The Ancient and Quiet Places of Ireland

IMG_1603In a previous post I said that, when we left the hubbub of Dublin, we sought quiet. And where better to find quiet than among the ancient folk and the marks they left on the land?

Always drawn to graveyards of any age, we find the most ancient ritual burial places especially fascinating. Who were these peoples, who left symbols carved into gigantic stones? Who left passage tombs and dolmens and wedge tombs and stone circles?

If I were going to urge people to visit just one place in Ireland in would be Brú na Bóinne, near Dublin in County Meath. This large and complex megalithic site is home to Newgrange and Knowth. Here one finds passage tombs, ranging from small and modest to huge and awe-inspiring. These tombs date to 3500 BCE, older than Stonehenge, older than the Egyptian pyramids, older than most things we’ll ever be lucky enough to see.

The majesty of these sites, with their evidence that we are only the latest of the innovative and reflective people to inhabit the earth, defies description.

But they aren’t the only worthwhile megalithic places in the land. We also visited Carrowmore and the Cavan Burren Park.

Carrowmore, in County Sligo, contains passage tombs, as well as stone circles, even older than Newgrange, dating to 3700 BCE.

The Cavan Burren Park, in County Cavan, has a new visitor center and wonderfully constructed walking trails that take one past megalithic tombs, prehistoric stone walls, ancient rock art, and glacial erratics.

Of course, a spot need not be ancient to inspire calm and introspection. From the National Museum of Ireland to Yeats’ grave, we found our quiet places.

May you share the awe and peace we found at these remarkable places.  A huge thank you to Angela, from A Silver Voice of Ireland, for her generous guidance in directing us to many of these wonderful sites!

40 thoughts on “The Ancient and Quiet Places of Ireland

  1. I love your photographs! The rolling green hills and grey skies are exactly how I pictured Ireland. It reminds me a lot of home and makes me a bit wistful. I also think it’s really fascinating (after living in America, who is really just a toddler in terms of age) to see sites that have such history behind them. Just the date 3500 BCE really boggles the mind. Thanks for sharing your adventures!

    • Ireland never disappoints–it looks just like the postcards! The age of everything really is stunning–you are forever just happening upon buildings and sites that would cause a big stir here in the States.

  2. How I wish I had been there with you! I’m fascinated by megalithic sites. Thank you for the tour! You didn’t notice feeling any unusual energy at these sites, did you?

    • I don’t know if I’d call it “unusual energy”–I certainly felt a sense of awe and respect! I just read an article in National Geographic about new megalithic discoveries on the Orkney Islands in Scotland. There’s even a tour that’s specifically oriented to archaeology and run by archaeologists. That’s definitely on my travel list now!

  3. Wow. (The tombs.) Just, wow. That perfectly constructed passageway linking us with people thousands of years ago. I wish I’d known about this when I went to Ireland. Thank you for your beautiful post.

  4. I so wish I was there, to wander and to wonder! To feel the cool stones and trace the carvings…to feel history seeping from the earth into my bones!

    • At Newgrange, you’re taken inside the passage tomb and they simulate the moment when the sun rises at the solstice and light streams in–it’s mind blowing! No photos allowed, though, much to my dismay.

  5. Isn’t that the most wonderful thing! I too love these far distant signs of great civilisations – most of the knowledge was ‘lost’ during the time we know as the ‘Dark Ages’ [‘Dark’ due to suppression of knowledge and spirituality, not lack of daylight as I have heard some say 🙂 ] Lucky you to get to visit them. Your photos are stunning and finishing it all of with a touch of WB is just perfect 🙂 This post made my morning!

    • Whenever you take the plunge, do go to Bru na Boinne. Get there early (it can swarm with tourists) and set aside the full morning/early afternoon so you can see both Knowth and Newgrange–the experiences are really different and complement each other perfectly!

    • I can’t explain what it is about these megalithic sites that gets to me so totally. The next one I’m hankering to visit is in the Orkney Islands, in Scotland.

  6. Yes, we too have been lucky enough to visit some of these ancient sites. The last time was maybe 25 years ago, but I still remember the awe and connection with the people who, with little in the way of technology, constructed these magnificent places, In particular, the beam of light which penetrates at New Grange at Winter Solstice made a strong impression on us, even though we w weren’t there at the right time to witness it ourselves. Amazing stuff

    • I had been to Newgrange about 16 years ago and was surprised to see how different the experience was this time. They have a new (and pretty incredible) visitors’ center and you take a bus to the sites. We hadn’t been to Knowth before and it was amazing. The whole visit was much more structured this time (and took a lot longer) but I think they’re doing a good job of protecting the sites and managing the throngs of tourists.

  7. Must have been an impressive place to visit! Isn’t it amazing what people were able to built and create without the resources we have nowadays? Love the shot of the crosses!

  8. Kerry, what a wonderful trip and how interesting you tell your stories. The photos are so beautiful, so well capturing the story they want to tell. And…we share a passion for dolmens and pre-historic sites. In The Netherlands we used to live to close several sites and we visited various sites in Scandanavia and England/Scotland (Stone Henge!) as well. That makes us cousins, right? Thank you for sharing!!!

    • I’m so happy to hear that you share this interest–but it doesn’t surprise me, really! We seem to see quite a few things in similar ways! I loved Stonehenge, too, and want to go to the Orkney Islands soon and see the sites there–there was an article in National Geographic recently and it looks even more amazing than these others because what they’re finding isn’t just tombs but villages!

  9. I felt very comforted by looking at the photographs at the beginning of this post. I love all the curves carved into the stones and the contrast between the textures and the landscape. Ireland is relatively close to me and yet I have never been. Thank you for showing me the detail and the setting of these beautiful places.

    • I hope you get to visit these places someday–the feeling you get is remarkable, even though I’m sure there are always lots of tourists around (at Bru na Boinne anyway). The carvings in the stones fascinate me–the idea of the human hand making that mark . . .

  10. Pingback: Ireland, Again | Love Those "Hands at Home"

  11. I’m in love with this place, i love old stones. It’s crazy to know how old they are and they are still well preserved. The crosses are beautiful. I have to write down the name of that place, I would love to visit if i ever make it to Ireland. And it seems you had fantastic weather !!!

    • We did have great weather–it was kind of weird! I have photos of several different spots in this post but, if I had to choose just one of them to visit, it would be Newgrange/Knowth. And this is quite close to Dublin and pretty easy to get to! The only downside is that it’s very popular with tourists and can be busy.

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