Brú na Bóinne (June 14)

One of the most amazing highlights of the trip has to be these passage tombs in a bend in the River Boyne. The size of the stones and the intricacies of the carvings would be impressive if done in modern times. To have been done in the Neolithic period almost 5000 years ago with only manual labor is mind boggling. Details here. The visitor center opened in 1997 and is phenomenal. The exhibits are clear and really well done. Not only the visitor center is full of information, but everywhere you walk they have included pictures, drawings, video, etc. It is somewhat overwhelming but so fascinating that one doesn’t want to miss anything!

The walk from the parking lot to the visitor center is a lovely, covered arbor and begins your education.

The path to the bus to the tombs crosses the River Borne. The water is crystal clear.

At Knowth, the site we visited (more here), there are at least nineteen smaller tombs near the main tomb. It is thought that they were built first, and the knowledge gained allowed construction of the larger tomb. While not the largest, Knowth is the most intricate and probably the last of the three large tombs to be constructed. As you can see below, the tombs were almost completely buried and some have been reconstructed. The fill dirt on top of the main tomb slid down over the kerbstones obscuring the construction. It appeared to be a large mound of dirt. Locals thought it had some significance, but were not sure what until excavation began in the 1960s.

Bob really couldn’t capture the immensity of Knowth. The smaller tomb (above right and below left), tiny compared to the main tomb. Some of the smaller are as large as 20 m (65 ft) in diameter and 3 m (almost 10 ft) high.

Knowth is 12 m (about 40 ft) high and 67 m (220 ft) in diameter.

There are 127 kerbstones, of which all but three are original. The flat rock above the kerbstones was added during reconstruction to protect from weathering.

Almost all of the stones have carvings – all different. The visitor center has a montage showing the different carvings. The largest collection of megalithic art in Europe.

The large stone above partially blocks one entrance to the tomb. It is believed that it was moved to allow entrance for certain ceremonial rites.

The stone pillar in front of the entrance casts a shadow on the capstone at marked places at different times of the year — a calendar?

In later years, people built houses out of stone found nearby without ever discovering the wonders under there feet.

Ramp and fifty steps to the top, at left.

View from the top, above.

Wise person who did not make the climb to the top. Marilyn doesn’t do sun without some shade.

Driving thru Dublin (June 13)

Trying to avoid a stretch of M50 which has an electronic toll that one has to search out a gas station or 7-11-like establishment to pay, we decided to drive thru the city. Fortunately, we had several hours to kill before we could check into our hotel for the night. We needed almost all of it, “rerouting” multiple times. We did get to see parts of Dublin we probably will never see again!

Needed a place to eat and Marilyn really needed a shandy. Found a likely place in Drogheda next to a mall (really!), but could not find the restaurant. Finally asked a security man where it was and he escorted us outside and around one end of the mall and pointed to a set of 20 or thirty stairs that led to the restaurant. Trudged up the stairs only to find out that it was closed on Tuesdays (that’s today). Walked across the river to a likely candidate — no beer. Walked down the street a little farther to a pub — no food, kitchen closed just before we arrived. Back to the first place. Ordered our meals and the waitress asked if we wanted a Heineken (guess it’s not real beer). Ordered a bottle and a bottle of Seven-Up and created our own shandies. The food was really good and another itch was scratched.

Across from the traditional shops was a very modern mall. The pedestrian bridge is also very modern and beautiful. In the distance one can see a railroad bridge that is part modern and part old stone arches. And, of course, there is a church with a tall steeple.

Kells Priory (June 12)

Our last stop on this very busy day was Kells Priory. This is the largest monastic monument in Ireland at just over three acres. It was founded in 1193 by Norman soldiers accompanied by Augustinian monks. The most dramatic 75 years in its history were between 1252 and 1327 when it was attacked and burned three times.

It seems like every site also must have an abandoned church.

The Irish don’t waste the space in an abandoned church, they just turn it into a graveyard.

Bob really likes this style gate. Allows people easy access without locks and keeps out the sheep.

The prior grew into the interesting structure that locals refer to as “the seven castles”. These “castles” are actually Norman tower houses connected by a wall that enclosed the religious function inside.

It’s a fairly good hike across the pasture to the main gate. Pretty easy as long as one watches one’s steps. The sheep seem totally unaffected by humans. The lamb didn’t even pause his dinner.

The priory was not as spectacular as some, but it did have some interesting drainage/plumbing.

Lorna Byrne / Sanctuary (June 12)

A nice lady at Jerpoint Abbey told us that the only nearby place to eat was The Blackberry Cafe in the village of Thomastown. So off we went. We found free parking and walked about two blocks to the cafe. Shortly after we ordered, three people sat at the table next to us — a couple from Finland and a single lady.

Bob heard them talking about gardening and suggested that Marilyn ask about a flower we had been seeing a lot of. We thought maybe it was Queen Anne’s Lace. She told us that growing up they were told it was “the devil’s bread” but when Bob Googled that later we learned that is poison hemlock (more about that later).

This was an interesting lady named Lorna Byrne who, it turned out, conducts conferences all over the world about spirituality. She grew up Catholic but her conferences cover all faiths (and no faiths). She presents as a rather retiring, soft-spoken, small woman. She has several published books and one of them was read by an American who sought her out and, after getting to know her and realizing that, at 70 years old, she may not be able to continue to travel so much, he purchased an “estate” near her farm and is renovating the beautiful house to be used for her conferences. It is in a foundation for her use. Some of the bedrooms will also be used for ill people she sometimes takes in. This link has a video of some of the early work on the house and garden while this one explains more about her life. Whether one believes this woman can see angels or not, her sincerity was very clear.

In addition to the house, the grounds have a huge garden that she hopes (and has begun) to grow food for area needs.

It truly is an estate. So far the main floor is almost finished including this room for her presentations. The beautiful chandeliers have been donated.

The couple with Lorna are from Finland and come periodically to help with the garden and the house.

The garden is huge and was the original garden on the estate but was, apparently, totally overgrown when they began work on it. There are all kinds of vegetables and herbs and it has a large greenhouse.

Jerpoint Abbey (June 12)

The second place we visited on this very busy day was this Abbey completed about 1180. It is known for its elaborate carvings. It is located in a beautiful site and once controlled twenty thousand(!) acres of land. It flourished until good old Henry VIII enacted the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Jerpoint’s outstanding feature is the 15th century cloister arcade that hosts its array of carved images unique in Cistercian architecture. The series of standing images include saints, mythical animals, clerics, secular figures and symbols of the passion.

This is one of two sculpted tombs in the north transepts by the well known O’Tunney’s of Callan.

Depicted are Peter, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, Simon, Philip, Bartholomew and Jude. Each is holding something recognizably associated with him, e.g., Peter with a key.

Not sure why, but we haven’t seen many crucifixes.

The three larger openings in the wall of the apse are for officiants to sit during the service. The two smaller openings are for the wine for communion.

Rock of Cashel (June 12)

Bob decided that it had been long enough since Dun Anegus (June 2) that Marilyn needed another “death march”. As usual, she has been a trooper for this whole trip and almost didn’t complain. Not sure she thinks it was worth the climb. Note from Marilyn: this was not anything like the climb at Dun Anegus!

This site was ruled by the ancient kings of Munster from about 300-1100 CE. Local clans fought to achieve the benefits of the high ground until Murtagh O’Brien wisely gave it to the church to prevent his rivals from regaining possession. The oldest building is the round tower (its pyramid-shaped top is peeking far right above the wall in the middle picture below) which dates from about 1100 CE. The graveyard (now full) was used at least until the 1860s. More detail here.

It is a long way up. As Marilyn says, invaders would have been exhausted even before reaching the walls.

The cathedral from the front. There is lots of living/working space behind.

Lots of different crosses everywhere. Just when we feel like we’re beginning to recognize the differences in architecture, we’re thrown for a loop by transition periods. The main door combines Gothic (pointed arch) and Romanesque (rounder arch). Most of the remaining buildings are from the 12th and 13th centuries.

It is almost impossible to capture the majesty and grandure of this place, but Bob tried.

The monks chose to live down the hill to not be corrupted by the excesses of the Archbishop.

Coats of arms and other symbols show usage as other than a church.

The builders always find something interesting to put in the niches.

Eating in Waterford (June 11)

Yesterday was a busy day and, walking to the crystal factory took us by most of what there is to see, so we took a leisure day today. We ate in the hotel Thomas Francis Meagher Bar. This was a very interesting Irishman who was convicted of sedition and later fought in the American Civil War and became governor of Montana. More here. Lunch turned out to be cafeteria style and was delicious. Bob had the lamb and Marilyn the chicken, both with a pepper sauce. Bob ate all his carrots and Marilyn loved her cabbage.

Walking around after lunch Marilyn noticed a “Tex-Mex” sign and we stopped to learn more. Of course, we went back later to have dinner. The young man who owned the “taco truck” was a delight and really did serve very recognizable Mexican food.

Bob selected a burrito and Marilyn had (guess, anyone?) nachos.

The ambiance left something to be desired but the food was a great taste of home.

Waterford (June 10)

We got to Waterford in time to take a tour of the factory. We parked several blocks away and walked to the factory in a light drizzle. The weather had been so nice for so long that we just ignored the “Irish Sunshine”. Waterford had been through some hard times in the last few years and most of the glassmaking has been outsourced to Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Germany. The factory in the city does mostly special commissions.

We have been to several glass making establishments in the United States, but were amazed by the additional artistic work done by the artisans here. The etching, sculpting, cutting, and other skilled steps are just amazing.

Glassblowing as we have seen before.

Special commissions involve creating a wooden mold for the object. These molds can only be used three to five times before they are ruined by heat.

This glove was commissioned by the Boston Red Sox for the retirement of Mariano Rivera.

Before going to the cutter/etchers, every object is marked according to detailed specs. There is a potload of different kinds of cuts.

Attempts have been made to create colored crystal. They have been only marginally successful.

A punch bowl on special commission — no price listed.

Hard to see, but a gnome playing a piano. The detail is amazing, but the sound is not very good.

Cobh/Ardmore (June 10)


Cobh (pronounced almost as “cove” but with a little bit of “b”) is a beautiful little town in southeast Ireland. Details here. Our guidebook suggested that we park in town, explore, and, if we had time, walk up to the cathederal. We lucked out because Bob spotted a parking lot as we came into town. Turned out it was right next to the cathederal. We walked to the front of the cathederal and decided that it was just too far down for a hike — it was also drizzling, so that’s our excuse. As you can see from the pictures, it is a long way down to the town.

These houses are referred to as the “deck of cards”. We presume because they are stacked on top of each other up the hill.

The guidebook was not excited about the cathedral except for the view — which is spectacular. Bob and Marilyn really liked the church — started in 1868 and completed in 1919. It is the tallest building in Ireland at 91.4 meters (300 feet). More here. The beautiful wood and the amazing amount and quality of the carvings made this one of the most impressive cathedrals we have seen. Can’t imagine what it cost to build in relatively modern time.


Ardmore is another small town between Kinsale and Waterford. It is known primarily for St. Declan’s Round Tower and Oratory. St. Declan brought Christianity to Ireland almost fifteen years before St. Patrick. Our guidebook suggests that he “had a weaker public-relations team”. More here.

The tower is almost 30 meters high (97 feet). The door is more than four meters up (about 14 feet).

The Oratory is known for the carvings over the doors and the ogham stone column. It is thought that the writing on most of the stones consists of personal names. More about script here.

We stopped in the only establishment that served food in Ardmore. Across the street was a building with a thatched roof. It was the closest we have been, so Bob had to get pictures. One can see how thick the thatch is and how the crown of the roof in reinforced(?) with thicker material. Lots more detail about thatching here.

Kinsale (June 9)

Skipped over Kinsale on our way to our B&B in Bandon on the 8th. It was very crowded and we’d already had a fairly busy day. Started the 9th with a leisurely breakfast and then spent a few hours touring the town. Details here.

A fine example of a walled city. In this case, most of the walls are gone.

The streets are narrow and people park in places that make it even more difficult.

If you hate your job, consider the guy who had to roll this “tumbler cart” around town collecting sewage and then spreading it on fields outside of town.

St Multose Church.

The base to this baptismal font dates from the 6th century.

This was once the main entrance to the church. Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers were garrisoned here in the mid-1600s. They sharpened their swords on the doorway. Guess most of them were right-handed.

The grass covered plot is dedicated to “Victims of the Lusitania Outrage of 1915”.

The graveyard contains some of the largest crypts we’ve seen.