Athlone, Bewley's, Book of Kells, camping, Celtic, Dowth, Dublin, Europe, Guinness, Ireland, Irish breakfast, Knowst, Newgrange, oldest bar in the world, Sean's Bar, Smithwick's, Trinity College, winter solstice
We woke up early to see more sights around Dublin. First, we had a full Irish breakfast at Bewley’s just south of our hotel. Afterwards, we walked clear down to the George Bernard Shaw birthplace and made a loop back through the gardens and to Trinity College. The line to see the Book of Kells was enormous, so we decided to keep moving today and maybe come back at the end of the trip. We walked back to the hotel via Temple Bar and the Ha’ Penny Bridge, grabbing a bubble tea on the way back to the Gresham. We checked out, got in our car, and headed north for the short drive to Newgrange, Knowst, and Dowth.
We were very lucky; the tours were nearly sold out. Touring Dowth isn’t possible right now, but we got tickets for Newgrange and Knowst. We would have preferred to go it alone but tours were required. It was frustrating to give up the entire day until nearly 7PM to see two sites, but we did it anyway. We took lunch in the visitor’s center after looking around at the museum then walked across a bridge to catch our first shuttle bus. This site was Knowst first, several enormous mounds. The grass was brilliant green and the skies were bright blue with fluffy white clouds. We’ve had such perfect weather all trip which is bizarre for where we’ve been traveling.
At Knowst, I was able to crawl through a sous-terrain with a few other people. The space was barely big enough to crawl through and the passage curved through a small bit of hill. We weren’t able to go inside Knowst, but we were able to walk on top. From up here, we could see Newgrange and the direction of Dowth, blocked by a house and trees. When the tour was over, we took the shuttle bus back and waited for the next one to come. This one took us to Newgrange, not far in the other direction.
At the front of the notorious Newgrange was a large rock with carvings that have been interpreted many different ways. One interpretation is that it maps the three main sites, Newgrange being the largest at the middle point of the triangle formed by the markings. After we observed this stone and judged the archaeologist’s artistic 1970s-feel recreation of the outside of the tomb, we were split into two groups and led inside the tomb. Dan and I were in the first group. We ducked and walked through the tight space, trying not to touch the stones as instructed. We were shocked to learn that we had actually climbed a considerable height and that we were only about 27% of the way into Newgrange. Clinging to the sides of a small cavern inside, the lights were shut of and artificial lights from the entrance were shone inside, recreating sunrise on the Winter Solstice – the only time the light travels into the tomb if at all and only for a small moment in the morning.
When we were done with the inside of this tomb, we walked around the outside to photograph the markings, swallows, and cows all around, then headed back to the shuttle bus. Back at the center, we stuck our tour stickers on a decorative paper designated for used stickers to be placed in patterns similar to those on the tombs. We plugged our destination for Athlone and left County Meath, reaching County Westmeath after dinner. We ate dinner in a restaurant nearby Sean’s Bar, the oldest bar in the world. It was opened in 900 C.E. We went there for Smithwick’s and Guinness after our dinner and listened to a five-piece Celtic band in the back that reminded me of my old band in high school. Finally we headed out towards the lake just north of us and found a secluded area to pitch our tent for the night.
Me at Newgrange.
Band playing in the Beer Garden at Sean’s Bar.