Republic of Ireland - Round The World Tour 2 2003 Day 177
Friday 5th September
The cross-country journey to Dublin was never going to be easy. Sandy hates driving long distances and there was going to be little to break up the journey for us today. I was not looking forward to it. Since we decided not to spend the night at a camp-site, we found a spot to park on the outskirts of town. Unfortunately, the location I chose it was close enough to the road for the brick to feel the effects of passing vehicles. Each time a car of lorry would pass by, the whole van would rock just a little as the wind vortices caught us. It didn’t bother me too much but Sandy woke up in a bit of a bad mood. This could only turn out bad for me.
The day started out bad with overcast skies and light rain for the better part of the day. It looked so grey and dull when we opened the curtains, in fact, that neither of us had much enthusiasm for checking out the abbey ruins nor the nearby castle. Having seen so many of these things in recent weeks, I think we are a little spoiled and it would have taken a pretty spectacular castle to get us out into the rain. With that in mind, we decided to get a good head start on our journey over towards Dublin and so set off with that sole agenda in mind.
Before we left, I took a good look at the Dúchas Heritage map to see if we would pass anything worthwhile and the only thing that was close enough to our near direct route to Dublin was a place called Clonmacnoise. This is the site of a collection of early Christian churches, round towers and high crosses that was situated right in the middle of the country on the crossroads of a major road and the mighty Shannon River. Since we would get there in time for lunch, it seemed like a good place to stop en route.
The site itself is indeed an impressive one and we spent well over an hour there despite the near continuous light rain throughout the afternoon. Much like most of the Dúchas Heritage sights we’ve visited, this one was well presented and came complete with a very nice visitor centre complete. There was the usual audio visual presentation, full-sized models and reconstructions, colourful and interesting information boards hanging on the walls and, of course, busloads of tourists. Over the past several months, we’ve come to realize that the one nationality of tourists that we loathe the most are, in fact, the Dutch. For some reason, the Dutch always seem to be the ones speaking the loudest regardless of how many people stand between them. It’s almost like they think they are immune to the attentions of anyone else in the room, perhaps because they think that nobody around them can understand what they are talking about. It may not bother other people but since I speak Dutch fairly fluently, I seem to get quite irritated at having to listen to them all the time.
After another hundred or so photo between us, we had lunch in the brick whilst parked in the visitor centre car park before setting off again. On the way down the winding country lanes towards the main N6 road, Sandy happened to notice a brown sign that caught her eye. All throughout the British Isles and Ireland, brown signs indicated places of interest such as historical landmarks and so on. Here, they also indicate such mundane things like B&Bs and hotels. This sign, however, indicated a megalithic three stone monument. There are several of these throughout Ireland and we had yet to come across one so we decided that the one kilometre detour was not too much of an imposition. After all, we may never see another. They are usually arranged with two stones supporting a third laid across the top, almost like a mini Stonehenge type of arrangement. Curiously, this particular site was not listed on any of our maps and we could very well have missed the sign to it quite easily. It was only supposed to be one kilometre up a narrow country lane but after a couple of kilometres or more, we came to a ‘T’ junction and no more signs. We backtracked along the lane and eventually stopped at a camp-site to ask for directions. As it turned out, we weren’t that far from the site. When we got there, we parked the brick and walked a hundred yards or so down a winding footpath to get to the stones. Once we arrived, it was clear why it was not more clearly signed and absent from any of our maps. All that you could see was a large slab of stone of approximately one-meter square with some grass and shrubs growing around it. The only stone that was visible was the top one, we surmised, with the two supporting stones beneath the surface, completely hidden from view by the greenery surrounding it. It was a disappointing sight, especially since we’d gone through so much trouble to find it, but at least we can say that we saw one of these very few and far between prehistoric monuments.
Once we were on the road again, we made remarkably good time and managed to get all the way over to just west of Dublin to a town called Celbridge. We made this our destination for the day since there was a historic mansion house that we intended on visiting. The short stop we made just before reaching Celbridge to do a bit of shopping meant that we were sufficiently late arriving at the historic site to miss the last guided tour of the day. The Dúchas representative at the main entrance was good enough to allow us to join the nearly completed last tour but the place did look interesting enough to warrant us coming back tomorrow morning. In the meantime, we’ve found a spot to park the brick near the entrance to the site grounds and have since eaten dinner and watched the first few episodes of DS9 season four.
The Dúchas woman did tell us to avoid parking inside the site grounds since there are a group of transients (gypsys for want of a better word) nearby and she was a little concerned about security. There has been quite a bit of traffic along this secluded avenue and we keep hearing the voices of a high-spirited groups of people somewhere a couple of hundred yards or so away. Either this is the group of transients or simply a nearby pub. Either was, tonight may prove to be an interesting one.