A Short Update & Some Chowder

Well, I’ve certainly failed at posting regular updates about this great adventure.

First semester was a whirl of new experiences, adjustments, and its own fair share of growing pains.  I’ve moved across the city since my last post, and am thoroughly enjoying a quieter neighborhood along Grand Canal.

Grand canal

Walking along the Canal.

I still don’t have my exam results back, though I feel they went well overall.

The viva voces, our oral component of the anatomy exam, was about as terrifying as I figured it would be.  The exam is split into two viva stations and three spotter stations, three minutes per station.  And boy, do those three minutes fly!  You’re given four questions at each spotter: two structures to identify on a bone, an x-ray, or on the donor, a question about a structure’s blood or nerve supply, and a final clinical question.

At the viva stations, you spend your three minutes with a professor or demonstrator trying to answer as many questions as you can about a given body region, starting with disarticulated bones and slowly progressing to clinical applications.  The professors clearly want you to succeed and redirect their questions to keep you talking, but it’s still intimidating knowing how fast you have to come up with your answers.  At my first station I made it to the clinical questions; at the second I made it to identifying structures on the donor, the step right before clinical questions.  It gives me hope I scored well.

So far, second semester is going smoothly.  Some of our classes haven’t started yet, so I have more free time than I did before.  I’m trying to take advantage of that time and work on book edits again, but Friday I took a break and left the city for Howth.


Outskirts of Howth, from the DART.

Howth is only a 30 minute train ride by DART from the biomedical center, so when my mom (currently visiting) and I decided we needed a break from Dublin’s hustle and bustle, it was a clear choice where we’d venture to.  I’ve wanted to see Howth for quite some time – between its cliff walk, castle, and a portal tomb, it’s right up my alley.  But with the late winter’s brisk winds and a definite chill still in the air, we decided to save those sights for another time and track down some seafood chowder.


The ultimate seafood chowder at The Brass Monkey.  Yum!

Seafood chowder is one of my favorite things to eat while traveling near the ocean.  I joke it’s the best way to explore what’s swimming just offshore, but it’s true – when a chowder’s made with locally sourced ingredients, you get a taste of what the area’s like.

The chowder at Howth’s The Brass Monkey didn’t disappoint.  There’s just so much packed into one bowl it’s almost overwhelming, yet it all strikes a perfect, delicious balance.  Between the sweet notes from the shrimp and crab, salmon and mussels’ distinct textures, and scallops that melted away with each bite, we were blown away.  Each spoonful had a different, yet complementary mouthful – we just couldn’t get enough, and have already decided we have to visit Howth again, for this chowder if nothing else.


If this past year has taught me anything, it’s that life is crazy and unpredictable.  But I’m enjoying every minute of this crazy ride, and have no regrets in choosing to study medicine at Trinity.  I’m hoping this current peaceful time continues though, and I’ll be able to slip out of the city for another quick break.

Until then, here’s to more bowls of wonderful chowder!


Life at Trinity – Getting into the Flow

I swear, Ireland must be in a time zone all its own, one that runs so much quicker than anywhere else in the world.  I’ve been here for a little over a month and am nearly halfway through my fourth week of classes, yet it feels like I could have arrived just a few nights ago.  There’s never enough time in a day to do all I want to do and have to do – I’m still fighting to find some kind of balance.

But, even though half the time I feel like I can’t catch a breath, I’m loving every moment of this great adventure.

I’ve made some new friends, and get along well with my roommates – primarily other med students from the States, plus a Canadian dentistry student and a Swedish engineer here on exchange (I’ll be abbreviating names for privacy reasons).  We’re all right around the same age, and it’s nice to have a group of other international students to flounder around with.  And boy, has there been some floundering!

From trying to figure out exactly what different things are called (eg: icing sugar, not powdered sugar), to locating where different stores are in the city to get what we need, it’s been quite the undertaking.  So far I haven’t used a taxi or bus since my trip from the airport, so we’ve carried everything we’ve bought on foot.  Even if it meant rolling a suitcase across town with N, the engineering student, to get the pots, pans, and other kitchen essentials needed to get us started.

Class-wise, my schedule’s demanding.  Most of our days start at 9am, going to 4 or 5 with an hour off for lunch.  We don’t even move lecture halls between lectures – We’re given 10 minutes to stretch, go to the bathroom (quite a feat with 180 people in our class), and then the next professor comes in to cover their subject.  Some days we’ll have double doses of lectures – next Monday is a double anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry day, for instance – but some days are a bit lighter, with just two hours of case study work and a lab class every other week.  Those days make for a good time to quickly catch our breaths and prepare for the next round of lectures – there’s always more to learn and more to do because we move so quickly through the material.

Though at times I wish we could slow down a little, I do enjoy the teaching style.  Everything circles back to the patient, to the clinical aspects of what we’re learning, giving it all tangible meaning.  Rather than just name the parts of the bone in anatomy, we’re asked to think about what would happen if it fractured at a specific point – what other structures would be damaged?  How would we test to see if these structures are functioning properly?  The same with biochemistry and physiology – we’re already asked to see how all our subjects interact with one another in a systematic view, both when things are fine in a healthy individual, and what goes wrong in a disease state.

Even our anatomy lab, where we primarily work with donors (not cadavers – donors), it’s stressed to remember the person behind whatever facet we’re studying.  We’re told the names and ages of the donors we work with, and other confidential information, to remind us that even though they’re deceased, they deserve as much respect as a living patient would.  We’re not supposed to distance ourselves from what we’re doing and dehumanize our donors, something I’ve heard is a common aspect of anatomy lab in med school back home.  It’s one of the main differences I treasure most about the class style here.

The other is a more widely seen facet – the lack of competition.  Our first day here, we were told that our goal shouldn’t be to outshine one another.  Instead, we should pool our resources and the many different experiences that have brought us to this point to better one another.  Grades are given based on the amount of knowledge and effort demonstrated, not because we fell on a given section of the bell curve.  So we share our knowledge and study tips freely, both in case study work and outside of it, because we have nothing driving us to focus only on ourselves.. As someone who prefers cooperative work and hates speaking up, for fear of drowning out others, it’s quite refreshing.

Sadly, two things I haven’t had much time for in this month are writing and sight seeing.  I’m hoping to fix both of those soon, what with Nanowrimo and a few short breaks coming up in a few weeks.

I walk almost 5 miles roundtrip to class each day, passing Christ Church and Dublin Castle as I go.  I know there’s more in the area besides just those two places, areas I do want to see, so it seems a shame to walk past them for weeks on end without taking the time to truly enjoy them.  Maybe this weekend, after our first anatomy exam (just an hour or so until that happens!), I’ll make that time.


Apologies for such a long update with no pictures!  I’m going to make an effort to update more regularly and balance these out again.  Once I have a bit more time I’ll try to share some about my one excursion so far, a day at the Phoenix Park Zoo with friends, and include lots of pictures.


Until then,

A New Chapter Looms

Hey everyone!  I’m sorry for the lack of updates here, but my life has turned completely upside down.

If you saw my last post, you know things weren’t going so well for my family back in March.  However, something as far removed from that sadness as you can possibly imagine happened in April:  I was accepted into medical school for the 2017 entering class.

But not here in the United States – I’ve been accepted at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

Even almost a full month later, my head is in a tailspin.  I’d applied to Trinity after stumbling upon their admissions requirements back in February, had my application completed by March 31st, and by April 10th, received the news.

Now my life’s a whirl wind of preparations and paperwork.  There’s so much I want to do between now and September, when I’ll be Ireland bound, and it feels like I don’t have near the time I need to get it all done.  But I know somehow I’ll make it.  Somehow I’ll finish everything up and start off on this crazy adventure of a lifetime.

Five to six years.  I’ll be living in Dublin for five to six years for school.  It’s…  Incredible, and something I’ve dreamed of since my first trip to Ireland back in 2011.

I know this adventure will change the face of this blog drastically.  I’ll no longer have to dream endlessly about what I’d do if I had unlimited time over there.  I’ll be there, able to explore whenever there’s a break in my studies and funds to do so.  But I’ll also be more immersed in the culture itself, the day-to-day life that you can’t really experience when you’re only there for 10 days.

I want to keep track of it all.  All the side adventures, the little details of daily life, and the process of medical school overseas as a whole.

Most likely, those stories will end up here, on my blog.  One of my best friends State-side is planning on doing a Vlog Brothers-style video log with me once I’m overseas, so don’t be surprised if some of those videos find there way here.  Or if there’s the occasional prattle about school rather than a new trip destination or bit of folklore.  Writing stuff might crop up occasionally here as well, though I know realistically I’ll need to put most of that on the back burner.

Thank you all for your continued support during this huge transition.  I apologize that this post isn’t once announcing a new content release schedule, but please continue to bear with me.  This is one adventure that’s too big not to talk about whenever I have a chance to catch my breath. 😉


The Saltee Islands

Back when I started this blog three years ago, the Saltee Islands was one of the places I was really excited to see.  However, due to its distance from other sites I was interested in and the potential difficulties in reaching it, I quickly cut it from our planned 2016 itinerary.  But it’s still an interesting place worth considering, especially if your travels take you to the region.

The Saltee Islands, both Greater and Little, are located about 5 kilometers (3 miles) off Wexford’s coast and are best known for their resident sea bird populations.  Like the Cliffs of Moher, they provide ideal nesting habitat for over 200 species, including gannets, manx shearwaters, and puffins.  The Greater Saltee was also home to a bird observatory from 1950-63, allowing ornithologists to gain valuable information about Ireland’s migratory seabirds.

But seabirds aren’t the only sight found here.  The island serves as one of only a few breeding sites for grey seals in Ireland, with up to 20 pups born each year.  Visitors can also catch glimpses of whales and other marine life in the waters around the island, making it an interesting stop for nature lovers of all ages.  And with traces of forts and other structures from its thousands of years of human activity, there’s something to see for just about everyone.

The main reason I’m hesitant to plan on seeing the Saltee Islands is simply the task of getting there.  Although the visitor’s information page says nothing about a charge to step foot on the island itself, it clearly states trips must be arranged from Kilmore Quay, with no recommendations to contact.  Scrolling through TripAdvisor leads me to believe many people wait until they’re in Kilmore to charter a boat, though several people recommended Declan Bates, the only person I’ve found a definitive price for who will take you directly to the island.  The cost is 30 per person, and it’s best to remember there aren’t toilets or man made shelters on the island, so the four hour stay on the island can be unpleasant if the weather turns bad.

Alternatively, I did find one charter tour that loops around the islands for 20 per adult and 10 per child, with whale watching trips also available.

Additional Links & Resources:

Delan Bates – Boating Charter information

Discover Ireland:  Saltee Islands

The Golden Book:  Ireland, page 47

Kilmore Quay Angling Charter “Karen Ann” – Saltee Islands

The Saltee Islands official website

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey is another one of those places we visited in 2011 that, if given the chance, I’d definitely see it again. We only saw half of the grounds due to time constraints, something I feel is a true shame and one of the biggest drawbacks of traveling with a tour group.  But if that other half is as beautiful as the part we did see, it’s definitely worth a second look.


Our first view of the abbey, back in 2011.

Though currently home to Ireland’s oldest community of Benedictine nuns, Kylemore’s history extends farther back than their arrival in 1920.  The abbey’s construction began in 1867 by Mitchell Henry as a gift for his wife, Margaret.  The couple had visited the region on vacation in previous years and fell in love with Connemara’s rugged beauty.  At that point in its history, the abbey was considered a small “castle” and used to showcase how the land could be made to flourish.

As part of this effort, Mitchell had a 6 acre walled garden built a mile west of the castle.  The garden was one of the last Victorian walled gardens built in Ireland, and the only one located in a bog, but through ingenuity, it flourished.  Twenty one glass houses grew exotic fruits and vegetables, and were heated by boilers and a network of underground pipes.  Today, the garden still grows the same kind of plants and vegetables that the Henrys would have planted, though this is only due to great restoration efforts in the past 20 years.


A sketch of the garden grounds.  Image Credit:  Connemara.net

Sadly, Mitchell and Margaret only shared Kylemore for a short time.  The Henrys vacationed in Egypt in 1874 – just a few years after the castle was finished.  Margaret fell ill while in Egypt, and after two weeks, passed away.  Her body was embalmed in Cairo before being transported back to Kylemore, where Mitchell constructed a stone mausoleum for her.

Four years later, he began construction on one last building in Margaret’s honor, a small Gothic church farther down a woodland path.  Though the chapel included burial vaults, for unknown reasons Margaret’s body was never interred there.  Both she and Mitchell remain buried in the modest mausoleum, tucked between the castle and chapel along the trail.


The Gothic church.

With so much to see in a short amount of time, our tour guide made it clear from the start that we wouldn’t be able to see both the gardens and the abbey itself.  While a large chunk of our tour group went to see the gardens, my family and I chose to explore the abbey itself, then walk along the lakeshore to the mausoleum and small gothic church.

Connemara is another one of those regions that makes my heart soar, awash in awe over the mountains’ brilliance all around.  But walking through Connemara feels different than through the Ring of Kerry – the land has a different character to it, a different level of severity.  In places like Kylemore’s lakeside trail, you can get a good taste of that difference as you look out at the mountains reflected off the water.  For me, those moments brought peace, and quickly it didn’t matter what we were walking to see – I just wanted to take in the journey, and isn’t the goal of every traveler to reach that point?


Looking out at the lake while walking back from the church.

Honestly, I’d say that’s Kylemore’s greatest strength – its natural beauty.  Sitting here nearly six years later, my clearest memories aren’t of the artifacts on display within the abbey, but the views around it.  The way the soft breezes came off the lake, adding a comfortable chill to the air while walking from place to place.  The architecture, though gorgeous in its own right, simply can’t compare to the picturesque landscape.  And when you set the two together, man’s creation nestled in nature?  Then a special kind of magic happens.


The view from in front of the abbey.

Kylemore Abbey and its grounds are open year round from 9:00am to 5:00pm.  Tickets are reasonable, starting at €13 for adults and €10 for seniors.  Tickets for students and children ages 11-17 both cost €9.  Children 10 and under are free.

Additional Links & Resources:

Connemara.net:  Kylemore Abbey

The Golden Book:  Ireland, page 90

Heritage Ireland:  Kylemore Abbey

Ireland.com:  Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey official website

An Irish Survival Guide – Getting Around Ireland

My mother and I enjoy talking about the different sites we visited while in Ireland, but occasionally, we also just shake our heads at the things we wish we’d known ahead of time, before arriving and starting our adventures.  Thus came the idea of creating an Irish Survival Guide – a collection of all we’ve learned so far through research and first-hand experiences, to hopefully save other travelers from making some of our mistakes.

First up comes a fairly big part of exploring Ireland:  getting around the country, and figuring out what rental car is best for you.

As a note, I’m all for tour groups, too – they’re a wonderful way to take in a large swath of the country and can give you peace of mind because you won’t be the one responsible for driving after a long day of sight seeing.  But self-guided tours are definitely the way to go once you step off the well-beaten tourist track, allowing you to venture to regions buses simply can’t go due to their size.  Keeping this in mind (small car = increased accessibility to more sites), here’s my survival guide for renting a car and driving in Ireland. 


The main road running through Enniskerry’s center square is a pretty good example of how roads look in Ireland’s smaller towns.  From my 2011 trip.

Familiarize yourself with Ireland’s road classifications

This is something we learned very quickly on our second trip.  The differences between road types in Ireland can be stark, so it’s best to know what you’re getting yourself into before you take what sounds like the perfect shortcut.

Motorways, or M routes, are the widest, most accessible roads.  Their speed limits are high – 120km/hr (75 mph) – and they’re generally double lanes.  Areas to pull off the road and stretch for as long as you need are fairly common and easier than finding a filling station off an interstate would be in the US – they almost make me think of the pit stops you’ll see on racetracks, just a gentle drag off the main road.

Unfortunately, you’ll most likely spend only a short fraction of your trip on the M routes.  National (N) roads are far more common, but trickier to maneuver.  Speed limits are up to 100km/hr (about 62 mph), but don’t expect to travel that fast, especially not at first!  These roads are much narrower than M routes, sometimes to the point you’ll wonder how two cars are supposed to meet without crashing.  Corners are often sharp and blind, especially with Ireland’s thick hedges.  Yet roads can get narrower still.

Enter the Regional (R) roads.  These are the stuff of nightmares, but what you’ll be spending a lot of time navigating if you’re interested in seeing megaliths and other remote sites.  Hedges are thicker, roads are smaller, yet the speed is still uncomfortably high – 80km/h (50 mph).


A pretty good example of what an R road looks like.  Thankfully, we didn’t go down this one in 2011.

I’m a country girl, used to Missouri’s winding backroads and dirt “roads” through fields on the farm.  But Ireland’s R roads left me baffled.  There’s no way you can drive that fast on those things!  Especially since they’re still two-way traffic roads, most of the time.  In some of our travels, we literally had to stop with the windows open to listen for other cars coming before turning out of blind side roads, because there was no way we could see anything coming.  Yes, what we saw by taking these roads was well worth the time and effort, but just remember – R roads are not shortcuts.  You will not gain time by leaving an N road or M route to take what looks like a shorter stretch of R roads.

Google Maps’ travel times are straight up lies

This is probably one of the most important things to know before you start planning your itinerary.  We were told on our first trip to Ireland, where neither of us had to drive, that Ireland is simply 6 hours from northernmost point to southernmost point, and 4 hours across.  With that in mind, and Google Maps’ estimated travel times, we didn’t see any harm in planning a fairly spread out route for our second trip.

However, we had no real idea what the roads would be like – our driver couldn’t take us down any R roads because of the bus’s size, and quite frankly, who really pays attention to road conditions when someone’s driving for you like that?  Especially when you know you won’t be back for several years at the very least?

Google Maps is a wonderful tool, especially when you’re in the early planning stages, but it assumes you’ll be driving at the posted speed limit, or at least close to it.  It doesn’t account for nerves when getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road, or the learning curve that comes with navigating those narrow roads.  Or how it’s physically impossible to drive that fast on an R road as a tourist without having a heart attack. (Note:  I might be a bit prejudiced against R roads.)

A good rule of thumb we learned from a local taxi driver in Killarney is that you should double or triple the travel time Google Maps gives you.  And he was right – even the fairly straightforward drive from Killarney to Galway, a 2 hour, 38 minute drive by Google Maps using N roads and an M route, took us around six hours.  Not pleasant in the slightest!


A map of lies…

Plan ahead to get lost and to travel slow, and remember this when planning accommodations.  Because we didn’t know this before reserving rooms, we constantly arrived several hours later than planned, often barely finding time to eat before places started to close for the night.

Investigate your options for rental car insurance or CDW thoroughly

It’s probably not surprising, given Ireland’s narrow roads and thick hedges, that most credit cards won’t offer rental car insurance within the country.  Instead, many car rental companies offer what’s called CDW, or a collision damage waiver.  It’s often factored into the rental price quoted at you, and means that the rental company won’t collect fees against you for damage done to the vehicle – to a certain point.  Basic CDW agreements generally leave the renter at risk for covering the first $1-$2k in damages, something that could leave you a nervous wreck on some of the more treacherous roads.

But there are other options.  My mother and I rented from Dan Dooley, and though I’m afraid I don’t remember the exact name of the coverage we purchased since it was part of a bundle,I know it was better than the basic CDW – as long as we didn’t lose the key or put the wrong kind of gas in the tank, we didn’t have to worry about any damage done to the car.

Definitely call ahead of time to learn exactly what you’re paying for, both so you’ll not be faced with surprise charges down the road and so you’ll secure a better rate than you’d be quoted at the pick up desk.

Consider driving diesel

I know this one probably sounds pretty odd, considering how diesel fuel is constantly higher than unleaded in the States, but there’s sound logic here that my mother and I learned first hand.  Diesel cars are often more fuel efficient than their counterparts, meaning you can go farther on less gas, saving you both time and money.  But remember – gas pump colors are not the same as they are in the States, they’re reversed.  Always check that you’ve picked up the right pump before you start refueling to avoid damaging the car.


Another quick shot from 2011, showing what M routes typically look like.

If your car seems to stall every time you break for a few seconds, don’t panic!

This is another big one I wish we’d known ahead of time.  Like many people, my family primarily drives older cars in the States.  So, when our car seemed to cut out and stall every time we came to a stop in Dublin’s city centre, we panicked, assuming something was wrong.

Thankfully, as our rental company confirmed with a quick phone call, this was completely normal – some cars in Ireland are fitted with a new “stop-start” system that helps conserve fuel and reduce emissions when a car’s stopped for more than a few seconds.  Simply releasing the break and tapping the gas gets the engine to going again, and there’s often a button on the console to prevent this feature from kicking on if it does give you undo tension, like it did for us.

Farm equipment always wins

This might seem like an odd side note, but it’s one that left my mom and I staring.  Farmers are the kings of the road, and everyone defers to them, even larger trucks.  If you meet a tractor on a road too narrow to pass side by side, you’re expected to either find a way to pull over or back up until they can pass you.  Our tour guide from our first trip said the same’s expected when a car meets a bus, and meeting either is equally terrifying.

ALWAYS have an Irish roadways map with you, even if you have a GPS.

I honestly can’t remember how many times our GPS got us helplessly lost while looking for megaliths around the Irish countryside.  We’d opted to upgrade our own GPS to include Irish roads, in the hopes of avoiding a steep learning curve with a new device, but it didn’t matter – we still ended up stuck in the middle of nowhere time after time.  The worst time this happened was somewhere in Meath, while trying to track down Fourknocks.  Even with directions from another blogger, and two stops to ask locals for directions, we somehow ended up on a road so degraded there was more grass than pavement.  And when we turned to the GPS to even tell us where we were, so we could use the map to find our way back to a major highway?  The blasted thing said our location was unknown – it couldn’t even give us our coordinates.


The road we took into Killarney back in 2011.  Areas like the Gap of Dunloe were even narrower – I don’t advise driving on those, even when it is allowed.

If you do rely on a GPS and get lost, use its points of interest feature to help orientate yourself

We never did find Fournocks.  After cringing with each scrape and bump from our car’s undercarriage on that road, we decided we had to find some way back to the main roads.  My mom realized that, even though our GPS couldn’t tell us where we were, it could direct us to the nearest Garda (police) station.  We used our map, the rough area we knew we had to be in, and that GPS feature to slowly but surely find our way to the larger N roads.  Without it, I honestly don’t know how long we would have spent driving in circles, just hoping to find a sign pointing us in the right direction.

Before you set out, check your GPS settings

This is probably one of the top things I wish we’d known before leaving Dublin on day 1.  Because we’d never had issues with our GPS back home, we never imagined settings could change when we used an Irish road map extension.  In the States, our GPS is set to find the quickest route, regardless of traffic flow.  But on our last night in Ireland, we discovered the settings had somehow been tweaked to make our GPS seek out the least traveled roads available.  Suddenly everything made sense – why we ended up lost in Leitrim on our way to Northern Ireland, how we ended up driving in circles around Ahenny’s high crosses and Jerpoint Abbey, why we got lost in Sally Gap when there was an N road that lead straight to Glendalough.


One of Sally Gap’s narrow stretches.  This road became even more nerve wracking anytime it veered near the edge of a sheer drop.

Had we checked our GPS settings before setting out, we probably could have saved a lot of time and frustration during our trip.  Yet, at the same time, by getting lost so frequently, we did get to experience parts of Ireland we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  It’s anyone’s guess which would have been truly best, though perhaps it’s safe to say that you can get a taste of both by investigating scenic routes in the region you’ll be exploring, then weigh out your options based on how that day’s gone up to that point.  At least then you won’t be entirely at the mercy of your GPS’s whims.

I’d originally planned to combine these tips in a single post, but as the list grew, I realized it would be more manageable as a series.  Keep a look out for future guides, such as money tips and ways to get a true taste of Ireland’s culinary offerings.

And please, if you have any questions or suggestions for future blog posts and guides, let me know!

Fourknocks Megalithic Tomb

Amongst the various megaliths we’d plan to see on our trip in 2016, Fourknocks was probably one of the most remote.  Since its tucked away in the Boyne Valley region like Loughcrew, it made sense to see both at the same time.  However, with GPS difficulties rearing its ugly head again, our plans were quickly dashed and we gave up, ready to reach our bed and breakfast in Kells.


Aerial view of Fourknocks.  Image Credit:  Knowth.com

Dating back around 5,000 years, Fourknocks (from Fuair Cnocs, or “”Cold Hills”) is another example of a cruciform passage tomb with its short entry passage, big central chamber, and three smaller side chambers.  At 42 square meters (around 452 square feet), its central chamber is more than double the one found at Newgrange, and it’s probably for this reason the original tomb lacked the roof seen today.  Its believed that, if anything, Fourknocks had a wooden roof supported by a central pole.

The National Museum excavated the site from 1950-1952 and found numerous human remains of all ages and sexes.  Grave offerings were also found, and are now in the side chambers, and are now on display at the National Museum.  After the excavation was complete, the dig team created the current roof from concrete.  Some holes were left to allow sunlight to filter through, illuminating the different carved designs.


Carving believed to be the first depiction of a human face in prehistoric Irish art.  Image credit:  Megalithic Ireland.

Fourknocks is only 10 miles southeast of Newgrange, and the two sites are actually in alignment with each other. But unlike Newgrange, Fourknocks is not illuminated during the winter solstice; though in line with the sun’s path, it’s too far north for any light to enter its chamber.   The site did once align with an astrological feature however.  Astronomers know that, when Fourknocks was built, Cassiopeia’s “W” shape would have been in perfect alignment with the four mounds.  It’s been suggested this is why a “W” motif commonly appears in the site’s carved stones, and that perhaps the roofless design was intentional for stargazing.


Lintel stone with “W” motif.  Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland.

Directions to the site can be very complicated, especially since signs telling you where you are aren’t very common.  But if you can find it, Fourknocks is said to be a wonderful, secluded site.  The mound is on private property, so visitors need to stop by Mr. Fintan White’s house roughly 800 meters away from the tomb to get a key.  He asks for a 20 euro deposit, to ensure you’ll bring the key back before 6pm, and his phone number is easily found across various websites.  Perhaps I’d written the number down while preparing for our trip, but I was unable to reach him.  If you do try calling him, I wish you better luck!  The number is 353 (0) 1 8354722.


Front view of the main mound.  Image Credit:  Knowth.com

I definitely still would love to see Fourknocks someday, though I’m a bit wary of trying to find it on my own after our experience.  Since coming back to the States, I have found private tours of the site, including other Boyne highlights, exist.  But the price is steep – €380 after a direct booking discount, for 1-3 people through Boyne Valley Tours.  Mythical Ireland offers tours as well, though they do not quote a price on their website.

Still, it might be worth considering, depending on what other sites could be combined with Fourknocks for this personalized tour.  Avoiding the nerve-wracking hunt for the site would definitely be a nice refresher!

Have you been to Fourknocks?  If so, what do you think, and do you have any tips for someone like myself who had difficulty finding the site?

Additional Links & Resources:

Boyne Valley Tours: Fourknocks

Directions to Fourknocks

Knowth.com – Fourknocks

Meath Tourism

Megalithic Ireland

Mythical Ireland