October 18:

Today was my first really wet day here. I really can’t complain. I expected this two days out of three and have been so fortunate. I managed to combine some work with a bit of tourist activity.

I knew I had a fair bit of driving of my schedule so I was away before 9:30. I arrived in Trim and picked up the key for Cairn L at Loughcrew, then back in the car and off to try my luck n the R road that leads straight to Loughcrew. (Taking the N roads around would have more than doubled my distance.) I had great luck navigating my way there. I think I’m finally getting a handle on Irish road signs and roundabouts.

Because of the rain, it was not at all busy at Loughcrew. I began my trudge through the fields and up the hill. By midway across the first field I realized that, while there was little rain falling, the fields were wet and my shoes, wetter. At first I thought my toes felt wet but figured I was mistaken. Then I pushed one toe up against the fabric and saw water well up. Yep. I was wet.

I was very glad to get into the cairn. It was somewhat dryer and provided an escape from the bitter wind. I had thought it might feel eerie in there. It didn’t really. Perhaps because the passage is fairly short so a reasonable amount of light comes in from the doorway. This cairn is quite different in one major way: it has seven recesses. Most of those I’ve already visited had three. One of the recesses seems to be the most important. It has an elaborately carved backstone. It is the most recessed and dark. And outside it as though to draw attention, it has a thin pillar of a standing stone that is made of paler stone than everything else in the cairn.

Because it is dark in that recess and because the art is so major, I set three little tealight candles in there for light. I took pictures without the candles and with. It was beautiful. It certainly has more atmosphere than you might expect from 5000 year old rock.

I was really just there to record what I could see in the chamber and what the experience was like to be in there. At this point in my novel, I’m not really sure what might happen. Maybe my character will venture into this cairn. If so, I’m prepared to describe it. If not, well, it was an interesting experience, and only half a day out of my life and wet feet.

On the drive back to Trim, I passed an accident that had just barely happened. One of those trucks I fear so much has rounded a corner and crushed in the front driver fender of a car. One or the other of them must not have been far enough away from the centre line. If I’d come along seconds earlier, it could have been me. I felt sorry for them, but GLAD for myself.

I returned the key and decided that I really should see Trim Castle while I was there. It’s unlikely that I’ll come back this way on this trip. Trim Castle was the first and largest Norman castle in Ireland. It was built over the courses of 30 years, beginning in 1172. It has all the traditional parts of a good castle: hall, wall, moat, fosse (that’s a ditch around the keep to make it harder to attack), gate with murder holes (Brina can tell you what those are), portcullis, everything. It is the only castle with such an unusual-shaped keep, though. They built what amounts to a square keep, but off each side is an additional sort of tower attachment. The result, looking down from the top, is a square with four smaller squares attached, one in the centre of each side. There was never another built like this one because they discovered that so many sides made it very hard to defend.

I signed up for the tour of the keep and learned lots of fascinating stuff about the part the builder of this castle, Hug de Lacy, played in Norman and Irish history. It is incredible how much they know about this fellow and this period. I guess I’ve just been immersed for too long in a topic with so many question marks.

Our guide also told us (there were three of us on the tour) that Trim castle and its grounds were the location for many scenes in Mel Gibson’s movie Braveheart. She explained that the government had just bought the castle shortly before (in 1993) and so none of the filming took place inside as preservation work had not yet begun (so there weren’t any floors or roofs, for one thing!). Many scenes were shot on the grounds however, with the castle keep and gates in the background.

The tour went on for 20 minutes longer than it was supposed to. Our elderly guide knew her stuff! I think she said her name was Attackla but I have no clue how you would really spell that.

On the way home, I had to drive right through Navan so I parked and went looking for the McDonald’s I knew should have internet access. Once again, it did and it didn’t. My computer said I was connected but it couldn’t load any web pages or access my mail. So, you’re getting these a few days late.

After that fruitless attempt, I drove back home to take my wrinkly feet out of the wet shoes and socks they’d been squelching around in for six hours. Dry socks have never felt so good!

The last two days have seen me accomplish a lot and cross many things off my “to do” list. I’m feeling that I’ve seen everything I must see, and the next two days will give me time to tie up any loose ends or, if the weather is nice, spend more time out on the land, getting a feel for it. I’m sure my last day in Dublin will be a bit of a scramble, but it’s good to feel finished, and ready to come back home. See you soon!

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