Our last day in Dublin was spent inside the National Museum of Ireland. Lyra was wonderful in agreeing to stay with her crazy parents in the museum all day when all of Dublin was beckoning.
Ancient Goldsmith’s tools
(R) Gold bracelet from Donegal
After visiting many archaeological sites around Ireland we had often read reference to finds made at a site followed by “now at the National Museum of Ireland.” I was most intrigued by reference to a purse-shaped reliquary of St. Patrick’s Tooth from the church of Killaspugbrone, now at the end of the Sligo airport runway. The church was first built by Bishop Bron, a contemporary of St. Patrick in the early 500s (!). When St. Patrick visited his friend, he either tripped and knocked out a tooth or it fell out and he gave it to his good friend who treasured it.
Much later, the relic case was made for the tooth, and after a trail of owners is now in the National Museum of Ireland. The relic case has images of Sts. Patrick, Brigid (missing), Brendan and Columcille on it as well as one of the earliest depictions of a harp in ireland.
Great jewelry of Ancient Ireland. Chains and amber, what’s not to like?
We went through with an eye for anything from our travels and found carvings and artifacts from all over. It was a pleasure to match some of the objects with their places of origin.
We saw the two most recent finds of people preserved in bogs (2003). Clonycavan man is an example of (possibly) the first man bun, held together by hair gel that originated in France or Spain.
The other find, Old Croghan Man, had very long arms and big hands, suggesting he had been 6’5″ tall (missing his head and lower body, it was difficult to be sure). His well-manicured nails suggested he was not a laborer, but of high status.
There was a leather scabbard recovered from a bog with an axe still inside. Leather preservation is impressive–single shoes from all over Ireland.
We moved to our hotel by the airport, readying for our 7 am flight to Naples and the next chapter of Llywinda Travels.
Good to Know About Ireland
♣ It rains. It may rain some portion of every day you are in Ireland, so be prepared. Bright sun can shift to a brief downpour in a few minutes. Carry an umbrella, wear a raincoat or be ready to run for cover. Forget about cute shoes. There are sunny days–appreciate every one of them!
♣ It is never hot. Ireland is a great place to go to escape the heat. July-August temperatures along the west coast were in the 60s, rarely breaking 70º F. Beachgoers of all ages wear heavy gauge wetsuits. You rarely see parents sitting on the beach staring at their phone while kids call to them from the sand—the rain would ruin their phone. We saw more families together on the beach here than in other countries.
♣ Driving on the left is always a challenge. Roads are narrow in some places and you have to be ready to pull over or back up to let an oncoming car pass.
♣ We found almost everyone to be friendly and helpful. We shared a table at the potato festival and enjoyed chatting with people from Dingle. We chatted with people on buses and at the store. It was easy to get directions. (That’s handy, because not all streets are marked.)
Some wonderful things about Ireland.
♣ Nature–The west coast is full of beaches and cliffs to walk on. The Burren, Benbulben, Bunglass cliffs are all in amazing landscapes, too. Archaeological sites are everywhere amid gorgeous views.
♣ There are some stunning gardens. Some are tiny house fronts, others are extensive yards. The mild weather keeps blooms fresh for a long time. These are the pinkest hydrangeas I’ve ever seen. Fuschia may be non-native, but forms high hedges along many roads. So do blackberries–we made jam and pie.
♣ We saw puffins, and possibly a whale or dolphin.
♣ The friendliness and good will of people we met was a real pleasure.
♣ Boxty, Irish whiskey, cheeses, butter.
♣ An appreciation of whimsy. Though fewer people today may believe in fairies, places where people saw fairies in the past are still marked, like the fairy bridges in Bundoran, or holy wells. There are decorative fairy houses, too. On a larger scale, you occasionally see a facade decorated with shells and broken pottery in seaside towns.
A couple of things to keep in mind.
♣ You can visit archaeological ruins all over Ireland. Many are marked on maps and listed in guidebooks, while others are not. Guidebooks don’t always list how long a walk it is to the site from the car park, and the walks can be very muddy. Sometimes only a vehicle with high clearance can drive to the end of the road, making the walk to a site a half hour each way. Be prepared.
Cliffs of Bunglass, Slieve Lieg
♣ Weather can get in the way of your views. We visited the Slieve Lieg, also called the Cliffs of Bunglass, some of the highest cliffs in Europe, but the top was in fog. The top of these cliffs is usually in fog, though they are still worth visiting. This is also true of Benbulben, a distinctive feature of the landscape between Sligo and Bundoran. Still worth visiting.
♣ There is a peculiar toll in Dublin, the M50. There are signs along the road that indicate it is an automatic toll. If you rent a car, ask your agency whether they cover the toll. If they do not, you have to go online and pay it (not much). If you do not, there are all kinds of threats of huge fines. Apparently rental cars are not fined as promptly but you are still expected to go to the eflow.ie webpage and pay. Our car rental company did not mention this until I called a couple of times in a panic.
♣ As in every country, the most highly publicized sights and attractions can be very crowded. We were in big crowds at the Cliffs of Moher and at the Giant’s Causeway. We skipped the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge when we found out that even with timed tickets the wait was often 90 minutes to walk across. We did not kiss the Blarney Stone. There can be 20 tour buses parked at such places. Brace yourself or don’t go. In Dublin, the Book of Kells had a long line. The National Museum of Ireland was full of wonderful things and had no line at all. Go there.
♣ If you are returning to the US from Ireland, you may be required to pass US customs in Ireland. This saves time when you arrive in the US, but takes at least an extra hour. Fine, except your airline may not mention that this takes place. Thus, everyone needs an extra hour at the airport but doesn’t know it. Lyra went through all this process at 6 am, including loading the plane an hour early (!). After that, they all sat for 45 minutes waiting for latecomers who didn’t know about customs and weren’t chronically early to the airport.