We visited the Newgrange grave site, being one of 3 sites forming the Brú na Bóinne (Palace of the Boyne).
It was built in around 3200 BC and the grave was undiscovered until 1699. On the winter solstice, the sun shines in and lights up the chamber.
The construction skills displayed by the builders are amazing - apparently they did not have metal tools or the wheel at that time. They were able to use stones layered on each other to create a conical chamber 20ft (6m) high. It has remained 100% waterproof for 5,000 years - yes, in Ireland!
You will see various standing stones scattered around the site, outside the main building.
Access is only through the visitor centre, as they have to control entry in general and so as to restrict numbers. Its small inside and the entrance passage is very narrow. You take a bus for the short trip from the centre to the site itself.
It is highly recommended - older than Stonehenge and the pyramids at Giza.
We just spotted this place as we drove through Julianstown and decided to give it a try.
Its friendly and welcoming in the bar - a traditional place with no pretentions. The menu is not huge, but it was easy to find something that appealed.
The service was fine. My pasta with meatballs had been in a micro a little too long, but the other 2 lunchers seemed happy enough. They had cod and chips and mushroom soup, with a ham and cheese toasted sandwich. Nothing fancy but OK.
€14 per head including drinks (2 cokes & 1 wine).
Favorite Dish: Pass on that one.
Booked the cheapest car they have - it was fine for the purpose.
Pick up was very easy - the desk is right by the arrivals exit and I didn't have to wait. The cars are parked only 2 minutes walk away, and getting out of the airport and onto the M1 was easy too. Such a contrast to somewhere like Heathrow, where you have to allow an hour from arrivals until you drive off.
Drop off was just as easy.
€75 for the day, all in. I aways pay extra to eliminate the insurance excess, so that bumps it up a bit. Better than paying £500 towards them having to fix some dent you've picked up in a car park!
Even when you've paid all their extras you're still liable for the tyres! I asked the clerk if tyre theft is a problem in Ireland (the obvious reason for an exclusion) but she couldn't help...
I flew to/from Dublin with Ryanair, my "home" airport being Edinburgh. It was the first time I'd flown with it since about 1995. Mostly its Scottish services are based in Prestwick - a 2 hour drive away.
Cost £100 return for an 8am flight out and 8.30pm return. Both flights were right on time. Boarding was easy, and with on line check and no bags, the only "grief" was the usual security delays in Edinburgh.
All in all, a good outcome. I'd looked at Aer Lingus - prices were fine but not the flight times. I'd also looked at Flybe and Easyjet to/from Belfast, but decided I didn't fancy the longer drive from Belfast to Laytown.
The 2 biggest things putting me off using Ryanair again are the policy of making their advertising as misleading as they can get away with, and the knowledge that you have to watch their booking system like a hawk as it is constantly trying to "catch you out" and get you signed up for something you don't want or need.
You can pick up a free shuttle bus opposite the railway station (which is also where the official car parks are located).
We waited a little bit on arrival, but on departure it was a very quick way to get from the racecourse to the car park.
When we arrived it was raining, so getting the bus was definitely better than a walk (although its not that far - maybe 500m).
The other thing to remember is that you'll be on your feet for 3 hours at the racing, so why add a 1km roundtrip walk!
Of course on a sunny day that might be a pleasure, and there is a pub close to the station for a bit of refreshment (if required).
Fun, fun, fun...
Laytown Strand Races are unique. Its the only horse race meeting in Europe which takes place under normal racing rules, but on the beach! When the tide goes out in the morning, they set everything up, and the races take place in the afternoon. Its flat racing (obviously!). The first recorded meeting was in 1868.
Nothing is permanent - even to the point where the weighing in room for the jockeys is a marquee. However, it has (almost) everything you would expect at a racecourse. A bar, a sponsors' tent, parade ring and unsaddling enclosure, Tote betting and bookmakers etc. The meeting is televised live on UK channel At The Races, and they have a "big screen" on site so that you can see re-runs.
The course has no grandstands!
It only takes place once a year - 11 September was the date in 2008. I presume it fluctuates according to the tides. There were 6 races - all 7f (1,400m) or 6f (1,200m). Entry was €15 for adults and €8 for senior citizens (free for u16s - they start to show up later on, as school finishes ). Laytown is about 30km north of Dublin, close to Drogheda (about half an hour from the Dublin airport by car).
I went along with fellow VT member Stephanie and her husband Gerry. I heard other Scottish voices, other North American ones, as well as English and Northern Irish. It attracts people from all over.
Gerry went away with a big smile on his face - 2 winners from 5 races - and one of them was a beauty. I got one winner, and as for Stephanie...well, better luck next year. We had a lot of fun choosing our horses to back for each race, and all in all it was a great day out and definitely something different.
You have to hope for good weather, and whilst we were not so lucky, it was never so wet as to make us want to leave early.
For more information look at the website below, and go to the pages on Laytown.
Equipment: Euros - for betting.
The right clothing and footwear - assume the worst when it comes to the weather, and you won't be disappointed.
Binoculars if you have them.
6th sense - to predict the winners.