Ireland day 0002. Thursday 30 September 2021- Surprises
After yesterday’s journey and the taxing build up to it, we had been looking forward to a slightly quieter day today.
So we had a cup of tea then enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the sub-mezzanine kitchen. We had just decided to visit the nearby Brú na Bóinne neolithic site when Colm popped in with some interesting news. It turned out that his firm had two spare guest hospitality tickets for the Bellewstown races, which he generously offered to us. Of course, we accepted and added the races to our itinerary. (I did wonder if, as a retired civil servant I needed to decline this hospitality. But as I imagine – or at least hope – that there isn’t too much overlap between nuclear power stations and agricultural machinery, I decided it was probably OK to accept).
So our first port of call was the really excellent but well hidden Brú na Bóinne visitor centre. Which, although only about 16mi / 25 km from here, seemed to involve a circular drive around most of County Meath to find it. The Brú na Bóinne site (which means “Palace on the river”) contains three neolithic (i.e. around 5000 years old, or somewhat older than the pyramids) passage tombs. These tombs litter Ireland but the three at Brú na Bóinne are the most impressive. We visited two, at NewGrange and Knowth. they really are impressive sites, and you are transported between them by minibus. The visit was free, as are all 86 “Office of Public Works” heritage sites in Ireland for the whole of 2021, courtesy of COVID.
The passage graves celebrate revered members of the neolithic communities, and are decorated by large “kerbstones”. The kerbstones themselves are inscribed with mysterious spiral and sinuous patterns. It is speculated that the stonemason was high on magic mushrooms at the time he or she carved them.
No time even for a cup of tea after the visit then we were off to Bellewstown, about 10 miles / 16km away. Neither of us had ever been to the races before and we were delighted to discover that not only had Colm arranged for us to get free admission, but he had also laid on a late lunch. Suitably fortified with burgers, chips and pork belly, we rushed off to study form and then cheer on the runners in the 5:20 Byrne Marquees Handicap. Sadly my horse finished second to last while Val did slightly better in 4th place. Still, we only lost €5 in all.
So that was our Thursday and our first proper day in Ireland. If it carries on at this pace, I will probably be worn out in a week. Excellent.
Today’s photos (click to enlarge)