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Shaking off economy seat half-sleep upon early arrival in Dublin I scooted through immigration and picked up my Europcar rental. Just the small task of picking up friends Rick and Deb at the The Shelbourne Dublin (a Marriott Renaissance hotel) and then out on the open road. 45 minutes later I was pounding the steering wheel and jumping out at intersection after intersection to make out the least visible road signs in the world. The Shelbourne is as ideal of a location you can hope for a Dublin visit, necessarily a nightmare to reach on wheels. Someday I need to get a GPS, though despite frustrations like these I enjoy the challenge of navigating by map.
Rick and Deb were ready and with the sun up, maps handed over to Rick, and a few signs pointing to the airport we made it out of Dublin with only a handful of miscues and a glimpse of a city I hope to visit another time.
Brú na Bóinne is one of two UNESCO sites in Republic of Ireland and our target to be in the first group of the day. The site is visited from tour buses as the modern visitor center, with slots limited to preserve the site. No issues with crowds on a December day, though in summer it is reported to be critical to visit early. The prime site is Newgrange, open year-round except Dec 24-27, Knowth is open Easter-Oct 28. There is an annual lottery for the winter solstice though outside weather has prevented sun being seen since 2007.
Newgrange is a Neolithic monument built circa 3200 BC, one of those feats of engineering loaded with superlatives of size and mathematical precision. The chamber is bone dry and impressive. Even after a day of sunshine the roads were still wet, so the chamber being dry alone is a marvel. On sunny winter solstices the chamber lights up. The site guides use modern lighting to approximate the effect. Knowth is a similar mound though closed for the season when I visited. The surrounding countryside is dotted with similar mounds not open to the public.
Brú na Bóinne is less than an hour drive north from Dublin, and with nearby sites such as Battle of the Boyne site and Hill of Tara, makes for an excellent outing. Nearby village of Slane has the requisite quaint restaurants and shops where we filled up before continuing north to the tip of the island. Nothing like driving on the opposite of accostomed side of the road, and then converting mile speed limits in Northern Ireland to a kilometer speedometer to battle through jetlag.