While there are countless reasons for adding Ireland’s Ancient East to your list of top tourist destinations in the world, we think it’s the region’s rich culture and history that makes a visit to County Meath so worthwhile.
Irish culture is a melting pot of old and new-world tradition, architecture, music, art, religion, food and folklore. Brief research into the timeline of Irish history reveals that the island’s (known) history dates as far back as 10 000 years, a time, it is believed, when simple farmers from the Stone Age worked and lived off the land.
The Iron Age Celts and fearsome Vikings
During the Iron Age, warriors known as the Celts moved into Ireland from mainland Europe and had a large influence on the culture, religious beliefs and traditions of the time. Next to arrive were the Christian missionaries, the most famous of them being St Patrick, who reached our shores in mid-5th century, and established Christianity as the country’s main religion.
The Irish history timeline wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Vikings. The 8th century saw these fearless Scandinavian warriors and sailors arriving on the Irish coast in their longboats, on raiding expeditions to pillage the island’s coastal towns, settlements and monasteries. They later landed larger fleets of ships to settle and develop fortified positions, from which to coordinate their raids, and port towns for their merchant trade.
Vikings settlers began to mix with the Irish locals of the time, which lead to a transfer of knowledge, skills and practices between the different cultures. Four centuries later, the Normans invaded Ireland and began to build and establish stone towns, castles and churches according to their distinct architectural style.
Take a trip back in time with a visit to Brú na Bóinne, Trim Castle and the Hill of Tara
Many historic sites dating back to these times still exist and can be visited and appreciated today. These includes the Late Stone Age passage tomb cemetery of Brú na Bóinne (or the Boyne Valley), which forms part of the oldest Neolithic landscapes of its time.
Brú na Bóinne: Along with another 90 recorded monuments in the area, the three largest passage tombs on the site – Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth – bear witness to a sophisticated group of people who lived in the Valley some 5000 years ago. The region is steeped in the rich myth and folklore of the time, involving gods, goddesses and a supernatural group of beings who lived in the Valley before the arrival of the warrior Celts.
Trim Castle: A visit to Trim Castle, on the south bank of the River Boyne in County Meath, will fast-track you 400 years beyond the Neolithic age. Trim Castle is the largest Norman and Anglo-Irish castle on the island – it enclosed over three acres within its walls at the time – and was built on the site of an earlier wooden keep, which was destroyed by fire.
The Hill of Tara in Navan, County Meath – the royal county – is famous as the ‘sanctuary’ or seat of the ancient High Kings of Ireland, a dynasty which ended with the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169 AD. This sprawling archaeological complex invites you to explore the area on foot, up the summit of the Hill of Tara to take in the panoramic views from the top.
The Stone of Destiny (Lia Fáil) is one of the most famous and visible of the 30 monuments at the Hill of Tara, along with a megalithic passage tomb called the “Mound of Hostages”, which dates back to 2500 BC.
On our doorstep
With so much of the history of Ireland to explore in the area, tourists are encouraged to spend a few days visiting archaeological attractions and taking in the sights.
The Newgrange Hotel in Navan is an ideal location for a luxurious layover. Newgrange blends old world charm with modern convenience, making it the ideal retreat space for holiday-makers and modern-day adventurers looking to explore by day and rest and relax at night.
Book a room at Newgrange today and experience everything that the enchanting County Meath has to offer!