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Solo travel rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages spoken: French, English
Deciding where to go in Ireland is a serious challenge. If you go west, people will say you should have gone south. If you go south they'll say east. Really, it’s such a beautiful country that it’s difficult to decide what direction you should choose for your first experience there. .
I was in Ireland twice last spring. The first time I went west and north. The second I went east, the area that has the most ancient history to be seen in the country. I guess I'll have to leave the south for another time. Until then, here are my top recommendations for traveling the east of Ireland.
Places to Visit in Ireland's Ancient East
Beaulieu House & Gardens. I often come upon House Museums to visit but rarely, perhaps never, have I had the chance to visit a home that could be a museum but continues to be a home. Beaulieu House & Gardens is currently lived in by the eleventh generation of the Tichbourne family. Situated on the river Boyne the house is a rare survivor of the Artisan Mannerist style. It has a fantastic walled garden and a fascinating history. Well worth the visit.
Slane Castle. Historically, Slane Castle has a connection to the Battle of the Boyne. More recently it's known for some of the world’s biggest rock acts including the Rolling Stones, Springsteen and U2 choosing to stage their shows in the castle's grounds natural amphitheatre.
Monasterboice. I love a good graveyard and Monasterboice is exceptional. It was an early Christian settlement founded in the late 5th century by Saint Buite and was an important religious centre until the establishment of Mellifont Abbey (see below). The Muiredach's High Cross is 5.5-metres high, goes back 2,000 years and is in exceptional condition.
Melifont Abbey. The Melifont Abbey was founded by the Cistercians in 1142. Its ruins include a chapel and church and a most unusual feature, an octagonal Lavabo (a basin used in Roman Catholic rituals for the celebrant’s ritual weashings of hands) c. 1200. The Visitor Centre houses an exhibition on the work of masons in the Middle Ages. If you seek out medieval ruins this is the place for you.
Carlingford Lough – Carlingford town has Medieval sites including King John’s Castle, The Mint, Tholsel and the historic town walls. It's a charming little town with pretty shopfronts and from my experience, the place to eat is PJ O Hare’s. It's not for the food that you want to eat there but for the fun. When I was there Henry Mac, a local and regular at the pub, was performing a wide range of Irish music and old Rock'n Roll that anyone could sing along to. His finale was American Pie. It brought the house down and brought in from the patio a group of 20-somethings to dance and to get everyone else dancing as well. Yes, good craic (meaning good company, good times)!
I was on this trip thanks to the people at Tourism Ireland and the #IrelandsAncientEast blog trip, created and managed by iambassador. Naturally, Solo Traveler has full editorial control and all opinions are my own.