If he could talk, my dog Jack could boast that he has something in common with, among others, St. Patrick, Kings Billy and James, Oliver Cromwell, and Mel Gibson.
They have all had adventures of one kind or other in the valley of the River Boyne.
Thankfully Jack hasn’t yet developed the power of speech, but I swear he understands much more than he lets on. He often has a knowing expression on his face when I talk to him. Or it might be pity.
What started out five years ago as a Sunday afternoon stroll with Jack has turned into a journey through time as I rediscover and photograph this very special place.
So what’s so special about it?
Well, there’s the Hill of Tara, the mythical capital of Ireland where the High Kings of Ireland held court thousands of years ago. There was a battle here during the United Irishmen’s rebellion of 1798 and in 1843 ‘The Liberator,’ Daniel O’Connell, spoke to a gathering said to be a million strong.
The High Kings of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, despite huge public outcry and worldwide criticism, forced a motorway through the valley. Nobody seems to know why but, weirdly, this is one election promise they honored.
At the Hill of Slane, in 433 AD, St. Patrick lit the Pascal fire as a beacon to Christianity. The light of that fire guided thousands of Irish men and women to some of the remotest regions of the world. That light has been dimmed by scandals in the Catholic Church, but is not out yet.
Bru na Boinne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring the archaeological remains of a sophisticated society that inhabited a large site on a bend in the river about five thousand years ago.
This is one of Ireland's major archaeological landscapes and it pre-dates the pyramids by hundreds of years. The most dramatic and famous are the burial chambers of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, but there are a total 93 sites and monuments recorded to date and who knows how many more secrets are yet to be revealed?
Jack cocked his leg against the famous carved entrance stone. He’s got no respect that dog.
A lot of people, me included, find Bru na Boinne to be a little bit busy and commercial, but just an hour or so away by car is the real thing. The Loughcrew passage graves and cairns are spread over several hilltops just outside Oldcastle in Co. Meath.
There are no coach tours, no guides, no interpretive centers, no gift shops nor coffee bars here. You can’t buy postcards or calendars, but what you will get, without any charge, is the experience of a lifetime.
This has to be one of the most amazing landscapes on earth. From the top of this hill you can see as far as the horizon for 360 degrees. If you sit still long enough and really look you get the feeling that time and distance merge.
Everyone should, at least once in their life, make a point of spending some time just sitting or meditating at the main cairn at Loughcrew. It is a uniquely magical and mysterious landscape, a place where you feel you really can connect to something bigger than yourself. It is a place where, if you are patient, you feel you may achieve wisdom. It is a truly magical place that has had a profound effect on visitors since it was constructed almost 6,000 years ago.
By comparison the Boyne canal which was built during the mid to late 18th century is a relative newcomer to the scene. Extending for some 19 miles between Drogheda and Navan it was designed as a means of connecting the mills and factories of Navan to the port of Drogheda, but it was pretty quickly overtaken by the introduction of the steam train and was never a commercial success.
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