I admit, I was a little anxious for the first 5 minutes as I repeated out loud: “Stay left, stay left…..” as I pulled into the busy street with the rented car. It does help to sit in the right seat behind the wheel when driving on the left side of the road. This particular car had the signal lights on the left side of the steering column, unlike cars I had driven in Australia/New Zealand where the wipers always flashed by my face when I tried to signal left or right. Had it not been for the busy downtown Dublin traffic and the one-way streets, it would have been easier. Furthermore, there were virtually no signs except for the occasional, hard-to-read street names posted on the corners of buildings. But I made back to the hotel, picked up my girls, and headed out of town for the Valley of the Kings.

The Boyne Valley (Valley of the Kings) north of Dublin is considered to be the cradle of Irish history and civilization. Our first stop was the Hill of Tara where some 142 kings were supposedly crowned. It was said that on a clear day 23 of Irelands’ 32 counties can be seen from the Hill of Tara. Indeed, it was a beautiful clear day, so I will take their word for it: we could see a long way given that much of the Irish landscape is pretty flat. The Hill of Tara was also a great stop for lunch (see photo of my girls).

Hill of Tara

But the village of Trim was the highlight of the day. This pretty, historical town hugs the River Boyne and is dominated by Trim Castle, Ireland’s largest Anglo-Norman castle founded by Hugh de Lacy in 1173. It really was an intriguing sight. The castle was used as the set for the 1995 film Braveheart starring Mel Gibson. Across St. Peter’s Bridge, thought to be the second oldest bridge in Ireland, were the ruins of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist, founded by monks in the 13th century. In and among these more recent artifacts were remnants of centuries before. Given that our American/European history is only several hundred years, it required some additional effort to reach back with some imagination to make sense of structures that existed shortly after the birth of Christ.

Trim Castle