephen’s Green which was impressive not only for the beauty of the grass and the water but for the number of people who were taking advantage of a beautiful day in a beautiful place.

That done, we began the walk to The Brazen Head where we had reservations for An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies.  We got there a few minutes too early so we sat downstairs and got online. Remembering that we hadn’t paid for our tolls yet, we took advantage of the internet connectivity to pay for the number of trips we think we took on the toll road.

Upstairs on the 3rd floor, we were in a room with about 60-70 people seated at 5 different tables.  We joined Terry and Sandy (elementary principal) from Billings, MT who were celebrating their 25th anniversary and Emma and her mother from Portland, OR; (this trip sounded like a graduation gift for Emma).  Johnny, the Irish storyteller, regaled us with stories between appetizers (potato fish cakes for both of us), dinner (Irish Stew for Kris; Beef Stew for me), and dessert (chocolate cake for Kristalyn; apple pie for me).  I had a Smithwick’s and Kristalyn, being converted to the cause, had her second Guinness in as many days.  While we ate dinner, we were entertained by a guitar playing singer/comedian and a fiddle player.  This evening was not cheap, but I think it was worth it.

The Temple Bar

The Temple Bar

The meal and entertainment finished up about 10pm so we began the walk back to our car…while it was still light outside.  Having missed the nightlife last night, we decided to walk through the Temple Bar district where there were a ton of folks, both in the bars and in the streets.  Kristalyn found a shop that was still open and bought an Irish t-shirt.  We finished the walk back to the car, remembered a little late that we were supposed to pay before we got to the car (so Kristalyn had to jump out and pay while I circled the garage), and drove back to the hotel.  Getting in a little after midnight, I took a hot bath and some ibuprofen to try and relax my lower back which had tightened up significantly while Kristalyn got a jump start on getting some much-needed sleep.

Actual Itinerary

  • 10:00-14:00 – Newgrange and Knowth
  • 15:00-17:00 – National Museum of Ireland-Archaeology
  • 18:30-22:00 – An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies (The Brazen Head)
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