How to conquer Ireland in just two weeks
Getting around the Emerald Isle in fourteen days
The next two days were filled with day tours out of Dublin. The Newgrange Tour by Mary Gibbons covered the Boyne Valley including Newgrange, a megalithic passage tomb and the Hill of Tara, the ancient royal site of the Irish High Kings.
Newgrange was constructed so that each year, the winter solstice sunrise would illuminate the inner passage and chamber. It was thrilling to stand in a structure that, having been built over 5000 years ago, is older than the pyramids in Egypt. Entering the ancient tomb was the highlight of my trip.
Our final bus tour, with Bus Éireann, was to Powerscourt and Glendalough. Powerscourt, an estate situated in the mountains of Wicklow, is famous for its gardens. The grounds include Italian and Japanese gardens, a walled garden, and a pet cemetery. Glendalough, meaning “valley of the two lakes,” was a monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. After a guided tour around the ruins, a walk to the upper and lower lakes offered exquisite scenery.
Our last full day in Dublin, we toured Number 29, on Fitzwilliam Street Lower, a Georgian home exhibiting upper middle class Dublin life between 1790-1820, and the National Museum of Ireland Archaeology. The museum houses many Irish antiquities, including the Tara Brooch, a decorative, silver-gilt brooch created in the 8th century. But what really set my spine tingling were the bog bodies, discovered in the peat bogs of Ireland and thought to be over 2,000 years old. It is believed that the well-preserved bodies were victims of ancient human sacrifice.
That evening, before dragging my reluctant boyfriend to join the Music Pub Crawl starting at the tourist-friendly Oliver St. John Gogarty’s, we had a drink at Dawson Lounge, which purports to be the smallest pub in the world.
We had some time to spare before our train the next day so we made our last stop in Dublin at the Guinness Storehouse, which takes you through the brewing process and the history of Guinness advertising before offering a free taste of the dark beer (and a great view of Dublin) at the Gravity Bar.
The last couple of days were spent in the southwest of Ireland. We drove out to the Rock of Cashel. Once the seat of the Munster overkings, the Rock of Cashel was later given to the Church. The site, located in Tipperary, includes the remains of a round tower, a cathedral, a chapel and St. Patrick’s Cross.
Overnight, a deluge of rain had resulted in terrible flooding in the area, barring passage to our planned drive through the Ring of Kerry, so we spent the day at Muckross House and Farm, which is part of the Killarney National Park. After taking a tour of the grand house we explored the extensive gardens and three working farms.