One of the most famous cemeteries in the world is the Valley of the Kings near Luxor in Egypt. The final resting place of the pharaohs. Ireland has a similar area. Admittedly no decorated tombs with mummies, but still. The Boyne Valley in eastern Ireland is impressive in a different way.
Long before the construction of the pyramids, the area of Bru na Bóinne already populated. The three archaeological sites of Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth near the River Boyne make this place so special. Many secrets are still hidden in the ground of this Unesco World Heritage site. They are age-old tombs, in which the necessary objects and art objects have been discovered. The search for new tombs is still ongoing.
Straight through Knowth is a long corridor with several tombs. This is the most impressive of the three. From the outside, it’s not just a big green hill with a nice view, surrounded by a neat lawn. Thousands of years old graffiti can be admired in the stones that form the walls. Shapes and names are carved into the boulders. And above all, Brú na Bóinne feels like a mythical and mysterious place.
Action on the Boyne
Ten kilometers upstream, 350 years ago, a real battle took place along the River Boyne. The Battle of the Boyne has gone down in history as a strategic battle in which the river played a key role. Our Willem III fought with his men against his father-in-law King James II and finally won by crossing the narrow river. The Battle of the Boyne visitor center is housed in an old stately mansion and provides great insight and information about one of the most important events in Irish history.
Today the Boyne is in calmer waters. Perfect waterway for a boat trip even. With a boat that fits seamlessly into this environment. The Irish currach is a wooden and manoeuvrable boat best known for Game of Thrones, which Ireland has used more often as a backdrop. Ross is a chatty guy and organizes with his company Boyne Boats round trips in such a special and homemade boat. Because these are also the original boats that were used in the hit series. Ross still rents out the boats for movies and series. We paddle in style through the beautiful autumn scenery of County Meath.
Just follow the river
Where the Boyne connects with the Irish Sea is located Drogheda. This is the metropolis of the region and the sixth largest city in Ireland. The meandering Boyne is clearly visible from the Martello Tower next to the Millmount museum. Although Drogheda with just 35,000 inhabitants is still of modest size, the city does not have a very good reputation from the past. Initiated by the drug circuit, several incidents have taken place in recent years. During a walk through this old town I don’t notice anything of this. The impressive St. Peter’s Church stands proudly above the city. Further on is the second eye-catcher of the city. The St. Laurence Gate is the restored remnant of the old city walls and resembles a small castle.
Trim is the place to be for a real castle. About twenty miles downstream, along the River Boyne, of course, stands Trim Castle. In the 12th century, the castle was considered the largest in Europe. With walls three meters thick in places, it was also a fortress. The model in the tower gives a good idea of the former size of the castle. You can wander through the countless rooms in the castle via narrow spiral staircases. From the roof, the view is beautiful over the vast farmlands surrounding Trim. The castle plays a leading role in the annual Puca Halloween Festival. A procession led by the Púca and followed by numerous ghosts crosses Trim and ends at Trim Castle, where the Halloween party begins.
Even more castles
Not surprisingly, the Boyne flows through the backyard. A lot younger but still inhabited Slane Castle. And still owned by the Conyngham family who built it. Lord Henry is now at the helm of the castle. A real businessman. Slane Castle has been the setting for the biggest outdoor pop concerts for many years. Several famous artists have performed, stayed overnight or recorded albums at Slane Castle. U2 is a regular guest, among others. In addition, the castle has a restaurant and the beautifully decorated rooms are offered for events. The horse stables behind the castle have been converted into a serious whiskey distillery where Slane Irish Whiskey is being produced. A tour of the beautifully converted complexes ends in the tasting room where all the flavors of this increasingly popular whiskey are reviewed. And not to forget; Slane Castle is also still the home of Lord Henry and his family.
A journey through time
A journey through Ireland’s Ancient East is a succession of mythical experiences and stories of a past that is far from being unraveled. The River Boyne meandering through the countryside leads the way to many interesting places. In the period around Halloween, County Meath is under the Puca Halloween Festival also brimming with activities that further enhance the mysterious atmosphere. And all this within a 45-minute drive from the capital Dublin.