Friday, September 08, 2006

Wednesday 6th September – Dublin

After our first “full Irish breakfast” of the trip we drove north to visit Brú na Bóinne, famous for its ancient burial mounds, particularly Newgrange and Knowth. These tombs are older than the pyramids of Egypt, dating from 3200 BC. Not much is known about the Stone Age people who built them, but they are a marvel of architecture, engineering, geology, art and astronomy. You can walk right into the centre of Newgrange along a narrow stone passage – it is pitch black but on December 21st each year a shaft of sunlight enters through a perfectly aligned portal above the door. It was spine-tingling to be standing inside structures that date from the earliest years of civilization. The corbelled ceiling over the chamber was built from huge overlapping stone slabs without any cement and has survived for 5000 years, and even in Irish weather not a drop of water has entered in all this time!

We spent the afternoon and evening just wandering around the busy Dublin streets. We visited Trinity College which was founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592, and its main attraction, the Book of Kells, an elaborately decorated copy of the four gospels dating from the 800s. They would be beautiful whenever they were created but the fact that they are so old made it all the more impressive. There was an interesting display about the techniques and materials used by the monks. Next a stairway leads upstairs to the Long Room, a 200’ long chamber of the old library dating from 1732, which contains 200,000 of the library’s oldest books stacked to its towering ceiling – an incredible room – you just wanted to sit and absorb the history and smell the old books. Sadly no photographs. L