In keeping with our previous practice of spending a day in the country, my sister and I decided to do a day-tour while we were in Dublin. Our hotel had a lot of pamphlets, so we searched for the best day tour that wouldn’t likely be sold out (since we weren’t pre-booking).
Finally we settled on going to Trim Castle and the Hill of Tara.
It was a smaller group, but there was room for us in the bus. We arrived at the Tourist Information Centre on Suffolk Street (after going to the Tourist Information Center on O’Connell Street by accident first) and waited for the bus to show up. Our guide was also our driver. He had a microphone, a good singing voice, and a sense of humour.
Our first stop was Trim Castle (the admission of which was included in our tour package) The Castle is most noted for being a filming location for the movie Braveheart, and for being a freakin’ castle, which is awesome.
Once we got inside the grounds we were allowed to run around for about 20 minutes before the tour began. There were a lot of walls, towers and a tunnel to explore.
Then we went inside the Keep and learned some history about the castle. Honestly, I don’t remember much of it, because I was super-excited about being in a castle. If I was a billionaire I would totally build myself a castle to a live in.
I remember that there were 3 stages to the building of the castle as we know it today. It used to be only one or two stories high, but then the next tenants kept building up. The Keep (the central building) was built on a hill, and the River Boyne is on one side of the grounds – all of which are strategical points.
Also part of their strategy against enemies were the stairs. Yes, even the stairs were designed to purposely mess with people.
I’m not sure if you can see it in the picture, but each step is a different height and width than the rest. The slight differences make it harder for someone who is unfamiliar with the stairs to run up them. People who live in the castle learn the steps and can make it upstairs with much less stumbling.
Fighting enemies with science! That’s pretty awesome.
Also awesome is the fact that they had to unlock the castle with a really cool key. Did I mention that I got to hold onto the key and lock and unlock the door?
grudgingly giving the key back, our group went back to the bus and headed to the Hill of Tara.
The Hill of Tara is where the High King of Ireland ruled, until St. Patrick came along and everything changed (out with the Celtic, in with the Catholic). It’s said that St. Patrick came to the Hill of Tara to teach the King about Christianity, using the shamrock as a guide to explain the Holy Trinity.
The hill is also where the Stone of Destiny (or Lia Fail) is located. This is where the High Kings were crowned. The story I heard said that men would walk up to the stone and place their hand on it. If they were imposters the stone would stay quiet, but it they were the rightful King the stone would scream out loud enough for all the land to hear. (Wikipedia mentions feet instead of hands, but as this all happened a very long time ago, I cannot dispute anything).
Apparently the stone was split by someone who was angry that his protégé could not make the stone scream out. Also, it was damaged by vandals in 2012 (which I can’t understand – why would someone do something like that?
Bunch of savages…)
Also on the hill is the Faerie Tree, which I can’t fully remember the history of (or even if I heard the history of it).
The Faerie Tree stands out quite a bit, as there are no other trees near it. People come from all over to tie bits of fabric/string/other assorted items to the tree and make wishes.
The Hill of Tara was very important to the Kings because it was one of the highest points in all of Ireland. If there was a law that you couldn’t use fire after dark, anyone standing on the hill would be able to make out a light in the darkness from miles away, and then come and arrest those responsible.
And, indeed, on a clear day you can see forever…