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Dublin - Day Trip To Newgrange

Dublin - Day Trip To Newgrange
Brú Na Bóinne is about 8 km inland from Drogheda and is the name given to an area rich in archaeological remains which include Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, situated within a bend in the River Boyne. In recognition of the international importance of these monuments and the many associated sites in the area, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has designated Brú Na Bóinne a World Heritage Site.
Constructed during the Neolithic or Stone Age, the passage tombs at Brú Na Bóinne are about 5000 years old. The people who built these monuments belonged to a thriving farming community who used simple tools of wood and stone. Nevertheless, they had within their society expertise in architecture, engineering, geology, art and astronomy. As the name implies, passage tombs consist of a passage leading into a chamber where the remains of the dead were placed. A large mound of stones or earth covers the passage and chamber, which in turn is retained at is base by large boulders, called kerbstones. The time and labour invested in the construction of the tombs implies a well-organised society with specialized groups responsible for different aspects of work.
 newgrange 3
The passage at Newgrange points to the south east and is just less than 19 metres long. It leads into a chamber with three recesses. A corbelled roof covers the chamber. To construct the roof, the builders overlapped layers of large rocks until the roof could be sealed with a capstone, 6 metres above the floor. After 5000 years the roof at Newgrange is still waterproof. The flat-topped cairn or mound covering the chamber is almost 0.5 ha. in extend. It is roughly circular and is estimated to weigh 200,000 tonnes in total. It is made up of water-rolled stone from the terraces of the River Boyne. Excavations showed that white quartz stone, from quartz veins in the Wicklow Mountains and other areas and round granite boulders, from the Mourne and Carlingford areas, were used to build a revetment wall above the kerb along the front of south side of the mound. As is usual in Irish passage tombs, the recess on the right as one enters is the largest and most ornate. On its floor are two stone basins, one inside the other. The upper basin, worked with flint tools from granite, is a superb example of the skill of the Neolithic craft workers. The lower stone basin must have been positioned before the roof was closed because it would have been too large to bring inside once the chamber had been completed. The other two recesses have sandstone basins – treasure hunters broke the basin in the back recess at the end of the 18th century.
These basins held the remains of the dead although how many people were buried at Newgrange is unknown because the chamber was disturbed before archaeological excavation took place. However, the remains of at least five people were recovered during excavation. Most of the bones found had been cremated although small amounts were unburned. Grave goods of chalk and bone beads and pendants, as well as some polished stone balls were placed with the dead. Presumably these objects held a special significance in the burial ritual.
The art of the passage tomb builders has stimulated interest since the monuments first came to notice. Some of the art is spectacular – wonderful combinations of spirals, lozenges, chevrons, triangles and arrangements of parallel lines and arcs. The designs were first lightly incised and then picked out with a flint of quartz point. Sometimes the area around a design was picked away to form a relief or else the entire stone was pick-dressed after the designs were completed. The entrance stone at Newgrange and Kerbstone 52 at the back of the monument are highly-accomplished pieces of sculpture, regarded as some of the finest achievements of European Neolithic Art.
The designs on many stones continue on to surfaces now hidden. Excavation revealed that many stones are carved on their undersides and on the sides turned inwards to the cairn. Whatever their significance to the artists, it was apparently not always important for the whole design to be visible. Perhaps the art was to be seen by the spirits of the dead or the deities. Perhaps the act of carving transformed the stone into something extraordinary and that once this had been done, it was no longer necessary for the art to be seen. Whatever the significance of the art to the builders of these monuments, we can no longer interpret it.
Winter Solstice
Of the many notable features at Newgrange, certainly the most famous is the small opening, the roof box, situated above the passage entrance and discovered in 1963 during archaeological excavations. At dawn on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year (December 21st), and for a number of days before and after, a shaft of sunlight enters the chamber through an opening in the roof-box. The rays first hit the edge of the broken basin stone at the back of the chamber floor and then, as the sun rises higher, the beam broadens and moves down the passage. The alignment is so accurate that there is very little chance that it was accidental. Modern research suggests that Newgrange is probably the oldest known deliberately aligned structure anywhere in the world.
Astronomical calculations have now proved that, 5000 years ago, the initial thin beam of light would have reached the right back wall of the chamber. That it no longer does so is due to changes in the earth’s orbit relative to the sun over the intervening years.
To the Neolithic farmers the winter solstice marked the start of a new year, a sign of rebirth promising renewed life to crops. It may also have served as a powerful symbol of the inevitable victory of life over death, perhaps promising new life to the spirits of the dead.
Late Neolithic / Early Bronze Age: Beaker People
Around 2000 BC, new people or new ideas reached Ireland. Called the Beaker Period because of the distinctive pottery type associated with it, this time coincides with the rise of metalworking, even though stone tools continued to be used. When Beaker people were living beside Newgrange the monument had fallen into disuse and its entrance was probably blocked by the collapsed cairn. However, its attraction as a focal point of ritual had not waned. Within 10 metres of the passage tomb, Beaker people constructed a huge enclosure which served as a religious centre as important in its day as the passage tomb had been. Archaeological excavations revealed it to be a large double circle of wooden posts (c. 100m. in diameter). Within which portions of animals were cremated and buried in pits. Archaeologists refer to this monument as the Pit Circle.
Stone Circle
Newgrange is also surrounded by a circle of standing stones whose purpose are unclear although recent research indicates that it could have had an astronomical function. The Stone Circle was erected sometime after 2000 BC since excavations have shown that one of the stones of the circle lies directly on top of the Early Bronze Age Pit Circle. Originally, there may have been more stones, which have since been dislodged. This was the final phase of building at Newgrange.
From the Celts to the Present
With the coming of the Celts about 500 years BC, Newgrange was transformed from a place where people gathered into a place where their deities lived. In Celtic mythology, Newgrange or Síd im Brúg (the Fairy Mound of the Brú) as it was then known was the home of the greatest of the Celtic gods, Dagda Mór and his son Oengus. The stories of these deities inspired such awe that Newgrange was revered even by visitors from Roman Britain as late as 400 AD. Their votive offerings of coins and jewellery were recovered from around the periphery of the entrance to the tomb. Even though Newgrange appeared as a large overgrown mound, it was recognized as a construction rather than a natural feature, but lay undisturbed most likely because of superstition, well into the Christian era.
After the foundation of the Cistercian Abbey at nearby Mellifont in 1142, the land around Newgrange was acquired by the order. It became a grange, an outlying farm, of the abbey thus giving the passage tomb and the surrounding townland its modern name.
The chamber at Newgrange has been accessible in modern times since 1699. Newgrange became a place of interest to various antiquarians and reports on it are well documented. However, it was until 1962 that the major excavation of the site began under the direction of Professor M. J. O’Kelly. After the excavation, he directed the conservation and restoration of the monument. The interior passage was straightened and, to relieve the pressure of the weight of the cairn on it, it was enclosed within a second passage (now unseen). The original façade of white quartz and granite was rebuilt using stone found at the site, its height and angle deduced from how the original wall had collapsed.
Newgrange, as well as the other passage tombs of Knowth and Dowth are protected and managed by the Office of Public Works. Access to Newgrange is through the Visitor Centre at Brú na Bóinne. (This publication is reproduced with kind permission and original copies can be found free of charge at the OPW site at Newgrange Co. Meath)

Aran Islands - Inis Mhór Day Trip From Galway

Aran Islands – Inis Mhór day trip from Galway
On the West coast of Ireland you can find the Aran Islands. Inis Mhór, which means the big island, has a lot of things to offer most notably Dun Aonghasa described below.  Inis Meain, the second largest of the islands and home to Ferboy's Fort, Conor's Fort, Saint Kenderrig's grave, dramatic cliffs and beautiful beaches.  Inis Oirr, at 3km x 3km, is the smallest of the Aran Islands but very distinctive in its own right, boasts white sandy beaches, views of the Cliffs of Moher and the Plassy shipwreck are among its key features.

There are two ways to get to Inis Mor, by boat or by plane. From Galway, the boat of Aran Island Ferries will take you there by way of a bus shuttle to the ferry port of Rosaveal. Travelling by plane will result in a return ticket with Aer Arann Islands. Both give a different perspective and point of view of the big island. Once you set foot on the island, you can rent a bike and cycle around the island.
Dun Aonghasa daytrip from Galway
Who Angus was is unknown. According to legend, Aonghus belonged to a high-ranking dynasty who were displaced from their lands in Co. Meath in the early centuries AD. Another possible candidate, is Aonghus Mac Natfráich, King of Cashel in the 5th century AD, who had dynastic affiliations with Aran.
dun aoghasa22
Recent excavations by a team from The Discovery Programme found evidence for human activity on the hilltop stretching over two and a half thousand years (c. 1500BC – 1000AD). First enclosed ca. 1100BC, the most dynamic period in the history of this hillfort was around 800BC. At that time, Dún Aonghasa was probably the political, economic and ritual centre for a group of people with a common ancestry. Only the elite members of this group would have lived in the fort. After 700BC, the importance of the site waned and, over the following thousand years, it seems to have been occupied only intermittently. A major rebuilding programme was undertaken in the Early Medieval period (500 – 1000AD) but the fort was abandoned shortly afterwards. Dún Aonghasa became a National Monument at the end of the 19th century and was extensively repaired shortly afterwards. It is now conserved by the Office of Public Works.
The Late Bronze Age Hillfort
Covering an area of 5.7 hectares (14 acres), the interior of the hillfort is divided into an outer, middle and inner enclosure by three curvilinear walls terminating at the cliff. An additional stretch of wall runs along west side and, when the fort was occupied, there was probably a ‘safety wall’ along the cliff-edge. Outside the middle closure is a broad band of chevaux de frise (closely-set stone pillars) that even today are difficult to negotiate.

The original approach to the fort was from the north and the main entrances through the outer and middle walls face in this direction. Today, the entry point is through a breach in the outer wall, but the original doorway can be seen at some distance to the right.
Middle Enclosure
The original doorway to the middle enclosure, about 50m to the right of the present entrance, is now blocked up because of the poor condition of the roof lintels. The entrance would have been closed off by a wooden gate and the sudden drop inside the threshold was probably designed to trip any unwanted visitors. The bodies of two young men were interred in the paved entrance around 1000AD. These may have had Viking connections but there was no evidence to suggest that they died violently.
Inner Enclosure
The inner enclosure wall measuring 5m in width, was built up in layers so that the foundations could be stepped over rising ground. Originally, it was probably about 6m high and ca. 6500 tonnes of stone were used in its construction. The terrace on the interior gave access to the wall top and the small chamber in the west side of the wall may have been used for storing precious or perishable goods.
The stone foundations of seven houses were found in the inner enclosure. The floors were paved and a number had a stone hearth. The outline of a circular house, ca 5m in diameter, is still visible near the west wall. Its foundations are partly covered by the enclosing wall, indicating that the house predates the final alterations to the defences. A stone trough the outside door was probably used either for storing water, keeping shellfish fresh or for boiling meat using the hot-stone cooking method. In addition to meat and cereals, fish and shellfish were an important part of the diet of the Late Bronze Age occupants. Almost 8 tonnes of limpet shells were found during the excavations. Most of the tools in everyday use (hammers, axes, whetstones and quern stones) were made from stone. Clothing was made from wool or leather and fastened with bone pins; the range of needle types found also showed that the Late Bronze Age people used a wide variety of organic materials.
dun aoghasa 21
The rock platform at the cliff edge may have had a ritual or ceremonial function and a hoard of four bronze rings deliberately buried beside it was probably an offering to a deity. At the opposite end of the inner enclosure, a large hearth seems to have been associated with communal feasting and with the casting of bronze weapons and tools.

Scotland - Glasgow Attractions, Hotels and Restaurants

Scotland - Glasgow Attractions, Hotels and Restaurants

Glasgow is the other of the two biggest and intriguing cities in Scotland. Its rich history and contribution to the world over the centuries demonstrates Glasgow is a city which has always punched above its weight. No trip to Glasgow is complete without a kilt of MacGregor & MacDuff. Our intern, Mark Zwerus, named a few attractions, hotels and restaurants.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has over 8000 outstanding works from almost every famous artist in the world. You can walk around yourself or take a guided tour or an audio tour to get more information about the artist or the works. 
The Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel
As the name suggests, the Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel is situated on the river Clyde. This very modern building tells the tales of our current ways of transport and how it got to the current state. Walk among the very first trains or take a look at the first bicycles.
City Chambers
In the center, on George’s Square, are the City Chambers. They still serve as the town hall even though they are over 100 years old. The interior reflects this perfectly as the building is furnished like it would have been 100 years ago. The tour guides are very enthusiastic and share everything with great interest.
 glasgow chambers
Scotland Street School Museum
Designed by Charles Rennie Macintosh, The Scotland Street School Museum is one of the city’s architectural highlights. It tells the story of the rapid evolution and development of Scottish schools in the 20th century with a particular focus on classrooms and subjects
Tennents Wellpark Brewery
Tennents welcomes you into their very first, and still operational, brewery to take a look behind the scenes of a 450 year old beer. They take you on a tour through time to experience their exquisite brewing from long ago to the present day. See the machines up close while the tour guides explain what the machines do and how they evolved over the years.
Grand Central Hotel 
Grand Central Hotel is a four star hotel in the middle of the city and every attraction in the city is within walking distance. The interior focusses mainly on elegance and that is clearly noticeable from the moment you set foot in the hotel. The rooms are exactly like that, very attractive and well appointed.
ABode Glasgow
The four star ABode hotel is located within a roman building with lots of pillars. It is situated in the lively city center. The lobby is elegant and the old fashioned elevator is an exquisite touch. The rooms are very well decorated and very relaxing to make sure you can have the best experience.
 ABode hotel
The Sandyford Hotel
The Sandyford Hotel is a three star hotel and very close to the city centre. The rooms are decorated in a modern style and the lobby is appealing. The pillars in the middle of the lobby contribute to the style of the hotel. As an alternative to walking to and from the hotel, the HopOn bus stops just outside the hotel.
Blythswood Square
Glasgow is Edinburgh's edgier brother and, as such to stay in a Georgian townhouse, in the former red-light district, could make for an interesting dinner party conversation in the future.  Once the clubhouse of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club, that spirit lives on in the hotel's chandeliered common areas, while bedrooms feature a blood red lampshade in the window - a cheeky nod to the neighbourhood's history.
Two Fat Ladies At The Buttery
The Two Fat Ladies A The Buttery offers more than a quirky name. The quality of the food is sublime (the roast supreme is one of my favourites) and the service is outstanding. The atmosphere is very pleasant and the waiters are dressed in traditional clothing.
The Western Club Restaurant
The Western Club is extraordinarily luxurious. The food is fantastic and I highly recommend the sirloin of Buccleuch beef. The quiet atmosphere makes this the ideal place for a calm and peaceful dinner in the city center of Glasgow.
Hutchesons City Grill
Located inside a converted hospital, Hutchesons City Grill lets you eat your meal in style. The atmosphere is very relaxed and soothing and the knowledgeable staff put their heart and soul into the food, which is mostly beef.

Scotland - Edinburgh Attractions, Hotels and Restaurants

Scotland offers a lot of highlights in its cities. The most known city is without a doubt Edinburgh. This thrilling big city has so many amazing attractions that you almost can’t go to Scotland without seeing Edinburgh. In this blog, our intern Mark Zwerus, who has been in the city numerous times,  will share his recommendations with you.

Top attractions in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is one of the most iconic castles in Scotland. This magnificent castle is absolutely worth the visit as it houses the National Museum of War, the Crown Jewels and the Royal Palace and many more attractions all related to the history of Scotland and its residents.
National museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland exhibits treasures found from all over the world and tells the story of global history. The museum has nine galleries, each with their own theme and with treasures on exhibition.
 national museum of scotland
Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Palace of Holyroodhouse houses a museum where you can learn everything about the Scottish royal families and their legacy. The Great Gallery houses portraits of the family painted by Jacob de Wet.
The Royal Mile
Located in the centre of Old Town, this road, that is exactly one Scottish mile (which is longer than an Imperial Mile) long, leads from Edinburgh Castle to the palace of Holyroodhouse. The road features many architecturally significant buildings and shops where you can buy typical Scottish whiskey or a kilt and much more.
The Whisky Experience
On the Royal Mile, you will find the Whisky Experience. You can take a tour through time and see the development of Scotch whisky and see the huge collection of different whiskies all kept there. Or you can become proficient in making whisky during the trainings they give. Afterwards you can try all different kinds of whisky for yourself in the restaurant. 

The Howard
The Howard offers exceptional service and very large, comfortable and old-fashioned rooms. The five star hotel is within walking distance of the buzzing centre and Stockbridge.
  the howard
The Bonham
The Bonham Hotel oozes Scottish charm and culture and is within walking distance of the city centre. The exterior conceals the traditional interior of the hotel. The rooms in this four star hotel are modern with a classical finishing touch to make them look unique.
The Old Waverley
The Old Waverley is a very centrally located three star hotel in the middle of New Town (the new part of the city). The hotel’s restaurant is well regarded and has a relaxing vibe, even in the buzzing center. The rooms are above three star standards and very comfortable. The location of the hotel also offers a great view of Old Town’s skyline at night.
The Balmoral
In Edinburgh your address is everything, is what you realise as you navigate your way through one of the city's most prestigious, The Balmoral - at the confluence of the old town and the new.  Part of the Rocco Forte collection, it boasts 188 grand suites. You eat one of the best meals in their Michelin-starred restaurant, and experienced Scottish sophistication at its best with the hotel's collection of over 400 Scottish whiskies.

The Table
Enjoy high quality Scottish food in a relaxed atmosphere in The Table. The delicious dishes such as specialties like wild venison with parsley from the Scottish Highlands are prepared as you talk and interact with the friendly chef who enjoys sharing his passion with you.
 the table 2
Forage And Chatter
Forage And Chatter is a restaurant with outstanding staff and food. The wild duck they serve is excellent and the presentation is top quality. Furthermore, the restaurant has a soothing and peaceful atmosphere and feels really picturesque in as large a city as Edinburgh.

Why Holland Is Not The Netherlands

Yes, there indeed is a difference. Holland is not the Netherlands. But why do people know Holland but have almost never heard of the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is the actual name of the country. Although people often refer to it as Holland because Holland has been, and still is, the buzzing west of the Netherlands. The Netherlands are divided into 12 provinces. The most known are North and South Holland. People often muddle them up and Holland becomes the name of the country instead.

History gives us another good reason. In the time of William of Orange and Philip the second, we see that William of Orange, also referred to as William the Silent, was not exactly on good terms with Philip the second. William inherited lands from his cousin. These lands are now known as the Netherlands and Belgium, but at that time they were called the Low Lands. Many different cultures lived there. When Philip got cross with William, William made Amsterdam his base of operations because he knew the area very well. At that time, the Low Lands were in the middle of revolution against the Catholic Church. Philip sent an army to the Low Lands to regain control. William united the people living in the Low Lands under the name of the Dutch Republic and reigned from the province of Holland. Eventually the Republic won the war and became independent with Amsterdam as its capital.

In the 17th century, which is the golden age for the Netherlands, ships of the Republic were seen all over the world. Whenever people asked where the captain of the ship was from, they would answer with the name of their province. This was almost always Holland. But things went sour for the Republic. The only important province was Holland. Holland took care of almost half of the income of the country. On top of that, the Republic was at war with England, France and the German Bishoprics. This year, 1672, is known as Rampjaar (Disaster Year).

Later on, the Netherlands was conquered by Napoleon and became part of France as a unitary state.

It was in the time of Napoleon that North and South Holland were born. Napoleon shaped the Netherlands and split Holland into two separate parts. These parts were reunited after Napoleon’s defeat but Holland was given two governors instead of one. And so, the Netherlands were divided as both governors did what was best for their respective part of Holland. And so, the people decided to split Holland back into two, South and North Holland.

532px Zuid Holland in the Netherlands.svg

Holland is indicated in red.

To sum it all up, Holland is a part of the Netherlands and consists of two parts. Holland was historically and economically the most known but that does not make all people in the Netherlands someone from Holland. So, people from Holland are part of the Dutch people who live in the Netherlands and not all Dutch people from the Netherlands are from Holland.