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Friday, September 18, 1998

Our last full day in Ireland. I awoke to find that I could see the ocean from my window. Kilkeel is located at the mouth or the Carlingford Lough. So we had to drive several miles inland until we reached the City of Newry. Here we were able to cross the river and continue south. We did pass by the Narrow Water Castle in Warren Point but did not stop.

Just south of Newry we passed a huge military (I think) complex on the side of a mountain. There were at least 20 video cameras pointing towards the road at various points. A few miles beyond this we came to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. As we crossed the border we came to a Garda (Police) checkpoint. There were many police around. There was a sign that stated all cars must stop and ten or so police standing in the road. But every car in front of us drove straight through without stopping so we did the same.

Our first stop today was Monasterboice. This ancient monastic site is just off the main road (N1) into Dublin. It is not signposted so it a little difficult to find. The road to go down is just across from the Monasterboice Inn/Restaurant (I think this was the name). This ancient monastic site boast a huge round tower and three of the best preserved high crosses in Ireland. This side trip is definitely worth the time. Once again, we were the only people there.

From Monasterboice we headed south towards New Grange. On the way we stopped in the town of Slane for lunch. The cafe had wonderful food. I ordered fried chicken, onion rings, and a kidney pie (I had to try one). The kidney pie was basically a Beef Pot Pie. The onion rings were the largest I have ever seen. They were huge. You only got four but each one was massive. The "rings" actually had three or four layers on onion each and they were very thick. The fried chicken appeared to be a whole chicken that they had deep fried. I was stuffed!

We left Slane and continued to New Grange. New Grange is an ancient passage tomb, believed to be the oldest structure on earth. To visit the site you have to go to the visitor's center. They have an extensive museum that is well worth visiting. There is also the obligatory video. To go to the tomb itself you board a minibus. There is controlled access to prevent heavy traffic on the small country roads.

It is believed that New Grange was built nearly 6000 years ago. In that time it has remained completely waterproof. It was rediscovered a hundred years or so ago by a local farmer who had the foresight to preserve the sight.

At the tomb we were give a brief tour (very shabby job - the guide didn't explain the other ruins and structures around the site). We were allowed into the tomb for about 10 minutes where a demonstration of the Winter Solstice is performed. The tomb was built in such a way that on the Winter Solstice the rising sun penetrates the passage to the center of the tomb. The rest of the year the tomb remains dark. Sallie was upset as she was stuck behind several people and was unable to see the demonstration. Of course, my question is if the tomb is this old, and the earth is continually shifting, why does this still work?

There are several other prehistoric sites in this region of the Boyne River Valley. You can visit all three from the New Grange Visitor Center. It takes at least an hour and a half to visit New Grange. To visit the other sites takes a good half day. This is would be time well spent.

Back at the visitor's center I started trying to make reservations for our last night in Ireland. I wanted to find a place North of Dublin. It was about 2 p.m. which was almost too late. I had to call nearly 15 places before I found a room. In fact, the place we stayed only had one family room available. This en suite room had a double bed and two singles. At this point I wasn't picky.

I think the reason I had a hard time finding a room was that it was near Dublin and the Airport and it was a weekend. Before we left for the Halfacre B&B in Naul, I wanted to go by the Hill of Tara. We also stopped again in Slane to take a picture of huge stone gate surrounding the grounds of a castle.

The Hill of Tara is the site where the High Kings of Ireland were located. On the way we passed the Hill of Slane where St. Patrick (he is everywhere) lit a Paschel Fire in opposition to the King.

Today Tara has no remaining visible ruins. There is a series of earthworks which are visible as well as some small passage tombs. We watched the VIDEO again. This one was long and boring. The most exciting thing about the video is how it started. The theater is in a church. When the video starts the screen and curtains slowly lower plunging you into blackness.

After the tour we were given a personal tour by one of the guides. I believe this was to compensate for the lousy tour we had received at New Grange. While Tara does not seem like a high hill, from the top you can see forever. The guide told me on a clear day you can see seven different counties. I think I was more fascinated by the site than the others.

Afterwards we spent some time in the small gift shop and used bookstore at the bottom of the hill. And then off to Naul. This was an interesting experience. We soon found ourselves completely lost and turned around. I think we drove completely around Naul before we found the small village. Once we were there we had no problem finding the B&B. After dropping off our luggage, I went back into town to buy some ice cream and colas for everyone. The remainder of the night was spent repacking our luggage to go home the next day.

Today had been beautiful. It was actually hot today. The sky was blue and there was very little wind.

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