Wednesday 1 August 2018 Dunleer – Dublin
- Battle of the Boyne
- Mellifont Abbey
- Newgrange and Knowth
First stop today was the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre at Oldbridge, where the battle in 1690 between the forces of the deposed King James II of England and those of Dutch Prince William of Orange occurred. The battle took place across the River Boyne near the town of Drogheda and resulted in the victory for William. This turned the tide in James’s failed attempt to regain the British crown. The symbolic importance of this battle has made it one of the best-known battles in the history of the British Isles and if the result had been different then Ireland would have had a completely different history without British Protestant influence. It is a key part of the folklore of the Orange Order, which on the 12 July every year there are commemorative parades held. We watched a film which explained the history of the battle and the centre has several displays about artefacts from the site. It is an OPW heritage site and free for members.
From here we visited Mellifont Abbey a Cistercian abbey near Drogheda. It was the first abbey of the order to be built in Ireland and founded in 1142. It served as William of Orange’s headquarters in 1690 during the Battle of the Boyne. The most significant remains of Mellifont Abbey is the chapter house, the Lavabo where the monks would have washed their hands before meals and the impressive Gateway. The other parts of the Abbey are gone but small walls remain making it possible to make out how the Abbey would have looked. This is also an OPW heritage site and free for members.
Next stop was Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre near Donore, to visit Newgrange and Knowth megalithic sites which are designated World Heritage Sites. The only way to visit these sites is through the visitor centre where you are given arranged time slots and transportation by bus to the site and a guided tour at the site. Newgrange was our first site and by this time it had begun to rain. It is a 5 200-year-old (3 200BC) passage tomb built by Stone Age farmers and is 85 metres in diameter and 13.5-metre-high and covers an area of about 1 acre. We entered a passage and there is a chamber with 3 alcoves. The passage and chamber are aligned with the rising sun at Winter Solstice and we were given a demonstration of this whilst inside. We then walked around the tomb which is surrounded by 97 large stones called kerbstones some of which are engraved with megalithic art; the most striking is the entrance stone with interconnecting spirals. The amount of time and labour invested in the construction of this huge kidney shaped mound is amazing.
We returned by bus, waited 45 minutes and dried out and then boarded another bus for Knowth, a similar size tomb but surrounded by 18 smaller satellite mounds. On our arrival we were met by a guide who escorted us around the site. Just as the tour started the rain stopped. The great mound has two passages with entrances on opposite sides and the one we went into had a cruciform chamber. After seeing the chamber, we walked up onto the top of the mound which has fantastic views of the Boyne River and Newgrange and then around the satellite mounds. Another fascinating site which is run by OPW heritage. To visit both sites, it required the best part of 4 hours and even in the rain it was still a great site and gives a fantastic understanding of the organisation of the Neolithic people and their beliefs. These sites are reminiscent of the ones in the Orkneys.
After returning to the Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre we headed to Dublin to our camp for the night at the Red Cow Park and Ride at Naas Rd, Dublin. There were 6 other motorhomes parked here for the night.
Thursday 2 August 2018 Dublin – Killarney
- Kilmainham Gaol
First thing this morning we headed into Dublin city on the tram to Kilmainham Goal situated near the Suir Road stop. We walked to the Gaol and managed to change our booking for a guided tour from 2:45pm to 10:15am. Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796 and closed its doors in 1924. Leaders of the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916 were detained and in some cases executed here. Convicts from many parts of Ireland were held here for long periods waiting to be transported to Australia and many of the Irish revolutionaries, including the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, were imprisoned and executed in the prison by the British. After assembling in the court area, we went to the chapel and then through the cell blocks and into the hanging room. We finished the tour in the courtyard where some prisoners were executed by firing squad. The tour guide was very passionate in his presentation and very entertaining.
Back to the tram to the National Museum of Decorative Arts and History at the former Collins Barracks where it tells the story of Ireland’s economic, social, political and military progress through the ages. We visited the Old Riding School building which is home to Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising which is dedicated to the rebellion. The display explores the complicated socio-historical background to the Rising and also includes factual memorabilia. In one zone is the accounts of those who died or were imprisoned and interned from Kilmainham Goal along with items that belonged to each one.
Back to the motorhome to head to Killarney a town on the shores of Lough Leane in southwest Ireland’s County Kerry to catch up with our friends Greg and Kez who are travelling in Ireland and currently in Killarney. We drove to their B&B had a couple of drinks and caught up with their travels. As Kez had sprained her ankle we met Greg at Scruffy’s a pub in town where there was live music tonight. There were two guys playing and they were great. A great night was had by all. We parked in the railway carpark with 3 other motorhomes.
Friday 3 August 2018 Killarney – Cobh
This morning after purchasing a few supplies we headed to Cork. We forgot to add to our GPS navigation, avoid ferries so we ended up at Ringaskiddy ferry crossing and €7.50 and 15 minutes later we sailed across the passage to Cobh our destination for the night at a fantastic purpose-built motorhome park for 30 motorhomes with water and grey and black waste emptying facilities for €10 for 24 hours and a view overlooking the harbour to die for.
After dinner we walked along the harbour to Cobh, a pretty little town which has naming rights to the last port of call and town visited by the Titanic before it met its tragic end. Everywhere in the town there is Titanic memorabilia; the Titanic Museum, Titanic Heritage Centre and the Titanic Pub where we called in to listen to music and a drink or two. The band was good but no Irish music, so we headed over the road to Kelly’s pub where a guy was playing a guitar. He was fantastic but still no Irish music.
Saturday 4 August 2018 Cobh – Cork – Kinsale
Today we caught the train which is about 500 metres from the parking area and headed into Cork city. Our first stop was The English Markets a municipal food market in the heart of the city centre. It has been trading as a market since 1788 and has survived the Famine, revolutions, wars, fire and economic decline. It is a covered market selling produce which includes meat, fish, breads and organic fruit and vegetables. We bought some dolmades and a scone. They were delicious!
We then walked a maze of winding streets to the Butter Museum which explores the history of the world’s largest butter market
and passed Shandon Tower and Bells, St Anne’s Church, a red and white stone tower with a golden salmon weathervane perched on top built in 1722. When we visited Cork 10 years ago we thought it was old and tired looking and it still appears to be the same today.
After walking around, we caught the train back, picked up the motorhome and drove to Old Head of Kinsale along the Wild Atlantic Way north, to visit Fort Charles a star fort located on the water’s edge, at the southern end of the village of Summer Cove on Kinsale Harbour. It is a classic example of a late 17th century star-shaped fort. Charles Fort has been associated with some of the most momentous events in Irish history, the most significant of these is the Civil War 1922-23. We walked the ramparts and around the ruins, the site is huge with stunning views over the estuary. This is an OPW site and free to members.
Tonight, we camped tonight at the carpark overlooking Fort Charles and Courtmacsherry Bay with 10 other motorhomes. An absolutely stunning view.