Our lovely neighbor Diana has taken it upon herself to ensure we have a great time here. She stops by almost daily with the latest newspapers, shares her calendar of events, and even takes care of the dog while we are off exploring. She is highly knowledgeable on history in the area and we eagerly eat up all the advice she gives us.
So, when she suggested leading us on a day trip to see some of the ruins in our own little County Meath, we were thrilled.
Especially because, some of these ruins are so far off the beaten path, it takes a little local knowledge to find them. As we were told by a couple of people, you’ve got to stop at this coffee shop for a key, or look under this other lady’s door mat.
We began our road trip feeling like secret agents!
Diana drove in typical super agent style, flying down the twisty and narrow side roads, obviously very familiar with the area as she pointed out several interesting facts along the way without slowing down. We made a couple of unscheduled stops to get a closer look.
Just a typical romantic gate on a typical 18th century estate in the countryside. Typical!
Thatched roofs date back thousands of years, and are actually a new surging trend in the UK with the desire to use more sustainable building materials. The roof on this particular building dates back to the 18th century, is three feet thick, and is still using the original wood planks in the frame.
Our first scheduled stop was at the ruins of Fore Abbey that date back to the 7th century. Between the 8th and the 12th century it was actually burned down 12 times by pillagers (including Vikings), but today is in remarkable shape considering.
Near the entrance to Fore are the remains of a holy well, and a lofty holy tree sits beside it. We’ve seen this before in the countryside, where people tie things around the tree for loveds one that they are praying for. Often it is socks or ribbons.
People also hammer coins in the tree as advance payment for their prayers to be answered.
From Fore we embarked on our final, top secret mission to the megalithic tombs of Loughcrew. It had been two years since top agent Diana had last been there, but she easily knew the way, stealthily weaving along the many side roads until we came to a hidden coffee shop, said to be holding the golden key to unlock the gates.
GASP! Our cover was blown!
They knew we were coming. Or, at least, they had gotten quite used to people coming, as now the tombs are freely open to the public, and even have guides. And, gawd help us all, we learned that tour buses even stop on occasion.
How dare they?
The tombs, discovered in the 1800s, date back to 3,800 BC (before the pyramids in Egypt!) They exist in clusters around the hills, and this particular stone sits at the entrance to the central cairn. At each of the spring and fall equinoxes, sunlight from the opening of the tomb perfectly lights up the solar symbols moving from left to right on the stone.
More carvings on stones surround the tombs.
Pete on top of the central tomb. He probably shouldn’t have climbed up there, but you know, we have special secret-agent-privileges and stuff.
Our (blown) secret agent exploratory work done, Diana and I headed down the hill towards home. Until next time.