I’m going to be starting a series about my solo trip to Ireland last year! This has been on my mind for a while but I kept getting stuck about how best to approach it. I have so many photos, favorite places I stopped and general thoughts about my first international trip alone. For the longest time, I’ve just been going back and forth on how best to present my thoughts and the photos without having huge posts! Quite frankly, it seems so daunting that I’ve just been avoiding it… Now, I decided I’m going to break it down by specific areas and places and then give you all an itinerary of what I did. Cause you know I love me a good itinerary post! If you’re interested, I’ll also tell you how I booked my trip and narrowed down where I wanted to go. So, here goes nothing!
I knew I wanted to take a trip last year since I had been itching to travel internationally again since my big trip around Europe for my 30th birthday. I asked quite a few friends to come with me and no one was either willing to commit or could swing a trip financially at the time. So, I make the executive decision to go alone (more on this in another post). I was wavering between Ireland and Iceland because I knew both were relatively safe, friendly and good for solo travelers. Since Iceland is much more remote and has a lot more adventurous activities, I decided to save that trip for another time (I went this summer!) when I could go with other people. Ireland has been on my list of destinations for a really long time. My family is part Irish and I’ve always loved the history. Since I studied abroad in Scotland, I was really interested to see how things were different in Ireland since both have Celtic history and speak Gaelic (pronounce Gay-lic in Ireland and Gah-lic in Scotland) but are seemingly quite different. Plus, you can’t beat the rolling green hills and rocky coastlines that Ireland is known for. To say those speak to me is a definite understatement.
Once I had decided on Ireland, I scoured the internet for the best deal. I had seen a lot of travel packages to Ireland but I didn’t want to go on a tour. Planning trips is my jam so I needed to have control over my itinerary for the most part. I ended up booking a Groupon Getaways travel deal which was 6 nights in Ireland including airfare, car rental and B&B vouchers. The only stipulation was you had to spend your first night at a hotel in Drogheda which is about an hour north of Dublin. Initially, I was annoyed that I had to “waste” a day by staying up there but it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip. The reason being, it’s about 10 minutes from Brú na Bóinne.
Brú na Bóinne
Brú na Bóinne is a UNESCO world heritage site which features three different Megalithic burial sites; Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. Located in a bend in the River Boyne, these sites contain Europe’s largest and most important concentration of prehistoric megalithic art.
When you first get to Brú na Bóinne, you have to enter through the visitor’s center. You can’t drive directly to any of the site so the visitor’s center is the place to be! My suggestion is to get there early if you want to do more than one of the sites since they do fill up quickly. Since I was planning on driving all the way to Galway that day, I opted for only one site and picked Newgrange. Also, Newgrange in the only one of the 3 sites where you can go inside of the burial mound. You get a sticker for your site and get assigned a time to pick up the bus downstairs. I killed some time in the gift shop and the cute little cafe downstairs while I waited for my assigned time. The bus stop is about a 5 minute walk from the visitors center so make sure you don’t miss your time!
Newgrange was constructed about 5,200 years ago (3,200 B.C.) which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza! If you think about it, that is so crazy! Newgrange isn’t just a burial site but has also been found to spiritual and ceremonial significance for the people that built it. Newgrange is best known for the exciting thing that happens during the winter solstice. For context, there is a opening called a roof-box above the passage. At dawn on the solstice, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber. The whole chamber is lit for only about 15 minutes. They have a really cool demonstration of this so you’ll have to see it for yourself! Seeing you have to purchase tickets well in advance to actually be there on the day of the solstice, it’s nice to be able to experience it anyway!
You can see the roof box below as well as the beautiful carvings on the entrance stone.
One of the best things about Newgrange has to be the art. The carvings are regarded as some of the finest achievements of European Neolithic art. As you can see on the entrance stone above and some of the pictures below, there are carvings everywhere. You can see a lot of examples of the famous tri-spiral design on many of the stones here. Make sure you spend some time wandering around the whole burial mound to see these support stones.
Thank you random stranger for taking my photo 🙂
The shuttle bus comes every 15 minutes if I remember correctly so just pop back in line to get back to the visitors center. Quick tip, the road out there is unpaved in spots so bring your dramamine or sit up front if you’re motion sensitive like me 🙂
No one knows for sure what the significance of the burial mounds are but you have to admit, they are amazing feats of engineering from people that lived 1000s of years ago.
Tell me more, tell me more:
Pricing: pricing depends on how many of the sites you visit. Just Newgrange alone was a steal at 6 euros.
Getting there: It’s about 2km from Donore village and there are signs when you get close. Make sure to put the Brú na Bóinne visitors center into your GPS. More visitors information can be found here.
Of note: Remember, you have to book your tickets to the sites at the visitor’s center and they can’t be made in advance. Check when they open and try to get there as close to that as you can.
I’ll be back soon with more Ireland posts so stay tuned!