Irish Vacation – Newgrange ‘n Slane

Sunday 26th of July 2009
Temperature: 12-15 degrees, so basically shite weather with a high probability of rain
Sun: we haven’t seen that fecker for a few days now

Saddle up, the first leg of the Family Vacation (Danish, Chilean/Irish edition) was kicked off.  I have always loved the Griswald movies with Chevy Chase, travelling across the US, so now I had the chance to make my own family vacation.

Our target for the day was the Irish version of the Great Pyramid of Gaza, or to be more precise, Newgrange.  Many Egyptian scholars hates this, but Newgrange was in fact built 500 years before the pyramids, so the Irish were ahead of everybody else for once – but it’s not like the Irish to brag?! 🙂

The car was packed with the bare essentials for a one-day trip to the North of Dublin.  A family of 4 needs a few accessories when leaving the house, and as it was (is) difficult to predict the weather in Ireland, a few extra pieces were thrown in to the booth.  Rain gear, diapers, long-sleeved shirts, hats, comfortable working shoes/boots, snacks, cameras, umbrellas, changing clothes and some tightly wrapped sandwiches.

The location of Newgrange was punched into the GPS (Latitude: 53° 40′ 60 N, Longitude: 6° 28′ 0 W) and we started the journey – totally relying on an American designed device, with somewhat inaccurate maps of Ireland and a British sounding navigator voice = recipe for disaster.

Surprisingly, it took us less than an hour to get to Newgrange, despite the GPS trying to direct our huge SUV down narrow suspicious country lanes, which would two horses passing each other.  Instead, we followed the road signs most of the way and amused ourselves every time the GPS female voice said “recalculating route”.  You gotta love technology.

The journey to the site was so fast that the kids didn’t even get time to give out or fight, so all in all, it was a painless out journey.

We arrived at Newgrange just before lunch and went straight to the visitor centre. For out-of-towners, you can only visit the site by purchasing a ticket in the visitor centre, which only costs €6 per adult and our kids were free – excellent.

Because we have been on several trips with the kids before, we know their habits only too well, and as a result, all our trips starts with food.  It was therefore quickly decided that we to get something to eat.  Our son does not appreciate going too long without food and the idea of skipping lunch would be disastrous.  It would be too traumatic for our fellow explorers to see our son eat parts of the bus and rip out my eyeballs, all because he was hungry.

Sweet Lord, this is where Newgrange makes its money.  We bought what we thought would be a light lunch; soup, lasagna and sandwiches.  No point overdoing the food, when we were only an hour from our house.  Keep in mind.  Newgrange is a tourist attraction (trap) restaurant, and do not exactly hold any Michelin stars.  Sit back; take a deep breath…
…the lunch cost us a few cents short of €70!!!! – 2 portions of lasagna, 1 baked potato, one slice of bread with Salmon, 2 juices, a tea and a coffee.  I was so glad I didn’t go wild and ordered a Latte.

Anyway, after our lavish lunch, we headed towards the bus which takes us tourists from the visitor centre to the Newgrange site itself.  The sign did say a few minutes minutes walk to the bus, but in all reality it was more like a mile.  The weather was nice and the scenery is beautiful, so it didn’t really matter.  Well, except my body was not exactly in shape, so I was panting behind the family, pretending to be taking pictures.

The bus driver, a retired Dublin bus driver, quickly asserted himself as the Man and drove 70-80 km/hour down the narrow country lanes (see above for details), heading towards the site.  24 seconds later, we arrived at the location, all with slight concussions and tears running down the face from the fear of dying.

Finally we saw the Newgrange and it was an amazing site.  It sounds really boring, as it is “only” a bump on a field, but it was actually amazing.  How did they build such a structure 6000 years ago?

The tour guide was excellent and brought out several laughs, even from the American tourists who might not fully understand the Irish humour or dialect.  He took us inside the sacred “bump”, which was a bit weird, as it was only 20 meters in and then a few alcoves with carved symbols.  The guide did warn everybody about the low ceilings, which resulted in everybody looking up and then kicking their knees against the sharp rocks instead.  I had to bend over, and because of that, my camera kept bumping off my son’s head.

All the way in, the little fecking tour guide turned off all the light, leaving us in total darkness.  Images sprang into my head from horror movies like “The Hills have eyes“, “The Cave” and of course “Pitch Black“.  I swear I heard scrapping noises.

In fact, the guy only turned off the light to simulate the sun hitting the front on the shortest days of the year, which was cool I must admit.  This was why all these weird pagan people venture to Newgrange twice a year, to see the light hit Newgrange in a special way.

When the light was turned on again, the tour of Newgrange was over.  We could now tick it off our list and head back to the car.  Just one minor hiccup.  We had to get back on the bus again in order to get back to the visitor centre.  The return trip wasn’t too bad, only a couple of bruises.

Despite the short tour and few attractions to try, it was in all fairness a nice sight and well worth seeing.  We can certainly recommend it.

Back at the car park, we jumped in the car and headed towards Slane Castle.  Again, the GPS lady guided us to Slane village through the country side.  A trip that should’ve taken only 10 minutes took almost 20 minutes.  Probably because we couldn’t for the love of God find the bloody entrance to the Castle itself.  It was my wife who spotted it, as we were going 80 km/hour around a bend, and screaming frantically “theeeeeeeere!”.

James Bond identity took over my body I flung the old SUV around and in through the gate.  Cars behind us were honking the horns and both kids were stuck to the window on one side of the car.  We made it, but it was a waste of time.

Slane Castle was imprinted in our brains as this fantastic castle, situated in stunning surroundings.  But, that was when we saw U2 at Slane in 2001 – slightly intoxicated and in a happy place mentally back then, singing along to the famous songs!  Anyway, this was VERY disappointing.  Nothing to see or do.  Well, you could attend a tour of the castle, but nothing else.  Even the Castle Park was boring and run down.  In fact, the entire place was poorly kept. Not recommended.

On the way back through Slane village we stopped at The Millhouse Restaurant. This was located right behind … wait, its coming … the old mill.  You wouldn’t normally go down that road, as it was something out of another horror movie “The Hostel”, but behind the Eastern European look-alike factory buildings, was this little restaurant.

There we had scones, tea and ice cream.  The staff was extremely very friendly and service was in top class.  They completely ignored the fact that my son was taking off his sweaty shoes and socks and my daughter was licking the ice cream like a dog drinking water.  Their motto was that kids would be their customers in a few years, so they’d better treat them nicely, which they certainly did.

It was time to head back home to the dogs, to see what damage the dogs had done to the kitchen (fridge).  As we arrived home, the kids were wrecked (excellent!) and went straight to bed, falling asleep quickly.  My wife and I had a very light dinner and relaxed in front of the TV with a movie – feet up and snoring within minutes.

Another adventure over.  Kids happy.  Parents happy.  Excellent holiday.

One comment

  1. Always look about the bright side of life is one of my favorite sayings, as you do in your post you try never to only target the negative but in addition on the good in every feeling of the way, the nice to read your posts, and you also bring plenty of happiness into other peoples lifestyle with them, continually come with your great articles.

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