Ellie’s Week 3
This week has been quite a monumental one, in more ways than one.
It started off with a visit to Unesco World Heritage sites of Newgrange and Knowth at Bru na Boinne. I had been once before when I came to stay with the Kidson Clan with Katherine a friend of mine around about the same time as Kildare won the All Ireland Gaelic football championships… (I remember this vividly as it was a fantastic match, which Gra took us to see live). Back then only Newgrange was open to the public, but after hearing from Mai, Gra & Neal that Knowth was now open to the public Matt and I decided it would be worth a visit.
Whilst I cant speak for Matt, I certainly was not disappointed! The two Cairns (of Knowth & Newgrange) themselves are very impressive. A Cairn is a Megalithic passage tomb… essentially a ginormous mound of housing one or more small passages leading to a burial chamber.
Whilst the structure of these 5000 year old mounds are quite amazing (especially considering that most 70 year old houses leak like a sieve), for me, what was fantastic was seeing the megalithic art that decorated the majority of the 127 Kerbstones excavated at Knowth and was reflected in carvings within the central burial chamber in Newgrange.
From this auspicious start, we continued in the same adventurous vein and headed up to Northern Island… for our two giant steps…
… The first was not one step but actually many thousand* up (and then down) Slieve Donard the highest peak in Northern Ireland. Our seven hour walk took us through woodland, over streams , across marshland… and eventually up the mountain.*For the exact details of no of steps, incline, meters etc I refer you to Matt… but suffice to say… it was a lot!!
The thing about walking up a mountain is that red faced and somewhat out of breath after following a steep trail, you think you are doing well, only to realise you haven’t started climbing the actual mountain yet. So an hour and a half in, when we reached a small bridge over a river, I was feeling most deserving of the slice of GF madeira cake that was beckoning from my rucksack and thinking that I was quite liking this mountain walking lark… After all, I do hail from the Kidson clan who unite in the shared passion of the ‘benefits of a good walk’ (*Please note: This does not mean a casual 20min stroll, but involve many layers of Kagools, walking boots and a minimum of a 3 hour hike). However after the next hour as the incline grew steeper, I began to realise that the art of the mountain walk may not be such a naturally inherent trait for me. In fact at one point I got so red in the face that Matt insisted on taking my pulse to make sure I wasn’t about to pass out.
But we persevered, even overtaking some other determined looking walkers (which Matt, in a slightly competitive/sadistic vein seemed to enjoy) and eventually after another hour we made it to the top in time to be greeted by rolling fog, which obscured not only the supposedly fabulous view, but absolutely everything. Luckily we were able to make our way back down, thanks to an old stone wall that followed the curve of the mountain (and must of taken people of a significantly lesser inclination towards madeira cake and a significantly greater one towards ‘the benefits of a good walk’ to build).
…The second giant step was the one and only Giant’s Causeway. Nothing had prepared Matt and I for the true magnificence of this geological phenomenon. Whilst we had found the Cliffs of Moher quite impressive (but for the somewhat bungled visitors centre), we were totally blown away by the myriad of hexagons that made up the Giant’s Causeway. There are really no words to do it justice as it is hard to comprehend how nature can create such incredible structures (although looking at anything from a snails shell, to a spiderweb, to the perfectly proportioned leaves of a nettle… we shouldn’t really be surprised!), but there was something about the scale and wildness of these rock formations leading down into the sea that took your breath away….
With our two giant steps completed.. we headed southward, finishing the week with a visit to the best National Trust house I have seen (Castle Coole). The experience was unique both in terms of the precision of the architecture (you can’t have been a Visual Merchandiser or worked for 10 years with my lovely friend and business partner Eve without appreciating this commitment to symmetry and balance) and the passion with which our lovely guide Emily showed our little party round the house. I hadn’t fully appreciated what goes into restoring a house like this before, previously associating National Trust houses with being told off by old ladies for running as a small child, or more embarrassingly Dad’s (very loud) commentary on the cream cakes, in the cafe of one unfortunate house, as he exclaimed that ‘…serving food like this will have them dropping dead like flies’ (‘them’ referring to the myriad of elderly visitors enthusiastically tucking in). However seeing the detail and craftsman ship that had gone into reweaving the original silks, restoring the furniture and wallpapers, and rebuilding the dilapidated areas of the house, you began to really see, not only the amazing artistry of the original designs but the skill of the NT’s expert craftsman.
After a week of both natural and man made beauty, we spent a relaxed Sunday night back in the republic, wild camping beside the beautiful Glencar Lough… A lovely way to finish the week.