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Ireland - At last!

I am sat here writing this feeling very, very lucky, I have been fortunate enough to visit Carrowkeel, a totally magical, unforgettable location equalling anything in Europe; anyway, more of that later. I had postponed visiting Ireland on more than one occasion due to bad weather, however, this time there was no turning back, the van was packed and the ferry tickets were in my hand. It was a quilt free trip as we had recently had 2 weeks in the sun and a short break to Cornwall and so a quick dash from Lincolnshire to Holyhead and I was soon heading for the Hill of Tara. I arrived to an empty car park just before 7.00am on a very blustery day, the rooks were screeching, diving into the wind only to be swept back to the trees surrounding the church and graveyard, all very eerie. Even as a total non believer I could feel the power and the energy radiating from this site as I walked up the ceremonial route to the mound of hostages and the stone of destiny, ancient voices carried on the wind, only they were speaking English, more people had arrived and I realised I was standing on a grassy mound in Ireland, nothing more, nothing less, time to move on. A short trip to the Boyne valley were I was going to visit Newgrange and Knowth. I had read that the only way to enjoy these sites is to accept that they belong to the day tripper and that you are their visitor not the other way around and to just relax and become a tourist yourself, and I have to say I had a thoroughly good day out. A very pleasant visitor centre a nice run around the countryside in the transit bus and perfectly manicured site and pathways to walk on. I didn't even get upset by the controversial quartz wall at the front of Newgrange, its there now, no one is going to knock it down or change it we have to live with it and just hope they do not employ the same team to give Stonehenge a makeover after it sinks into the tunnel beneath. Back in the van and off to Loughcrew where I spent the night before exploring the following day. It was Bank Holiday Monday and I guessed it might attract a few people so I organised with the local guide Fechin to go up Carnbane in the morning before it got too busy. Armed with the key to Cairn T we enjoyed a beautiful sunny day, the views were spectacular and the artwork inside the cairn stunning. I could see across the valley to Carnbane West where Cairn L is located, I had also read that public access has been denied for a number of years following the last outbreak of foot and mouth. Given that it was starting to get busy I decided to head off in that direction. A quick hop over a locked field gate and a surprisingly tough little hill and I was looking into Cairn L an immaculately preserved cairn, possibly better than T, however, the real shock was to discover that there are 6 or 7 Cairns in various states of preservation up there and I had the whole place to myself, not a single fellow trespasser nor angry farmer. I ended up staying there for the afternoon soaking up the warm sunshine. Next day it was off to Carrowkeel. I had read that approaching Carrowkeel is like entering a lost valley and that is exactly how it felt, cliffs to either side, road just wide enough for the van and no one else in sight. The walk up to the most visited cairns G, H, K, L is nothing short of stunning and the cairns fabulous with no barrier to entry, you can crawl through the passage and play around inside to your hearts content, further on there is a large sinkhole and on again standing stones. On the way back down detours to the seldom visited Cairns C and D and then a scramble up to E and F provided even more stunning views. A word of caution if visiting these last 4, the paths are ill defined due to lack of visitors and its easy to miss them coming back, there a cliff hedges and sink holes around so please take care. I really did not want to leave this beautiful valley nor the mountains, I loved every moment there and every part of it and will definitely go back to explore the cairns I could see on neighbouring mountain tops. With a heavy heart I headed for Carrowmore which I didn't really enjoy after Carrowkeel, it was far too manicured and sterile, however, redeemed to some extent by the way it sat in the shadow of Knocknarea as indeed did everything. Overnight in Strandhill and ready to tackle the hill in the morning in order to visit Queen Maeve's grave. A walk from the beach at Standhill to Sligo rugby club and then up what is called the 'New Walk' up Knocknarea, actually very exciting as it gains height quickly and then follows a 300m board walk up through the trees before gaining open mountain. I didn't stay too long as no one seemed to understand the 'Do not climb' signs and for some reason I found it upsetting. Back down to the beach and a quick visit up the road to the famous court tomb of Creevykeel. Next day a longish drive down to the Burren to see the famous Poulnabrone dolmen, why this should be the most photographed dolmen in Ireland escaped me, however, the barren lunar like landscape was a most enjoyable drive. Next day was a tour through Carlow (nostalgic as I used to visit with work) and stops at the incredibly impressive Brownes Hill dolmen with its huge capstone and Haroldstown dolmen situated on a nasty bit of road. Finally I headed back towards Dublin viviting the 3 stone circles of Castleruddery, Athgreany and less visited Broadlees on the way. Castleruddery was particularly fascinating being a henge as well as a circle. Anyway it was all over bar the shouting, ferry back to Holyhead and dash home. Cannot wait to go South to Cork on my next visit just need to keep the home points building up

Posted by costaexpress
8th May 2017ce

Comments (3)

Wow, that was a whirlwind tour! Enjoyed reading that, always interesting to hear people's reactions to visiting these places for the first time. Hope you got the weather for some good pics. CianMcLiam Posted by CianMcLiam
8th May 2017ce
Ha well done costa, that's some committed stone chasing/hunting. Looking forward to the foties. ryaner Posted by ryaner
9th May 2017ce
You do have a knack of putting together rather first class introductory itineraries. Ever thought of hiring yourself out as a guide? :-) GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
9th May 2017ce
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