Just north of Dublin you can see the famous Neolithic monuments of Ireland’s Boyne Valley. In Irish these monuments are called Brú na Bóinne and are mainly found along the River Boyne, an area obviously inhabited for millennia.
The main monument is called Newgrange and is thought to be over 5000 years old. The monument includes a very narrow tunnel that ends in a cross-shaped room, which was probably a grave of someone very important.
Some of these monuments are internationally famous such as the Hill of Tara and attract foreign tourists. Others are much less famous, but equally interesting and mysterious. For example. the Loughcrew Cairns, which are a large group of burial mounds found in the northwest of the county near Kells, see few tourists.
They are interesting and mysterious and located in a beautiful landscape of green hills. County Meath, where the monuments are located, is also celebrated as the royal county, from which the kings of Ireland reigned from their ritual seat on the Hill of Tara.
It was in the Boyne Valley where Saint Patrick first preached the Christian faith in Ireland. Inspired by St. Patrick, they opened several monastic places such as Kells, famous for its crosses and illuminated manuscripts.
While Knowth, the sister site of Newgrange, has the largest concentration of megalithic art in Western Europe in the form of decorative circles, spirals and other designs carved into huge boulders and carved in relief.
The Battle of Boyne Ireland’s Boyne Valley is also famous in Irish history for the Battle of Boyle between the forces of William of Orange and James II in July 1690, near Drogheda. This 300-year-old conflict continues to impact current events in modern-day Ireland. Particularly in Northern Ireland, where it is celebrated by the Orange Order every 12 July.
It was also the last time that two crowned kings of England, Scotland and Ireland faced off on a battlefield. It was an important battle for European history as well, in fact it wasn’t just a Game of Thrones scene for the British throne. But also and above all a battle to decide the future of French rule in Europe.
The Boyne Valley also has a couple of castles to visit (Talbot and Trim), a cathedral and the ruins of a historic abbey. Part of Braveheart with Mel Gibson was filmed at Trim Castle. This 1100 Norman castle is well preserved and has the typical structure of medieval castles.
While Talbot Castle was bought by Jonathan Swift (the author of Gulliver’s Travels) and turned into a school. One of the pupils was the future Duke of Wellington.
Exeter Cathedral; interesting things you can see
In England there is certainly no shortage of cathedrals, some splendid. Among the most beautiful are undoubtedly the Cathedral of Exeter or St. Peter’s Cathedral, which is located in a place of prayer that is over 1500 years old. The current cathedral, however, dates back to around 1100 after the arrival of the Normans, although now of that date we have practically only the two towers.
Another part of the cathedral dates back to 1270 when Exeter Cathedral was refurbished in a typically English Gothic. The cathedral was unfortunately hit by a German bomb in 1942, St James’s chapel was completely destroyed along with several medieval objects, some of which have been rebuilt piece by piece.
Fortunately some important historical artifacts had been taken away, in fact an attack on the cathedral had been foreseen, probably all these churches and cathedrals were hit in an attempt to demoralise the people.
What can you see at Exeter Cathedral?
You can still see the 50 mercies or genuflexors which are small shelves leaning against the wall that supported those who had to stand a long time to pray. These date back to the 1200s and are the oldest complete group in the UK. Also in this group is the figure of an elephant, the oldest in the United Kingdom.
There is the famous astronomical clock which dates back to 1484, the ancient library which dates back to 1100 and the gallery with 12 statues of angels playing different instruments.
The towers also have bells, the north tower contains a bell called Peter which however is no longer rung completely and the south tower has 12 bells which are among the heaviest in the world.
When you are at the cathedral you can be taken to the top of the roof and the North Tower, you have to climb 251 steps so you have to be fit but the views are spectacular. You must book in advance and here you will find the instructions.
Amersfoort in the Netherlands, a mini Amsterdam you should visit
Amersfoort in the Netherlands has a long mercantile history, in 1500 and in the following centuries it owed its wealth to the tobacco, wool and beer trade. Now you can still find some of that wealth, and there are several major merchant houses left.
The city has about 200,000 inhabitants and is therefore not a very small place, but it has the advantage of having almost everything you should have in a historic centre that you can walk around safely. In fact, in the old town, in addition to the canals, you can also see about 300 old buildings, all very characteristic of the period of the economic boom in the Netherlands.
Like other places in the Netherlands and Belgium this is a mini Amsterdam. We know with certainty that the area was inhabited since 1000 BC but we know it as a city only from 1100 onwards. Similar to the English ford, foort means ford on the river and in fact here is the Eem river which was once called Amer. There are therefore no mysteries about the origin of the name.
In any case, before becoming an important city for international trade, it was a medieval walled city and you can still find many traces of this past. Of the old medieval walls three gates still survive, all from the 1300s and 1400s.
The Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk was once an important Gothic church, part of its importance was that it marked the exact centre of the Netherlands. The church was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion in 1700 but the tower still remains and even today it is still used as the geographic centre of the town. If you want to take the 346 steps to admire the view, the tower is still open to the public.
In Amersfoort there is also another old church the Sint Joriskerk or St. George’s church. A medieval church from the 1200s and the 1400s, you can also climb the tower here and every hour in front of the facade you can see a mechanical Saint George coming out to kill the dragon.
Amersfoort has several museums including a major art gallery, where you will find many temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.
Amersfoort in the Netherlands is also famous for being the birthplace of the painter Piet Mondrian and it is remembered with a museum located right in the house where he was born.
Part of the pleasure of visiting Amersfoort is wandering around the historic centre, strolling along the canals and sitting down for a drink in one of the many bars. There is obviously no shortage of restaurants.
How to get to Amersfoort in the Netherlands?
Very easy to reach from anywhere in Holland by train, it is close to Utrecht and only 35 minutes by train from Amsterdam.
Sighisoara in Romania, a place of towers, churches and Dracula
Sighisoara in Romania has a look and atmosphere that immediately makes us think of Count Dracula. We should not be surprised, in fact Sighişoara is located in Transylvania and was the birthplace of Vlad III the Impaler. A historical figure who inspired Bram Stoker to write the novel Dracula. It was not fa coincidence that Vlad was really called Vlad Dracul.
The medieval centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you will immediately understand why. Visiting the centre is certainly a unique pleasure.
The centre had 14 defense towers, each managed by a different guild and corporation, this was an area often attacked by the Turks. The towers have been used a lot. Now 9 of these towers survive, for example the shoemakers’, the tailors’ and the blacksmiths’ towers remain. They are generally closed to the public but are nice to photograph from outside.
The clock tower which dates back to 1300 is not closed to the public. Not only is it beautiful to look at but you can also climb it to have beautiful panoramic views.
Many will want to visit Vlad Dracul’s house where there is now a restaurant, but if you go there and ask the waiters, for a small fee they will show you Vlad’s room.
Sighisoara in Romania; the place of Vlad the Impaler
The unpronounceable Piaţa Cetăţii is the market square that was the centre of medieval life of the town, here there were also the many executions by Vlad.
The church of the Dominican monastery has a decidedly Baroque look and was in fact rebuilt in 1600 after a raging fire. The church has existed here since at least 1200. Visit it just to see the carpets from Anatolia. Behind the church you will find a statue of a very mustachioed Vlad Dracul.
If you feel like climbing stairs, you can go up to see the church on the hill in a late Gothic style. This church was also older and initially in Romanesque style but was rebuilt in Gothic style in 1300-1400.
There is also a festival dedicated to vampires, during the event you may have problems finding a place to sleep, so book in advance.
Sighisoara in Romania is located on the railway line to Bucharest and therefore easily accessible
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