Secret Agent Tourists

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!

Fore Loughcrew - gate

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.

A Thatched Roof House


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.

The Fortress at Fore Loughcrew

Inside the Fortress at Fore Loughcrew

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.

Wish Tree Socks

People also hammer coins in the tree as advance payment for their prayers to be answered.

Money Wish Tree


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.

The Tombs at Fore Loughcrew

More carvings on stones surround the tombs.

Carvings on Stones at Fore Loughcrew

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.

The Top of Fore Loughcrew

Our (blown) secret agent exploratory work done, Diana and I headed down the hill towards home.  Until next time.

The Signal for the Secret Agent Tourists


29 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Your stories and photos really make me want to go to Ireland. I mean, look at all of those ruins and houses – so beautiful!
    jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World recently posted..Taking A Break From Hostel Living – Come See Our $7 Apartment

    • July 28 2011

      I’m glad you said that! I keep wondering when people are going to get sick of all the castle and ruin photos we have! 🙂

  • Double-O-Hecktic.
    Caanan @ No Vacation Required recently posted..Glacier / Waterton – Peace Park Hike

    • July 28 2011

      Our new website domain. Love it. 🙂

  • July 27 2011

    Purely fascinating! The thatched roof! The socks! You two surely do find the most interesting things wherever you wander.

  • July 27 2011

    Hey you guys,

    I hope you don’t mind, but we mentioned you on our tumblr!

    Love your pictures and this post. =)

  • July 27 2011

    hahaha i love the bat signal on that last one. really nice excursion you had. i really like that you posted all the photos in black and white for that secret agent doing surveillance feel.

    • July 28 2011

      You betcha we did! Now if only we had background music (Mission Impossible style) while you were reading it! 🙂

  • Mom
    July 27 2011

    That was so interesting !!!!! Enjoyed the pics too…the gateway, socks & coins. Amazing.

  • July 28 2011

    you really are loving your twists on all of your adventures, aren’t you?

    GOOD, because all of us are too 🙂
    Justin Hamlin recently posted..A Belated Honeymoon Wish

    • July 28 2011

      It’s hard not to love everything about this country… 🙂

  • July 28 2011

    Awww – remember you telling us about this and sad to hear it has been, gasp, discovered!! Bummer. But it still sounds like a fascinating place and your photos are awesome!
    Andrea recently posted..When Money Gets Wasted on the Road

  • July 29 2011

    Yay- road trips!! Sounds awesome… love that last photo! 🙂
    jade recently posted..The lovely Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs

    • July 29 2011

      Yes, I’m so happy we captured the Bat signal…it was only there for an instant… 🙂

  • July 29 2011

    Great article & the black and white photos added a unique touch 🙂
    Nomadic Samuel recently posted..Girl | Reflection | Chicago, USA | Travel Photo

    • Pete
      July 31 2011

      Thanks Samuel, we could probably do all of our remaining posts in Ireland in black and white if the sun doesn’t show itself, it’s been cloudy for days 🙂 I agree that the B&W does give the ruins a unique touch

  • Your tweet for this intrigued me – what a great post! That’s one of my favorite things about driving around Ireland. You never know what you’ll happen upon………….
    Lisa at Wanderlust Women recently posted..London Foodies Unite in Summer Food Fest

    • Pete
      July 31 2011

      Thanks Lisa. Yes, we have had some unique discoveries just driving around Ireland and seeing what we will find. Beautiful country!

  • Drat! Tour buses? What’s next? Snow globes at the souvenir stand? tsk, tsk…
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Travel Photo of the Week — Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand

    • Pete
      July 31 2011

      shhhhh, don’t give ’em any ideas 😉

  • Emily in Chile
    July 30 2011

    I can’t believe you guys are living with all this stuff literally in your backyard. It’s always interesting to see how well some of these buildings and monuments have survived hundreds or even thousands of years.

    • Pete
      July 31 2011

      It is pretty overwhelming. I get excited every time I am about to see a new ruin. It might be taken for granted here by most locals, but they are not getting to point where it is just ‘another’ ruin. I am getting the most out of seeing each and every one…

  • August 5 2011

    So the coins in trees thing is freaking PHENOMENAL. Like, seriously, how amazing is that?!
    Erica recently posted..Beers & Beans: Getting Out of Auto Ebook

    • August 5 2011

      We never would have even noticed the coins if it wasn’t for our neighbor pointing them out – some of those coins looked seriously old!

  • Theodora
    August 5 2011

    Beautiful shots, and an amazing adventure. Lovely, lovely pics.

  • Ashley
    August 8 2011

    These photos are amazing; it takes me back to my travels through Ireland. Enjoy every minutes, there is no other place like it 🙂

  • August 25 2011

    I’ve got to get back to Ireland-thank you for this fun post.
    Mara recently posted..Virtual postcards and an Amazon gift card giveaway

  • September 6 2011

    What an off-the-beaten-path adventure. I love the details of the sock tying and coins being hammered into trees. Your black and white photos complete the mood of this story.
    Donna Hull recently posted..Travel with the Grandkids to Memphis

    • September 7 2011

      Thanks Donna! It was a pretty great day, even if it wasn’t quite the secret adventure we thought it would be. 🙂

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