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Friday, September 4, 2015

High Crosses, Ruins, A Castle - Boyne Valley, Ireland (Day 3)

Ireland - Day 3

Our last "home" day before we hit the road.  A day spent sight-seeing and then packing the car for our 2 week road trip.  This was a full day out to get the girls used to a busier day.  We had 3 sights planned in the Boyne Valley.  They were each no more than 30-45 minutes from each other.  It was also good practice for Rob to drive somewhere unfamiliar.  I can't count how many times we would go to the car and then realize we had gone to the wrong side.  I may or may not have done it more than Rob.  Thank goodness, Rob had all his senses once inside the car for which side of the road to be on.  

But, first - Beach Breakfast Hot Date - No kids! At Portrane Beach.

Sans kids, we had a traditional Irish breakfast at the local cafe before taking a drive by the beach in the next village over.  I was in awe at how far out low tide goes.  That's Lambay Island over yonder, a privately-owned island.  Must be nice to stake claim to an island.     

After breakfast, we grabbed the girls and headed out for a day of planned sight-seeing.

The first stop today was at a listed OPW Heritage Site, so we were able to purchase our family Heritage Card.  This pass gives you free entrance at all the OPW Heritage Sites in Ireland, good for one year.  It's a major convenience and all the castles, ruins, and treasures will quickly start to add up if you are paying entrance fees as you go.

Historic ruins of a monastic site famous for its high crosses. At Monasterboice Tower and Crosses.  

When we pulled up, Rob looked over and said, "It's a cemetery."  He then pointed out the two guys digging a hole and for some reason, thought we weren't going to be allowed in.  Look - a posted  sign telling you to lock up your valuables because car thieves operate here.  Clearly, the sign was meant for us tourists.  Meanwhile, Caitlin and Molly were already out of the car yelling, "WE ARE GOING TO SEE WHERE ZOMBIES LIVE!"  To be clear, they say this about any cemetery.  Once we said "hello" to the grave diggers and made our way inside the fence, we found the high crosses as well as the churches and high tower.  

For someone who was so skeptical of us being there, Rob was the one we had to drag out in the end.

We made the quick 15 minute drive over to the next spot and boy, was it a big hit! Had the entire ruins to ourselves. The girls climbed all over everything exploring every nook and cranny. At Mellifont Abbey.

When I ask Molly what her favorite place was in Ireland, she says it was here at Mellifont Abbey ruins. She tells me that she wished she could have stayed all day. This was our first exposure to open ruins. I was absolutely amazed that we were able to just wander about all over them. I guess when there are ruins in every back yard...

I should mention that there is an information center before you enter the ruins. A large number of artifacts have been collected, cataloged and are on display inside the center along with a 3-d rendition of what the abbey looked like during its time. Mellifont Abbey was one of the wealthiest and most influential monastic houses in medieval Ireland founded in 1142. It is easy to see why it has great significance historically and architecturally.

We spent quite some time here just letting the girls explore while we relaxed in our thoughts.  We were the only ones here this day and that made it so much more special.

It wouldn't be a day in Ireland without a castle! At Slane Castle.

This is a private castle so it required a fee for the tour.  It is also a fully restored castle, so go ahead and book it for your wedding.  It's famous for it's summer concerts.  The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Guns N' Roses, REM, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Madonna are among the performers at the castle.  After our tour, we had lunch in the castle at the small cafe.  Molly asked the server what was wrong with her eye.  I died on the spot.  Yes, in case you forgot, we are traveling with our kids.  The gift that keeps on giving.

That was it for the day, but we thought we would stop by Bru Na Boine and try to see Newgrange on our way back. As expected, there were no tickets available and the people that were able to go in had spent hours waiting for their tickets. We knew that if we were to see this sight, we would have to go early in the morning and get there at the opening, so planned to do it the tail end of our trip when we returned back to Castle Chic.

Up Next - Days 4-5 Kilkenny, Ireland

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