‘Oooh, Ireland.  It’s beautiful there’, that’s the first thing everyone says when you say you’re visiting Ireland.  Turns out, they’re not wrong…

Taking advantage of some time off after the handfasting, and the impressively bargain flights one can get to Dublin, we jetted over to Ireland’s shores for a 2 day flying Imbolc visit and a little hiking.  Number one item packed for the honeymoon?  Waterproofs.  Prepared pup.

Landing early Tuesday morning, we hired a car (from lovely people – everyone we spoke to in Ireland was super friendly, genuinely helpful, and said things like ‘so it is’ on the end of their sentences.  What’s not to love?) and off we went to Newgrange, top of our ‘must-see’ list. And Newgrange was astounding.

The swelling of the huge grass covered mound powerfully evokes the image of the belly of the Goddess, not unlike Silbury Hill, but here there is an entrance.  Standing stones stand sentinel around the approach…  Touching them sends shock waves of vibration through the hands.  Not the peaceful feeling of the Avebury stones here, but raw, earthy power.

 

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And, at the one entrance to the passageway into the mound, a large stone covered in carved Goddess spirals, including the triskele.  Clearly marking that here lies an entrance to the otherworld…

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In a small group we entered the passage with our guide, trying to imagine how it might have felt to come this way in the dark, or perhaps with just a flaming torch, descending deep into the womb cave within.  And inside there were three recesses for people (Maiden, Mother and Crone, perhaps?) to sit or lie, perhaps in meditation, perhaps in fear in the dark, awaiting the light that hits the chamber at sunrise on the Winter Solstice…

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They turn the lights off while you’re in there, and then simulate with a spotlight how it would be in the chamber when the sun hits the back of the cave at the Solstice.  The light of rebirth as the sun literally penetrates the earth here. And the chamber is 5,000 years old.  Older than the pyramids. Incredible.

We spent the afternoon wandering around Kildare, looking for traces of Brighid that hadn’t been too christianised, and finally hitting the jackpot as we rounded the back of the cathedral to find a fire pit full of dancing women, waving Brighid’s crosses, swinging their hips enthusiastically and chanting to Brighid around a crackling fire.  This made me very happy.  We sneaked away so as not to interrupt their Imbolc jollity.

Imbolc dawned, not exactly bright and fair, but more fairly soggy and rainy.  Hurray for having packed waterproofs!  Undaunted, and suitably fortified by biscuits for breakfast, we headed for Wicklow Mountains National Park, to go hiking in Glendalough.

What to add to what everyone says about Ireland?  It’s beautiful.  The walks around Glendalough are really well marked with various colour coded walks, and the trails super well maintained.  We headed up the Spinc, through the forest, up the many, many steps…

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But such luxury!  The steps are, uniquely in my hiking experience, not built for giants!  And they have handy tread built in to stop them from becoming slippery.  Fantastic.  And the air!  It was reminiscent of the highlands of Scotland in its deliciousness. You find yourself breathing harder than you need to, simply because it smells so good.

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Luckily for us, the rain didn’t start in earnest until we were on our way down from the top of the spinc ridge and headed off on the orange ‘ramble’ route, to fit in more forest bathing time.

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And then, just as our walk was coming to an end (with no foot pain either, though it must be admitted, we only walked 8 miles and had no pack weight), more Imbolc magic… We rounded a corner to see a tree covered in ribbon clooties, though we couldn’t see from the trail why this tree was special.  Leaving the path in curiosity and heading over to the offering tree, we were enchanted to find a well; candles, crystals and other offerings all around it.  So our visit both began and ended with holy places.  And Brighid was here.

 

 

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