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Ireland day 0015. Wednesday 13 October 2021- Fourknocks

Ireland day 0015. Wednesday 13 October 2021- Fourknocks
Today’s summary Left the car at home and walked from the cottage to Fourknock passage tomb and back.   Mostly a very easy road-walk, about 6 mi / 11km in return
Today’s weather Overcast all day.   No sun but no rain or wind either.  About 14C
Overview map Route map
Today’s overview location
(the red cross in a circle shows where Val and I are at the moment)
Close-up location
(click the button below for a GPX of our our walk today):
Fourknocks gpx
Commentary

We’ve been in Ireland two full weeks now, and starting to get a bit of a general view of what the place is like.   My over-riding impressions are that it’s very friendly, very green, and looks a lot like the UK, but isn’t.   I think appearances can be deceptive because although the countryside looks like much of rural England, if you scratch the surface, it’s actually quite different.   For a start, it’s covered in a labyrinthine cobweb of narrow winding roads linking up the myriad tiny villages, but with relatively few main roads and an even smaller number of motorways (which, it has to be said, are mostly super-modern and well engineered).

But the thing I’ve noticed most acutely, and which I think I mentioned a few days ago, is that there are very few footpaths, and no public rights of way, here.   The fields and hills that look so enticing are simply inaccessible no-go zones, all in the hands of private landowners, mostly farmers.   The lack of footpaths probably also goes some way towards explaining why recreational countryside walking – which is so popular in the UK – really doesn’t seem to be a big thing here.   That’s a bit of a disappointment to me, as it’s one of my favourite occupations and I’d hoped to use it as a an entry-point into social groups and it looks like that might not be as successful as I’d envisaged.   That poses the interesting question of how to integrate into a community as an outsider.   Which is something we will both have to ponder over the coming weeks and months.

Anyway today, we decided to leave the car at home and do the best we could to head off into the countryside right from our cottage.   Our destination today was the fine Neolithic passage tomb at Fourknock – a smaller version of its giant brother at Newgrange.   The route there was all on tarmac, though the roads were blissfully free of traffic and pretty easy going , if a bit hard on the feet.

The tomb itself is a beautiful Teletubbyland grassy mound, with a small (locked) entrance passage leading to the interior where the remains of 65 individuals, interred about 4500 years ago, have been discovered.   Inside, one of a the rock walls apparently has a carving of a human face – the oldest such depiction in Ireland.   But from the reproduction of the image on the sign outside, I had trouble discerning any human features at all.   To be honest, if it looked like anything at all, it was a grinning cat.   Maybe Alice had Neolithic ancestors.

Fourknocks (which is probably derived from the Irish Gaelic “Fuair Cnocs“, meaning “cold hills”) sits astride one of the highest summits in the area and from the top you can see not only the Mourne mountains to the north (yes they are still alluring) but also the equally enticing Wicklow mountains – including the strikingly conical Giant Sugarloaf summit – to the south.   We lingered over a late picnic lunch, enjoying the soft fresh air, the peace and quiet, and the solitude.   Then we hot-footed it back to Ardcath to chop some logs and to start the daily rituals of firelighting and of plotting our next day’s adventures.

 

Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

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Entrance to our demesne
(“Demesne” is a peculiarly Irish word which basically means “land around a dwelling-place”.   It is pronounced a bit like “demean” or “domain”)
Setting out on our journey to Fourknocks, down the little-used road directly opposite our cottage
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A typically Irish scene (at least in Co. Meath) – modern grey bungalows, with lots of fields.. ..and cows
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Looking south through wild rose hedge in full bloom.   The Wicklow mountains to the south, with the distinctive triangular summit of The Great Sugarloaf faintly visible visible on the horizon centre-left Entrance to Fourknock tomb.   I phoned Mr Fintan White – a local farmer and custodian of the key – and asked if I could be allowed access.   Sadly he told me that because of “the virus”, visitors are not allowed inside at the moment.   We’ll just have to return in a post-pandemic era
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The tomb itself.   A typical passage grave, like Newgrange.   But more interesting in many ways, because absolutely nobody ever seems to visit it.
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