Travel Journal April 8, 1999
Tara and Newgrange.

Boyne Valley

I had booked a bus tour for Newgrange and Tara several days earlier, and today was the day of the tour. The departure point was the central bus station, only two blocks away from where I was staying.


The first thing we did was stop by the tourist center, a deconsecrated Protestant church, to watch an audio visual display showing the history of Tara. A couple of interesting points: 1) Many Protestant churches have been deconsecrated, because the Protestant faith is dwindling in Ireland, to the point where the congregations are so small that it doesn't make sense to maintain the churches. I saw one abbey church in Dublin which had been converted into a lighting store. 2) One of the most interesting things about the show was the way in which the church transformed into a darkened theatre - a series of jet black window shades, emitting from subtly concealed containers, slid down over the stained glass windows. It kind of reminded me of the stretching room in Disney's haunted mansion, I could almost hear a ghostly narrator intoning "...this room has no windows...and no doors...which offers this chilling challenge: to find the way out!"

After the show (which was well-done) we walked out onto the hill.

Tara is a lot flatter than I had imagined it would be.

Even so, the view from the hill is quite remarkable.

Unfortunately, the ring-shaped mounds don't really come across well in pictures, unless taken from the air.

Here's the Stone of Kings, a lot smaller than I thought it would be.

The long parallel mounds are known as "The Banquet Hall", although they were most likely a ceremonial entrance avenue.

The view from the other side.

After that, we got on the bus and proceeded towards Newgrange.

The remains of a Cistercian monastary.

This castle, in the town of Trim, was used as "York" in the movie Braveheart.

Some folks have complained about the modern tourist center, but I didn't think it was that bad. You'll notice that there is turf on the root - the center is quite invisible from the other side.

Here's the inside. There's a replica of the passage, which I can say was not as spectacular as the real thing. (There's a rumor around here that you can't actually go into Newgrange itself, but I can report that this is not true.)

The visitor center is actually about a mile from the site. You have to take the small mini-buses to get to there. Here are some photos on the way to the bus.

Here are some shots of Newgrange itself. No photos allowed inside, although you would need a serious flash to get a decent shot anyway.

Here's a texture for you. Call this one "Newgrange"!

Here's the entrance. This is not the way it originally looked (in fact, the entire exterior wall is a reconstruction done about 100 years ago, since the original wall only lasted a few centuries.)

This small structure was in the back, I don't know what it was.

A more distant shot.

On the way back, we visited the shop of a local woodcarver, Claidhbh Ó Gibne (Clive O'Gibney). Now, this is an interesting story. Clive had made a coracle for the Newgrange visitor center, and had opened up a small shop on the road to the center, hoping to get the occasional visitor on their way to the site. However, our driver, John Bolton, seemed to take a fiendish delight in dumping whole busloads of tourists on the poor man and nearly giving him a heart attack (The was only the second time he'd done it.) Needless to say, Clive was overwhelmed but pleased - at one point he dropped his chisel. The woodworking was very beautiful, and several people bought small pieces.



Clive mentioned that he would soon have a web site - in the mean time, you can email him.