Saturday, 11 June 2016

The Crypt's Travelgram: Mary Gibbons Newgrange and Hill of Tara Tour Review

At 5000 years old this neolithic passage tomb is older than Stonehenge, older than The Pyramids and has always been high up on my bucket list so it was essential for Newgrange in The Boyne Valley County Meath to be a feature in The Crypt's Travelgram. I came across online and when I seen the tour also incorporated The Hill of Tara, the ancient Royal site of The High Kings of Ireland, I knew this was the tour for me. 

Mary Gibbons who facilitates the tour is the sister of Michael Gibbons, one of Ireland's leading field archaeologists. Upon boarding the bus I was delighted to be gifted with Michael's book 'Connemara: Visions of Lar Chonnacht.' The text is by Michael with beautiful paintings by Reingard Gahan taking you on a unique tour through the wild and beautiful Connemara. Mary is an extremely friendly lady who you immediately feel you have known for ages. 

The Tour has 5 pick up points including the Mespil Hotel (Mespil Road), Doubletree Hotel (Donnybrook) The Merrion Hotel, Shelbourne Hotel (St Stephens Green) and outside The AIB Bank on Upper O'Connell Street, making the tour easily accessible to people. Both the bus and all entrance fees are included in the price of the tour. 

From the moment the bus starts it's journey Mary educates all her guests on the fascinating history of all the sites on the route. So you don't just get the history of Newgrange and Tara, you learn all about Ireland through the ages, from the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron age, The Vikings to English Rule. Mary has a true gift for story telling and her very witty personality had everyone on the bus laughing. I learned so much on this bus journey and found it extremely enjoyable.

Our first stop was The Hill of Tara. This is truly a magical experience. To think of all the High Kings who were inaugurated on this spot and the rituals and ceremonies that took place there. But it was also poignant to imagine this was the spot that 400 rebels died in the rebellion of 1798. The views are spectacular and on a clear day you can see 23 of the 32 counties of Ireland from Tara and of course it has superb ceremonial monuments including The Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny which stands about 1 meter in height and is considered by some to be a fertility symbol. Legend states that upon a Kings inauguration the stone would roar its approval of a worthy King.

Following Tara we went to the visitor centre of Bru na Boinne which is situated around the wide bend in the River Boyne. The Centre is stunning with a souvenir shop and a spacious tea room with a great selection on their menu to choose from. A great advantage of Mary's tour is she has an allocated time slot to go into Newgrange so there is no delay being stuck in long ques giving you time for a bit of shopping and a bite to eat. The centre also had a fantastic exhibition that describes the society that created the Neolithic Tombs, their homes, dress, food, tools and weapons. 

When our allocated time arrived we were brought by bus up to Newgrange where we were met by a tour guide who gives you the full history of the site. Our tour guide, like Mary, had a very witty personality and made the history lesson so enjoyable.

To stand inside Newgrange is something everyone should experience at least once in their life. It is mind blowing to think how this tomb was constructed and in all the years it has been there, not one drop of water has entered the tomb and considering the rain we get in Ireland that is impressive. What is also impressive is the beautiful megalithic art on the stones which to this day we still do not know the significance of. As I am sure you all know the passage and chamber in Newgrange is illuminated by the sun on the Winter Solstice and all guests have the opportunity to enter a lotto to be in with a chance to experience it.

When we came to the end of the tour Mary took the time to speak to each and every one of her guests to see if they enjoyed their day and hear their stories. 

So if you are thinking about going to The Hill of Tara and Newgrange I cannot recommend Mary Gibbons' Newgrange Tours highly enough. A truly enjoyable, fun, magical experience and I give it 5/5

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