THE CELTIC TOUR & BOYNE VALLEY - 1 Day Tour by Extreme Ireland
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Depart from the tourist office at Suffolk Street in Dublin city centre (outside the old stone church).After our guide introduces himself we travel north into the royal county of Meath towards Oldcastle.
We arrive at the sacred site of 'Loughcrew' with a concentration of around 30 passage tombs. This is one of the most important prehistoric cemeteries in Ireland and many agree that it is better than that of the famous Newgrange. You'll walk to the top of the hill where one of the best preserved and most accessible tombs on the site can be seen.Once we open the iron gate you'll enter the tomb with a flash lamp to find along the walls and the ceiling Celtic designs carved into the rock over 5000 years ago, still perfectly visible. This central tomb is said to be the burial place of the legendary High King of Ireland Ollamh Fodhla.You will stand on this sacred high ground and see for miles and imagine the kind of ceremony that took place as this great man was laid to rest.Afterwards we will take a short coffee stop to a café nearby where you will see the family church of Saint Oliver Plunkett.
After a drive through some breathtaking Irish countryside we make our next stop at the great 'Trim Castle'. Here you will be given a guided tour of this fabulous stronghold that is still standing after 800. It was at this castle where some of the best fight scenes in the film 'Braveheart' were shot. Trim castle is the most important and best preserved Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland situated on the edge of Trim town itself.Trim castle was the stronghold of Hugh de Lacy who was granted the Kingdom of Meath by King Henry II shortly after the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in Ireland, in 1172. Over the centuries the castle was used for many different purposes to suit the changing political climate but still today much of its walls and battlements remain.
Not far from Trim castle we will arrive at the 'Hill Of Tara', the seat of the High Kings - the most sacred site in ancient Ireland. It is said that a quarter of Ireland's landscape can be seen from this point.Tara gets its name from 'Teamhair na Ri' which means 'Sanctuary of the Kings' and is the traditional inauguration site of the ancient High Kings of Ireland.Tara was at the height of its importance around 600BC and was the royal centre of Mide, meaning 'The Middle Kingdom' once the 5th province of Ireland. There is a standing stone called 'Lia Fail' located at the centre of a circular mound know as The Royal Seat.According to tradition when a true Irish King placed his foot on the Lia Fail, it cried out to announce his rightful reign - so you can have a go while you're there. We might have the true King of Ireland in our mists!! We'll grap some lunch at Tara before we push on to our next destination.
We travel through the village of Slane and make a photo stop at 'Slane Castle', the home of the Earl of Mount Charles; Henry Conyngham. The castle is a remarkable building built in 1785 by Ireland's most distinguished architect, James Gandon who designed Dublin's Four Courts and The Custom House. The Earl is only one of a very small handful of Irish aristocrats that still live in the Republic. At the turn of the last century many of these Anglo protestant families were at their peak of power and controlled much of Ireland's lands which were confiscated from the Irish by the English after the Williamite War 1689/91. After the War of Independence in the early 1920's many of these aristocratic families fled as the revolution spread throughout the country. Some did manage to stay and hold on to a fraction of their lands and many became farmers. In Slane Castles case, they made the unorthodox decision at the time to turn to live music in the late 1970's. Today Slane Castle hosts Ireland's premier annual music concert. It can hold 80,000 fans and over the years has hosted concerts by Queen, The Rolling Stones, Guns N'Roses and U2 to name a few. In fact, U2's fourth studio album 'The Unforgettable Fire' was recorded in the great Hall at Slane Castle! As you leave Slane village, ask your guide to tell you the story of the four sisters !
Your guide will meander through some back-roads and make an unusual stop at what is known locally as 'The Jumping Church'. Shrouded in local mythology since 1715 nobody knows if the phenomenon of the jumping church is natural or supernatural. Local folklore says that a once prominent and prosperous member of the local community was buried inside the church at the gable wall ( a great honour in those days ) was later found out to have a secret sinister past, and was excommunicated from the church. The morning after a storm in 1715 the gable wall of the church had jumped 3 feet inward fully intact, leaving the grave of the disgraced person outside the church walls. The mystery that has surrounded this spectacle since the 18th century will probably never be satisfactory solved.
Our next stop on the fabulous Celtic 1 Day Tour is at the religious site at 'Monisterboice'. The High Cross of Monisterboise is the finest in Ireland and is highly regarded as one of the finest surviving examples of Irish religious art. This religious site has been there since 520AD founded by Saint Buite. Its name derives from the Irish 'Mainistir Bhuithe' meaning 'the monastery of Buite'. The monastery holds the 2nd highest round town in Ireland which was burned in 1097 destroying its library and other treasures but still remains intact apart from its head cap. You will also find the Celtic High Cross of Muiredach from the early ninth century and probably the finest of its type in the world.
Just a short hop to our next and final stop before we make our way back to Dublin. You will have approximately 2 hours in the historical town of Drogheda. When we arrive in the centre of the town you will be met by a local tour guide who will walk you through this fascinating place lasting 1 hour which is steeped in highly significant Irish history. You will visit St. Peters Church where inside you will see the decapitated head of Saint Oliver Plunkett. Drogheda was an important Anglo-Norman settlement and was one of the largest walled towns in Medieval Ireland. The town walls held strong twice from attack. Firstly from Edward Bruce in 1317 and again by Phelim O'Neill in 1642. However the walls were breached in 1649 by Cromwell and sacked the town massacring 3500 people inside. After your walking tour you will have about 1 hour free time to explore the town and check out the many shops and stalls.
After a hugely enjoyable and educational day, we make our way back to Dublin city ( just 45 mins ). At this point you'll be experts on Irish history, so maybe a quiz on the way back to shorten the journey home !
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