Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Boyne Valley
Newgrange View slideshowOn the east coast of Ireland, near the town of Drogheda, between Belfast and Dublin, the River Boyne describes a wide bend southward, beginning at Slane, and then turns north again. Here there is a large pre-Christian burial ground. The royal tombs, some 4,500 years old, lie southeast of Slane - at Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth. All three are National Monuments.From late April, 1997, all visitors must begin their visit at the Visitor Center if they want to visit Newgrange and Knowth. There will be no direct access to those monuments.
The tombs at Dowth and Knowth are smaller than those at Newgrange. Each contains two passage graves beneath the mound. Dowth can be entered - though with difficulty - through a 27ft/8m long passage. Excavations are still in progress.In the immediate vicinity of the principal tomb are numerous smaller tombs, standing stones and tumuli.Knowth was a focal point for more than 4,000 years. It has the largest collection of passage tomb art in western Europe.
To the north of Slane rises Slane Hill (492ft/150m), where in 433 St Patrick is believed to have proclaimed the victory of Christianity in Ireland by lighting the Paschal fire in defiance of a royal prohibition. On the hill are the ruins of a Franciscan friary (National Monument), with a 16th C. church and conventual buildings laid out round a cloister (rooms with fireplaces, alcoves and aumbry).
About 1.25mi/2km to the west of Slane is Slane Castle, a fine early 19th C. neo-Gothic mansion. Restoration of the interior, extensively damaged by fire, is in progress, and there are palns to resume the open-air rock concerts which for many years took place in the grounds, where can be seen the ruins of a Gothic church.
Beauparc House (Castle Dexter)
Up the Boyne Valley are Beauparc House (1750) and, facing it, the picturesque ruins of Castle Dexter.
Navan (An Uaimh, "The Cave") lies in undulating country northwest of Dublin, at the junction of the River Boyne and the Blackwater. The largest town in Meath county, it is a busy market center and an important road junction.The Roman Catholic church (1836) has a fine figure of Christ Crucified (1792) by Edward Smythe. West of the town is a large motte which is a favorite viewpoint.
25mi/40km northwest of Dublin, at the village of Tara (Teamhair na Riogh, "Tara of the Kings"), a narrow side road leaves the N3 on the left and ascends the famous Hill of Tara, a low grassy hill from which there are extensive views to the north and west.In prehistoric times Tara was already known as a religious center. From the third century onwards this was the seat of kings - at first petty priest kings and later the high kings of Ireland. Every three years popular assemblies were held here at which laws were promulgated and disputes between the clans were settled. With the spread of Christianity Tara lost its importance as a cult site but remained the seat of the high kings until its abandonment in 1022.Centuries later, in 1843, Tara was again the scene of a great assembly - a mass meeting at which Daniel O'Connell made a speech calling for Catholic Emancipation.
Hill of Tara
On a hill 0.5mi/800m south of the Hill of Tara is the fort known as Rath Maeve (National Monument), 240yd/220m in diameter, surrounded by a rampart and a ditch.
1mi/2km northeast of the town of Navan on the N51, at Donaghmore, is the site of an early monastery, with a well-preserved round tower and a church (National Monuments). St Patrick is said to have founded his first monastery in Ireland here. The tower (10th C?) has a round-headed doorway 12ft/3.6m above the ground with a relief of the Crucifixion above it and a human mask on either side of the architrave. The church is 15th C. There are early gravestones in the churchyard.On a hill to the east stands Dunmoe Castle (National Monument): two sides of an original rectangular structure (16th century) with round towers at the corners.
6mi/10km south of Navan, beyond the village of Bective (on the R161, to the left), are the ruins of Bective Abbey (12th C; National Monument), a Cistercian house founded from Mellifont. Of the original buildings there remain only the chapter house and some parts of the church. In the 15th C. the monastery was fortified, and from this period date the beautiful cloister and the tower and the great hall (refectory?).
7.5mi/12km west of Navan on the N51 Rathmore has a ruined 15th C. church (National Monument). The nave and chancel are flanked by towers, and the outside of the fine east window has figural decoration. The interior has fine carving in the apse, on a number of tombs and on a font. On the north side of the church is a cross (1519) with reliefs of St Lawrence, St Patrick and an abbess.
Hill of Ward
From Rathmore the N51, just before reaching Athboy, comes to the Hill of Ward (384ft/117m; National Monument), an ancient cult site and meeting place, which can be seen to the left.
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