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Rock Of Cashel Co  Tipperary

5 Incredible Sights in Ireland’s Ancient East

For such a small island Ireland really does pack it all in!

From the famous Wild Atlantic Way to the Causeway Coastal Route and the majestic Ring of Kerry to quaint, hidden walks, the Emerald Isle has so much we can cherish and be proud of as Irish men and women.

Ireland’s Ancient East is another part of our country to celebrate, explore and discover. The eastern and midlands counties are littered with remains and remnants of times and civilisations gone by and it’s all waiting to be seen…by you! 

We’ve picked out some of the biggest points of interest to get you started.

Slane Castle

Slane 2009

Slane Castle represents the modern side to Ireland’s Ancient East. The County Meath castle was built in 1701, subject to reconstruction work in 1785, and overlooks the River Boyne. It’s said that it was here on the Hill of Slane that Saint Patrick lit his paschal fire that eventually seen him summoned by the High Kings of Ireland to the Hill of Tara that lead to the conversion of Ireland to Christianity! 

It is owned by the Conyngham family, who still reside there to this very day and has opened its doors to countless famous visitors including King George IV of England in 1821! It’s said that the road from Dublin to Slane is so straight because of the efforts to get the King there as quickly as possible!

In modern times the castle has become famous worldwide as a music and concert venue. The surrounding land forms a natural amphitheater perfect for outdoor performances and the castle has welcomed a litany of huge names since 1981. U2, Madonna, Queen, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones are just a few of the superstars to have graced the Slane Castle stage.

Newgrange

From the modern to the Stone Age!

Newgrange is a passage tomb, also found in the Boyne Valley just a short distance from Slane Castle, built by Stone Age farmers, that’s more than 5000 years old! That means Newgrange is officially older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza!

This incredible building, shaped like a kidney and approximately 85 meters wide and 13.5 meters tall, is considered the jewel of Ireland’s Ancient East and it’s easy to see why.

The tomb, with passages and chambers inside, is a World Heritage UNESCO site, surrounded by Megalithic art and it was clearly built as a celebration for the coming of a new year as every winter it fills with sunlight and illuminates inside during the Winter Solstice!

This incredible event has become so popular that the Newgrange Visitor Centre has had to organise a free lottery for places inside during the Winter Solstice.

Hill of Tara

The Hill of Tara, also just a short distance from Newgrange and Slane, is another incredible monument to be found in Ireland’s Ancient East. 

Although the Hill of Tara stands at only 500 feet above sea level it was first used by humans over 6000 years ago and was once considered the Seat of the High King of Ireland!

This Seat of Ireland, and the site, amongst other things consists of a double-ditched fort and Saint Patrick’s church, which dates back to the 1190s! In the middle of the circular forts you will find Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny. It was here that each King had to drink ale and pledge allegiance to the Earth Goddess Maeve before ruling the country.

It’s said that on a clear day you can see half the counties of Ireland from Lia Fail and if you look north-east you can see all the way to the Mourne Mountains in County Down! 

Glendalough

A little further away, in the Wicklow Mountains National Park, in County Wicklow you’ll find Glendalough. 

Glendalough is quite rightly one of the most famous areas in Ireland due to its incredible, breathtaking scenery in the glacial “valley of two lakes” and its ancient Monastic city first founded in the 6th century.

The Monastic City, consisting of the likes of the Round Tower, Cathedral, St Mary’s Church and the Gateway, was founded by Saint Kevin, a holy man who descended from the ruling families of Leinster and died in approximately 618.

Whilst much of the monastic settlement has been lost to time and nature it represents one of the most cherished sites in Ireland and evokes thoughts of a different time in anyone who walks amongst the buildings and valley. 

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Rock of Cashel

Our last stop on this short tour of Ireland’s Ancient East (there’s way more to see and do than we could ever write about!) is the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. 

The Rock of Cashel, also known as Cashel of the Kings or Saint Patrick’s Rock, was once the Seat of the High Kings of Munster in much the same fashion as the Hill of Tara was to the entire country.

Unfortunately little remains of the initial human settlements and the structures that still stand today, including the Round Tower, Cathedral and Cormac’s Chapel, date from the 12th and 13th centuries but it’s said that it was here that Saint Patrick converted Aenghus, the High King of Munster, to Christianity in the 5th century!

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Have you explored Ireland’s Ancient East yet? Let us know or send us your pictures on Facebook! 

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