Yesterday we left Dublin(so sad...LOVED Dublin!), and we picked up our rental car at Hertz back near the airport. We had been worried about what type of car we were going to get, but Matt was excited to drive a different European model car like a Peugoet. But, low and behold, we got a Volkswagen. It was a Polo though, not available in the USA, which Matt was excited about. Somewhat like a VW Golf...a little smaller, but with a lot of kick.
The drive from Dublin to Belfast is only an hour and 15 minutes, crazy to think that the Republic of Ireland is really that close to the north, still under United Kingdom rule and government. We did enjoy some historic sites along the way, which were very easy to get to and Matt was able to experience driving on the narrow country roads.
First stop was the Hill of Tara. Hill of Tara was the high seat of Ireland's oldest kings, where they performed ceremonies and had their grand feasts, all in tunnels dug under the ground.
One thing I loved about visiting this spot, was all of the green, lush grass, beautiful scenery, and the sheep!!! There were tons of sheep roaming around, just munching on the grass. They didn't seem to mind us or the Hill of Tara. I also loved not having bus loads of tourists around, which, I know we are tourists as well, but there are tourists and then there are tourists...
Our next stop in the area known as the Boyne Valley, was the beautiful Mellifont Abbey. Such a gorgeous place!
Mellifont Abbey was the first Cistercian abbey formed in 1142 by Saint Malachy on the banks of the River Mattock. By 1170, there were over 100 monks living at the abbey. In 1539, the abbey was closed by Henry VIII. He gave the monks a settlement and sold the abbey to Edward Moore, who then turned it into a manor house. The abbey/house fell to ruin afterwards, being used as headquarters for William of Orange during the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. After it was abandoned, many of the towns people of Drogheda came to the empty manor house and would chisel the stones to be used for things in their town, leaving the place in ruin.
There is a small chapel still standing and a part of the monks octagonal wash house.
There is a lot of history in the Boyne Valley on the way to Belfast. We were heading there from Mellifont Abbey, when our GPS took us on a detour, but a good detour. We followed it down a road that turned into a gated road, which suddenly was open fields and old cannons...cannons?? It turned out, we stumbled upon the site of the Battle of the Boyne, a happy accident.
The Battle of the Boyne occurred in 1690, and if you ask some was the crowning start to Ireland's ongoing conflicts between Catholics and Protestants. The conflict was between James II of England and Scotland who was Catholic and William of Orange, who was a Protestant. William of Orange had overthrown James II of England in 1688 and had become William the III of England and Scotland. James II wanted his title and lands back, but to no avail.
The manor house was built several years later, in the 1700s. But it features a huge English style walled garden and several walkways and paths all around the battle fields and surrounding grounds.
The battlefields were beautiful and very peaceful. There were several people out for walks on the various paths and having picnics on the lawn. If I lived in Dublin, it would be a great spot to get away for the day! 30 minutes outside of Dublin, and they had a tea room that over looked the gardens. I sadly, did not have tea. We needed to get on the road to Belfast.
I can't even try to put Belfast and Northern Ireland into this blog. The city's history warrants its own blog page. I will say this, our one cabbie in Dublin wasn't exactly wrong when he said Belfast has a different feeling to it...but at the same time, it is definitely a city worth visiting on your travels to Ireland.
So, for now, I will leave you with the Boyne Valley and my new sheep friends! I am off to research our trip to Titanic Museum tomorrow! Cheers and thanks for reading!