Thursday, 29 March 2012

Leaving Up North & Heading Down South

There seems to have been a long line of sad farewells this last week of our Ireland holiday and today was no exception, with us having to bid farewell to Audrey & Ray as they left for work, leaving Donna & I to rearrange the contents of our bags, ready for the big weigh in at Dublin Airport later this evening.

Leaving Belfast in the North & heading South

We left Belfast just before lunch with plenty of time to spare before we had to drop the car back at the Europcar depot at Dublin Airport. 

Belfast is about 167 kms [100 miles] from Dublin on the A1/M1 & takes less than 2 hours.
As you drive via the motorway to Dublin, crossing from Northern Ireland into the Republic for most, will go unnoticed.   If you are on the look out, you may see the speed limit signs, depending on which direction you're heading, alert you to the fact that the speed limit has now changed to Kilometres per hour [if you're driving into the Republic] or Miles per hour [if you're driving into the North].
Despite this being our last day in Ireland, there were still a couple of historic sites we wanted to cross off our list before we left the country.  The first of these was Monasterboice.

Now it should have been relatively easy to find Monasterboice from off the M1 but I kid you not, we drove round in circles trying to find the place, coming across this interesting wee village signpost along the way.
Termonfeckin.... obviously, Co.Louth
I know, I know... I'm being slightly mischievious adding this photo of a road sign that we happened upon while trying to find Monasterboice, but it made us do a double take & I was intrigued to find out a little more about Termonfeckin & how it got it's name.

The simple answer is that the name of this small village of around 700 residents, means "Fechin's refuge".   Who is Fechin, I hear you ask?   Saint Fechin to be precise, was a 7th century Irish saint, rememberd as the founder of Fore Abbey in Co. Westmeath.   My one & only question is...  "why did they change the 'h' to a 'k' "?   Could it be that I'm not the only one being mischievious.
As I was later to find out however, Termonfeckin is not only famous for the Saint which gave the village it's name,  Oh no.
For Harry Potter fans, this is the home town of actress Evanna Lynch who played the character 'Luna Lovegood' in four of the Harry Potter movies.
And for those of us from Downunder in NZ, this was the birthplace of one Molesworth Phillips who sailed with Captain Cook on his last voyage to the Pacific & who was present at the Captain's death in Hawaii.  

I also found out that there's a pretty substantial Turkey farm in the village & have to say, they too have made interesting use of the town's name, branding their home run Turkey business 'Termonfeckin Delicious".      Their promotional video is well worth taking a look at if you're in need of some light entertainment!

Had we not been so intrigued by the name, we would have also known that Termonfeckin has the remains of a 15th century castle & a magnificient High Cross, built around the 9th century which we could have visited.
Enough banter about Termonfeckin, let's get back to looking for Monasterboice's High Crosses.   And yes, we did eventually find this historic site after much persistance.  A word of warning... don't rely on your Sat Nav to get you there!

Monasterboice Cemetery, Monasterboice, Co. Louth
Monasterboice is a small, quiet, well kept cemetery & features the largest High Cross in Ireland, along with one of the highest & oldest.
Muirdach's Cross, Monasterboice, Co. Louth
Monasterboice Monastery is thought to have been founded around the 5th century, and apart from the magnificient High Crosses & Round Tower here, there are also remains of two churches.
Monasterboice Cemetery, Co. Louth

Ruins of Church, Monasterboice Cemetery, Co. Louth
Near the entrance of the cemetery is the 8th century Muirdach's Cross.  Amassed with biblical carvings depicting the fall of Adam & Eve, the murder of Abel, David & Goliath, the three Magi bearing gifts to Mary & Jesus, to name a few.
Biblical carvings on the Muirdach's Cross, Monasterboice, Co. Louth
A taller cross standing at 6.5 metres high, making it the tallest high cross in Ireland is situated near the Round Tower & is also well covered with biblical carvings, including the Crucifixion, the Resurrection & the Kiss of Judas.
The West Cross, Monasterboice
Standing behind the West Cross is the Round Tower with it's missing conical top, supposedly blown off by lightening. These Round Towers were the Irish reaction to the Norse raids on Monasteries in the 10th & 11th centuries, built over 100 feet high, they served as watch towers, belfries, storehouses for church valuables & as refuges for the community. Monasterboice's round tower, stands at 110 feet.
The Round Tower stands at 110 ft high behind the West Cross, Monasterboice

Monasterboice, Co. Louth
The West Cross, Round Tower & church ruins, Monasterboice

The West Cross, Monasterboice

The site is open all year and can be accessed by a stile at the gate, even when no one is in attendance. 
Stone Stile access into Monasterboice Cemetery, Monasterboice,
We still had an hour & a half before we were due to drop the rental car off at Dublin Airport, so went in search of Malahide Castle, just outside of Dublin.   Again, our trusty Sat Nav let us down & despite having to resort to our map, we still could not find this place.   In defense, there were a lot of road works & detours around Malahide, so this didn't help.  Or it could have been, that my navigational ability was beginning to tire after a month on the road.   That said, we couldn't find it & after taking a few wrong turns, we decided we couldn't waist any more time & headed on to Dublin Airport.
Bridge over the River Boyne, north of Dublin
Passing over the River Boyne on the M1, heading toward Dublin, we cross this magnificient cable-stayed bridge, the longest in Ireland.   Interestingly, most of the bridge, including its central pylon and 56 cables are situated in County Meath, although the last few northern most cables partly stretch across the county boundary into County Louth.    It is such a distinctive structure which seems in sharp contrast to the feast of ancient structures we've visited over our month long tour of Ireland.   It now seems incongruous amongst my photos of ancient castles, forts, churches & burial places.  Odd too, that it should be the last photo I take before flying out of Ireland & back home.

And as I wing away from the Northern Hemisphere & back into the Southern Hemisphere, I'm already plotting my return, to a country I've fallen head over heals in love with.

Thank you Tourism Ireland NZ, I've had the time of my life!


  1. As an Irishman and Blogger loved this blog..

    1. Thanks Paul :o) I'm an amateur who just wanted to show everyone what a fabulous country Ireland was to travel around. I'm from New Zealand, 18 662km away from the best little country in the Northern Hemisphere.