Not far from Dublin lies the Boyne Valley, site of the Boyne River, in parts a lovely trout and salmon fishing river. But the valley is also the location of some of Ireland’s most significant and interesting history. Bru na Boinne (Palace of the Boyne) is one of Europe’s most important archaeological sites including ancient forts, henges and standing stones. There are also the mysterious grand passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and the rock carvings of Dowth.
The whole area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More recent history is found at Slane Castle, home to the Conynham family since the 18th century. There’s an excellent Gothic ballroom built for the visit of King George IV in 1821, and impressive gardens landscaped by the famous designer Capability Brown. The castle is now used for weddings and conferences and also for outdoor concerts. In very recent history, U2 recorded The Unforgettable Fire here in 1984.
Further along the valley, it’s back a few millennia at the Hill of Tara. It might look like a few mounds in the ground but this place is steeped in Irish history and mythology. Bronze Age relics have been found here, dating back to 2000BC. It was the center of Irish religious and political life throughout the first century AD and the High Kings of Ireland were crowned here until the 11th century. Finally on your valley tour, there’s Bective Abbey. Now a ruin with cows grazing around it, it’s still impressive to see the cloisters, nave and chapter house. The 15th century building moved from being an abbey when the order was repressed in the 16th century and it became a domestic building, really a fortified castle, until it was finally abandoned and left to the cattle.