Yesterday was both fabulous and frustrating. I took the bus back to Dublin, leaving at 7:15 for a tour I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go on. Happily that all worked out and by 9:30 I was on the tour bus for Newgrange, also known as Bruin Na Boinne. There were only 8 other people on the tour, including a nice couple from Ohio who were here for the Navy/Notre Dame game. The tour guide was great and our first stop was the harbor town of Howth. I saw some great views and a seal!!!! He was so cute! The tour guide said that a few years ago the fishermen would sell buckets of fish to feed the seals but then they were everywhere and annoying, so the harbormaster put a stop to it. I am a bit sad…I would have loved to feed a seal, even if, as she told us, it had become so picky as to only accept salmon.
Newgrange was so impressive. The site is a passage tomb built by the first human inhabitants of the island and is 5000 years old (older than the pyramids). It is a great round mound of green grass, fronted by white quartz with a narrow passage to a small chamber at the center. On the winter solstice, light comes in the lightbox above the entrance and illuminates the chamber gorgeously. In the tour they demonstrate an approximation of it with a light, though it is simply not as impressive. I felt small and terribly young inside that old old structure. No one really knows what the purposes of the tombs were (2 more big ones and many smaller ones are nearby), but it is believed to have been a ritual center for at least 1000 years. Over the years it acquired a lot of legend, being said to be the home of faeries and sun god.
The next stop is a stop that is part of why I came to Ireland. Monsterboice was a small monastic community founded in the 6th century. What remains is largely 9th-12th century. My reason for being there are the two well-preserved high crosses, the most famous being St Muiredach’s Cross. This cross is well known for being the best preserved. A picture simply does not communicate how large and solid the cross is. It is carved all over with stories from the bible, meant to tell the stories to a population that could not read. One side is New Testament, the other Old, though the center of both sides is centered on Jesus. Naturally…my camera broke somewhere between Newgrange and Monasterboice….so I was taking pictures with the aid of a hairpin…decision on fixing or buying a new camera to be determined tomorrow. I was simply ectastic and I actually got to touch the cross!!!!!! The history buff in me is still doing cartwheels.