Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Brú na Bóinne Day


In March, we finally made the short day trip to the famous Brú na Bóinne Valley in County Meath, just northwest of Dublin. The valley, a World Heritage Site, is home to Newgrange, the most famous passage tomb in the world. Newgrange itself deserves (and will receive) its own post. Here we'll tell the adventurous tale of our travels to, around, and from the Brú na Bóinne area.

The Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, the only way to access the passage tombs, is about an hour's travel from Dublin City Centre. Again, those stone age builders were so inconsiderate in their planning, building their impressive civilization so far away from easy tourist access... Oh well. A number of guided bus tours leave from Dublin to Brú na Bóinne throughout the year, but they back off on the schedule during the off-season. March is just at the edge of the busy season, so we were a bit of a tight spot getting to the site, car-less as we are.

We didn't have any scheduling flexibility, we only had a Thursday to made the trip, and the tour operators (who I don't fault at all...) all asked if we could go on Friday, when they had enough tours to make the trip profitable. No dice on that, so we had to make it with Bus Eireann, the national bus system. This would be the first time we had taken a B.E. trip that required switching buses and a tight connection. We bought our tickets and hoped for the best.

So Far, So Good

We caught the first bus from Dublin City Centre on the cold, rainy, and windy morning. It was running late, and we had a very tight connecting bus to catch at Drogheda, the main commuter bus station north of Dublin. Luckily, the bus leaving for Brú na Bóinne waited for the Dublin bus to arrive. The driver of the bus told us (and the few others traveling to the site) that the road has been under some construction, and he would do his best to get us as close to the site as he could. 

We traveled through Donore Village and were enjoying the view of the rural countryside when we arrived at the construction site. Our driver talked to the construction workers, presumably asking about the construction schedule for the day. We were able to make it through the construction to the Visitor Centre, and the sightseeing could finally begin.

Bru Na Boinne Entrance Co. Meath, Ireland
Entrance Stone

Visitor Centre Bru Na Boinne Co. Meath, Ireland
Visitor Centre

Valley Diorama Bru Na Boinne, Co. Meath Ireland
Valley Diorama

Bru Na Boinne and Surrounds

The Visitor Centre at Brú na Bóinne is a fantastic interpretive exhibit about the ancient past of the site. I was surprised to learn that the passage tombs had been discovered several hundred years ago, but sat abandoned and overgrown for centuries. During that time, they were looted, vandalized, and otherwise mistreated until the mid twentieth century. I shouldn't have been surprised to learn this, as so many other sites of historical and archaeological importance here have been similarly dismissed. I guess when the land is literally spewing ancient artifacts out of the ground, it's easy to get spoiled...

The River Boyne (the same river that flows through Trim) makes a wide bend here, and a partly natural, partly constructed hill overlooks the whole bend. This would have been the perfect location for an ancient settlement; it was easily defensible and had easy access to water and rich farmland in the floodplain. Today, the views of the river and the incredibly green land surrounding are unforgettable. 

River Boyne Co. Meath, Ireland
River Boyne

Obligatory Cory-Looking-At-The-Water Shot River Boyne Co. Meath, Ireland
Obligatory Cory-Looking-At-The-Water Shot

Rolling Green, Sheepy Hills Co. Meath, Ireland
Rolling Green, Sheepy Hills

Robin (Not an American Robin) Co. Meath, Ireland
Robin (Not an American Robin)

The site itself is only accessibly by a special shuttle from the Visitor Centre, and photos and captions from the site will be in another post. We saw some amazing things at the site, so don't miss it!

After the peek inside Newgrange, we made our way back to the Visitor Centre, turning in our admission stickers on the way...

Admission Sticker Swirls Bru Na Boinne Co. Meath, Ireland
Admission Sticker Swirls

 Back at the Centre, we were ready for something warm after being on the high hillside in a blustery wind and spitty rain. Let's make it a hot cup of tea and a smuggled-in bran muffin from home!

Tea and Smuggled Bran Muffin
Tea and Smuggled Bran Muffin

"Don't Wanna Be Your Monkey Wrench..."

Finally, it was time to catch the bus back home. Bus Eireann only serves the Visitor Centre twice a day, one drop off in the late morning, one pickup on the mid-afternoon. The timing is just perfect for a visit, so the bus scheduling was well planned. Unfortunately, road construction would throw the proverbial monkey wrench into all of those well-laid plans.

As the pickup time at the Visitor Centre came and went, the small group of us who had all been dropped off earlier began to wonder. As time went on and on, we decided something was wrong and we needed to check with the bus station. Luckily, I had the number of the Drogheda station and gave the operator a call. The news wasn't good.

The morning driver, trying to do us a favor, drove through the construction and told us the pickup would be at the Visitor Centre. Our guess was that the construction team told the driver the road would be passable in the afternoon. In the end, it wasn't. According to the bus operator, we were supposed to have been dropped off and picked up in Donore Village, but none of us knew that. The operator, feeling bad that we were stuck, tried to send a bus to us, but the bus arrived at a torn-up road, unable to pass. We got a call back letting us know we were on our own...

So we walked. We weren't sure what to do, Donore Village was only a mile or so from the Centre, but the Drogheda Bus Station was close to five miles away, and we were hoping to get home early. Missing the last bus to Dublin wasn't a concern, as they run hourly from Drogheda to Dublin until late in the evening, but we had a trip to Germany to make the next day, and still had to pack!

The group of us walked to Donore Village and decided to take a taxi the last stretch to Drogheda. We stepped into the village pub and asked the bartender to call a cab for us. It was a nice opportunity to see a bit more of the country than we had planned. The group of us must have been quite a sight in the small, quiet pub.

The cab got us to the bus station just in time for the next bus, and all was well. Looking back on the adventure, I am just thankful I am one of those glass-half-full guys. I wasn't feeling so half-fully while walking with a pre-paid bus ticket in my hand, but, as fortune would have it, the weather turned nice just in time for our little country stroll. There must be a lesson about minor setbacks and staying positive in there somewhere, but I just can't seem to find it...

Rainbow Co. Meath, Ireland
Always Look on the Bright Side of...


  1. Cory this might be of interest to you

    1. Thanks for sending that over. I don't have a TV, so I usually don't catch promotions for RTE shows like this.

  2. Newgrange is one of my favourite place in Ireland. Can't wait for the next post with the pictures :-) Too bad you got stuck in there because of bus problems, you should have rang me , I don't live far away ;-)

    1. The bus problems just gave me a more entertaining story to tell, we all made it ok, if a little frazzled. The trip and Newgrange visit were great on the whole.


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