The Twelfth of July is a day of celebration in Northern Ireland. It marks the victory of William of Orange, a Protestant king, who defeated the Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. It was the last time two crowned kings of England, Scotland and Ireland fought each other on the battlefield. This was a turning point as it would ensure Protestant ascendency in Ireland. Today, the twelfth of July is celebrated by the Orange Order in Northern Ireland, but there has been violence and conflicts each year. They call it “parade season”. The Orange Order marches through Irish Catholic and nationalist neighborhoods which is generally met with opposition. Violence there escalated during The Troubles (the ethno-nationalist conflict 1960’s – late 1990’s).
Well, this day we originally planned to go to Northern Ireland to see the Giant’s Causeway, not realizing that it would be a better idea to visit on another day due to the parades on July 12. Instead, Niall planned a whole day around visiting landmarks that would teach us more about Ireland’s history and the Twelfth of July. First we started at Newgrange, which was on Mike’s must-see list. Newgrange was constructed in approximately 3,200 B.C.E and is located in County Meath. It’s older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza. It was created during the Neolithic period and the purpose of it is unknown, however it is believed the purpose of it was to celebrate the dead and the sun. You can see below that it is a large circular mound, but inside there is a straight passageway leading to separate chambers. The on site tour guide split the large group of visitors into two groups and took us into the mound. The temperature was much cooler once we entered, and we ducked down as we walked through the passageway. It was incredible. During the winter solstice, the rising sun is aligned with the main chamber and lights up. In order to even see it during winter solstice you have to submit an entry to a lottery drawing. We had a reenactment of it and it was mesmerizing.
Following our tour of Newgrange we had lunch and continued on with our marathon of historical landmarks. The Battle of the Boyne was our next stop. Here we learned more about the day of the battle between William of Orange and James II.
It was really hot out this day, and I think the sun was draining all of us. We huddled under a spot of shade and ate cherries before moving on to Monasterboice, which is the site of the tallest high cross in Ireland and a 14th century round tower.
Muiredach’s High Cross
And what I found the most beautiful of all the places we visited this day, Trim Castle in County Meath. It seemed straight from a dream.
Mike climbing castle walls
Trim Castle is the largest Anglo-Norman Castle in Ireland and was built during the 12th century. For those of you that are movie buffs, this castle was in Braveheart. Following our full day of visiting beautiful and historical places in Ireland, we enjoyed an amazing dinner at The Port House in Dublin. Niall, Nuria, Mike and I all shared tapas and most of us shared the sangria. It was a spectacular dining experience, and I’d suggest it to anyone visiting Dublin. The next day we would make our way to the west coast of Ireland.