Ancient Temples, High Kings, Marauding Vikings and a Massacre!
You don’t only visit the sites in the Boyne valley each one has a story as interesting as the site itself.
The passage tombs of Bru na Boinne and Loughcrew date back to the days of Druids in Ireland 4000 BC. They are older than the pyramids and the engineering skills and mathematical calculations used to align the passages to the rising sun on the winter solstice (Newgrange) and on the equinox (loughcrew) is amazing. The Druids studied the stars and even had a calendar based on the lunar cycle found at Loughcrew and Dowth. Animal sacrifices would have been made to the Ancient Gods and grooves can be found on the surface of Dolmens that would have facilitated the draining of Blood. There is no doubt that they where extremely intelligent and wielded great power in amongst the populous. One of the rites of passage for the druids was a rebirth into light. where a would be Druid would sit in Darkness and be reborn by the light of the sun. This could have been a function of the passage tombs of the Boyne valley with Loughcrew and Newgrange having special significance.
Ireland was organised into many independent kingdoms or clans (tuatha) with their own elected king. The kingship of these Clans brought with it its own dangers, Bog bodies have been found and on inspection show that they are the remains of people of privilege who died a violent death and there where items of regalia found nearby in the Bogs where they where buried. It is thought that there was human sacrifice of the king to the Gods when things went wrong particularly in an agricultural way. You can learn more on this theory and inspect the bodies and the artifacts at the national museum of Ireland. The hill of Tara was said to be the seat of the high king of Ireland and there are relics at the site dating back to the Megalithic period. There is no doubt that it was an area of political importance and the high King would have made ruling and judgements on disputes based on Brehan law which were social laws rather than criminal laws.There are many Myths and legends associated with the Boyne valley region the most famous being Finn Mac Coole leader of the fabled Fianna who has a story in nearly every county along the East coast.
The Vikings began to raid Britain in 793 AD with raids along the coast taking slaves and plundering monasteries that had accumulated and crafted great riches ornate chalices and other religious paraphernalia. It didn’t take the Vikings long to discover Ireland 795 AD and they began to Raid the coastal regions and discover the Monasteries that they already knew would hold great bounty. Monasterboice was taken by the Vikings in 968 AD but they where defeated and expelled by the Donal the High King of Tara. A feature to be found in many Monasteries that where in existence at this time were the round towers, the second highest in Ireland is at Monasterboice. The round towers had the purpose of being a belfry, a watchtower and a place of refuge during Viking attacks. The monks and the local population would climb a ladder into the round tower whose door was elevated well above ground level and pull the ladder into the tower barricading the Door, The interior was split into different levels connected by ladders that could be retracted making it hard for the invaders to get their hands on the treasure and the slaves inside.The interior of the tower at Monasterboice went up in flames in 1097 with the loss of many treasures and manuscripts.
Cromwell is seen in England as one of the ten greatest Britons of all time but he is seen in a completely different light in Ireland. After the Civil war in England with victory going to the roundheads Cromwell turned his attention to Ireland which had been in revolt since 1641 and had reclaimed much of the Island. Cromwell looked on the granting of lands in Ireland as a way of repaying those that had financed his war in England and showed no quarter to the papist rebels. He arrived in Dublin with 3000 battle hardened soldiers and marched on Drogheda which was defended by Sir Arthur Aston. He laid siege to the city and then ordered that the city be stormed and everyone inside the walls put to death, the slaughter of the people of Drogheda took five days and the streets ran red with blood. No one was spared women and children were put to the sword without mercy. Many other towns and forces fell to Cromwell with very little resistance and he redistributed the land to his loyal generals and supporters.
To visit these sites and hear the stories from a true storyteller join us on our Celtic Boyne valley tour