Bret had a conference in Belfast last week, so I tagged along. We spent a day driving up through the Irish country side, then spent a few days after the conference exploring Northern Ireland. Lots of fun and impressive scenery, so I am going to break it up into a couple posts.
First stop, Trim.
Trim is located on the River Boyne, about 30 miles northwest of Dublin. The big claim to fame for the town, in recent history at least, is that the town of York (England) was portrayed by the Trim Castle in the movie, Braveheart. This fact is advertised heavily around the town. The Castle is the largest Cambro-Norman style castle in Ireland and was built over a 30 year period in the 12th century, so I imagine that some much cooler stuff has happened there in its lifetime.
We stopped in Trim, because the guidebook said it was pretty much dripping with cool, old stuff. We were not disappointed when, shortly after parking the car, we saw a sign for a castle and didn’t have to look far beyond the sign to see this.
Bret posted much better pictures of the castle (and river) here. Clearly, however, we did not arrive during tourist season, because neither the castle nor really anything listed in the guidebook were open. We had to admire the castle from the trail that wrapped around it. I really enjoyed this painting while rambling around town.
Yes, that is a bloody hand reaching through the door (of an elementary school, no less).
After lunch, we moved on the Hill of Tara.
I have been reading a bit about the history of pagan Ireland and the Hill of Tara plays heavily in it. The hill was known as the Ard- Righ and was generally considered the seat of the high-king of Ireland from at least 5000 years ago until the 11th century. In reality, it seems that Ireland had a dozen or so tribes that were pretty independent, but when a strong leader emerged, he was seated in Tara, and other tribes played tribute to him.
Bret thought it was a strange place for the High-King of Ireland, because it is far from a river or coast. Despite being fairly easy to access, it has an incredible 360° view for miles, so we decided it was probably easy to defend. Although, there do not appear to be any defensive structures on the hill, so that theory is probably wrong.
A little strange phallic (and/ or aggressive?) structure at the main mound. Apparently it is not actually original to the hill, it was placed here in the 1970s (I think. It is old though). Of course, there were the requisite sheep grazing.
Cormac McCarthy was one of the most renown of the Pagan Irish High-Kings. He has his own mound.
The most visible remains are the mound of the hostages, built in 3000- 2500 BC. There are 250-500 bodies buried in there!
And of course, the illegal camping in the parking lot, right next to a nice grassy area, where camping is apparently allowed by permit.
The hill is flanked by St. Patrick’s church (a mere 200 years old).
We tried to make one more stop at Newgrange to visit a neolithic tomb, but winter visiting hours were over by the time we got there, so we continued on to Belfast…