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Gorey - Cookstown (Wicklow mountains, Monasterboice, Northern-Ireland)

Home -> Europe -> Ireland -> Travelogue Ireland -> 21 December 2002

Saturday 21 December, Gorey - Cookstown (Wicklow mountains, Monasterboice, Northern-Ireland)

Het weerbericht heeft mist and regen voorspeld, dus we slapen lekker uit (tot 9 uur) and ontbijten op ons gemak. Wanneer we naar buiten kijken hangt er wel wat mist, maar het is droog.
Aughrim, Wicklow MountainsAt Arklow we enter the Wicklow Mountains, a hilly area which goes on until Dublin. In Aughrim we drive through this new district which looks much nicer than most districts in the towns in Holland.
Valley of Glenmacnass Valley of GlenmacnassThe area of the Wicklow Mountains is also called the Garden of Ireland. It must be a beautiful region with very varied landscapes. But we notice only the differences in height since we can't see farther than 50 metres into the fog, which gives the surroundings a mysterious atmosphere. Of the mountains and green valleys, the rivers and the lakes we see only glimmers or a very shadowy sight.
Near Sally Gap, in the deserted Valley of Glenmacnass we can still see a glimmer of a waterfall. We seem to be driving through a bewitched country.
The road seems to be going on forever while we drive on the narrow and windy roads through the fog, but suddenly we go down very quickly and before we know we enter Dublin. Next time we would like to drive through the Wicklow Mountains with a clear sky, so we can see what we have missed today. We don't enter the centre of Dublin; this time we don't want to visit cities. Via the ring road (yes, finally a bypass around a city!) we take the N2 to the north, in the direction of Newgrange.
After a short lunchbreak at Slane, we go looking for one of the famous prehistoric tombhills in the neighbourhood, the tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.
Tomb hill of DowthThese tombs were build around 2500 BC. and were looted by the Vikings around 860 AD. On December 21st (Say! That's today!), the sun shines for exactly 17 minutes through a shaft above the door of the Newgrange tombhill into the inner chamber of the tomb. But it is afternoon already, and according to our travel guide one has to book for this event and reservations are full for the next ten years. Finally, after searching for a long time (for lack of signposts), we find the tombhill of Dowth (picture to the right). The area is fenced off and we could only make this picture by zooming in; a small disappointment.
MonasterboiceSo we drive on to our next destination: Monasterboice, famous for its cemetery with Celtic crosses. There used to be a monastery from the 5th century, but it was destroyed by fire in 1097. Still, the convent existed until 1122. I (Teije) was so optimistic to walk around without a coat, but after a few minutes I get very cold. How did the inhabitants experience that in the former days, all the coldness and wetness? It can't have been very healthy...
Monasterboice MonasterboiceThe three largest Celtic crosses of Ireland are standing here and we make pictures of all three of them, despite the dampness and the cold. More information about these decorated crosses can be found on other websites. (For example this one: celtarts.com)
MonasterboiceBetween the ruins of the monastery stands a 33 metres high round tower. It dates back to the 9th century, like about 70 other, comparable towers throughout Ireland. They were build to detect invading Vikings timely and to hide treasures (books, for example). I can't find it back, but I remember reading somewhere that a number of medieval Irish books have been saved this way, because the Vikings were not interested in books.
After this visit we have nothing left to see in this area and we decide to drive northward, to Northern-Ireland. Maybe we even have time then to visit the Giant's Causeway tomorrow. Looking for a gas station, we cross the border without noticing. Looking at the prices at a station I think we were still in Ireland where the price for gas is about € 0,80 per litre, but then we find out we are already in Northern-Ireland and the price of gas is £ 0,80. That is 60% higher than in Ireland (1 pound is about € 1,60), so almost € 20 more for a full tank!
Hotel CookstownVia Armagh (we have made the first circle complete, since we passed through this town on the first night) we drive northward to Cookstown, where we only find one hotel open. It looks luxurious and the price is as well: £ 95, or € 152 (for a double room)!
Hotel CookstownIt isn't even the most luxurious room we have had in Ireland, we are not even in the neighbourhood of the town and it is very busy in the pub. And it is quite a walk from our room to the pub.
Hotel Cookstown Hotel CookstownFortunately, we had a lot of relatively cheap hotels in the Republic, so we can live with this expensive hotel for one night. But next time we will search a bit longer before we take such an expensive hotel. It is the most expensive hotel Elisabeth ever stayed in, so we have to make some extra pictures! And we could sleep delightfully here, as we should for that price.


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