Sunday, 1 November 2009

Brú Na Bóinne

After leaving Sligo we had a pleasant overnight stay in Westport, on the western coast of Ireland. The B&B that we stayed in was called 'Augusta Lodge', and was very much into golf. So much so that the front lawn was converted into a giant putting green, with fake grass, cups and flags set out for putting practice. Whilst Nicole continued to finalise her studies for the semester, Phil and the boys played golf. The boys got the hang of putting, and by the end Alexander was sinking 10 footers with (scary) regularity! Cameron loved the long 'hail mary's', and dropped a few of these as well.

On Sunday, we had hoped to stop at a few museums and see a few sites on our way to our overnighter - however, everything was closed. We ended up having a lovely afternoon stroll and afternoon tea in Carrick-on-Shannon, before staying at a B&B which we found out later translates to 'the dump', but was anything but!

On our final full day, we struck out for the East coast, and Brú Na Bóinne. This was a historic site that was highly regarded, and we drove two hours in the rain to get there. As soon as we arrived the skies cleared!

We went on a tour to a fascinating site - what they call a passage tomb. It is massive, and is built on the top of a hill. A guide took us up to the site, and explained the history of the site and some of the thoughts as to why it was here, and what role it served. After this we entered the chamber inside the tomb. The place is 5000 years old, and is magnificently constructed and preserved. The roof of the chamber rises overhead, and the stones were placed in such a way that all water runs away from the chamber, and inside was perfectly dry. There were three alcoves, each containing a large basin stone. In these, remains of cremated bones were found when they first discovered the site.

The entry passage has a small 'window' built above it - and its purpose is revealed only every winter solstice. Because of surrounding hills, sunlight does not pass through the door. At dawn, when the sun rises over the surrounding hills, it shines through this window box, into the passage, and due to the gentle rise of the passage, the sunlight at the solstice lights up the floor of the central chamber. Absolutely awesome design.

The interesting thing is that the light of the equinox has moved to the right over time with the wobble of the earth. Alexander asked the guide when it would be back in the middle. The cycle is 27000 years long, so in 22000 years it will be back in the middle again!

The site was incredibly impressive, and the visitors centre was top notch as well. We spent several hours there, and it was really worth the visit (the coffee in the cafe was also excellent!)

A life size model of how experts think the people of the stone age lived. There were no photos allowed in the tomb, but the visitor cetnre had models of the inside of the passge tomb!

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