Ireland // Around Dublin: Wicklow, Kildare and Meath //

County Meath

The rich limestone lowlands of County Meath, bisected by the River Boyne and supporting ample cattle pasturage, have always attracted settlers and invaders. The valley’s Neolithic people somehow found the resources and manpower to construct the huge, ornately decorated passage graves of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, part of the extraordinary landscape of ritual sites known as Brú na Bóinne, which is today one of the country’s most famous and best organized visitor attractions. In contrast, the Loughcrew Cairns, a similarly extensive grouping of burial mounds in the far northwest corner of the county beyond the small market town of Kells, have failed to garner present-day resources for excavation and tourist development, leaving you to explore this mysterious, hilltop landscape unaided and usually in solitude. The Hill of Tara started out as a Stone Age cemetery, too, but evolved into one of Ireland’s most important symbolic sites, the seat of the High Kings of the early Christian period. Meath also caught the eye of the Anglo-Norman invaders, who heavily fortified and held several parliaments at Trim, where you can visit the mighty castle and several other well-preserved medieval remnants. Meath’s other noteworthy sights are on either side of Brú na Bóinne in the northeast of the county: to the west Slane’s historic castle and monastery, which enjoy a picturesque setting on a steep, wooded hillside above the River Boyne; and to the east, the site of one of the most significant battles in Ireland’s history, the Battle of the Boyne, now commemorated by a high-tech visitor centre.

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