Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ireland - Hill of Tara

At last, Saturday arrived and my week of cycling solo was finally over. No more riding with just my imagination for company. John was now officially on vacation and ready to join me on rides and head off on a tour. His work computer had been powered down and packed away. Maps and bicycles would now capture his attention instead. 

With an extended three day weekend, thanks to the October bank holiday on Monday, John's brother, David was also able to join us for a few spins.  Our initial thoughts had been to take advantage of David's car and the fact that he'd be working on the west coast the following week by getting a lift out in that direction and riding in an area we hadn't visited in many years. But John had not yet managed to catch up with many friends in Dublin and the weather on the west coast was looking very unsettled for the the next few days, so we decided to stay closer Dublin for the time being.

Our friend, Colm was eager meet up to do a spin up to the Hill of Tara. Last year, our visit to this ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland, was a multi-modal one. My sister-in-law, Suzanne drove, acting as chauffeur for John's mom and me; while John and his friends, Declan and Colm, rode up on bikes. We all met for a lovely lunch and a stroll around the grounds. While I enjoyed my trip last year, I was very happy to be able to ride my this time, just to properly earn the chocolate cake!

We had arranged to meet Colm at his house. While David was on his spiffy new Seven Cycles Evergreen, almost as if to combat the fanciness, Colm was planning to ride a fixie he had recently built up starting with a frame he'd acquired for 10 euro, plus another 8 and 1/2 euro for the can of black spray paint. Of course to make it a complete bike, he had to supply some components, all of which were conveniently found in his own garden shed. After close examination of each others newly acquired  machines - a ritual performed by bike geeks when one shows up for a ride on something new or different - we began our ride. We headed out first along a few bike paths next to the motorway before reaching the quiet lanes we'd take north.

Colm apparently had "Wheaties for Breakfast", and pushed the pace a bit beyond my comfort level. It can be a real challenge to adjust pace when riding fixed gear on rolling terrain, but John and David managed to distract him a bit with conversation, so I could just about keep up.

We stopped in Knockmark to check out the old church spire. Riding with an archaeologist (Dave) and an architect (Colm) often leads to interesting stops where we may learn about the history or design or restoration of a church or castle.

The view looking up into the spire

After taking too many photos, we continued along the flat to rolling terrain approaching the Hill of Tara. Wind, rather than hills, provided the main challenge for the day. We arrived at our lunch spot with hearty appetites. The cold wind served as a deterrent to linger outside for long since we were no longer generating our own heat by cycling. We quickly locked up bikes and headed into the café. Soups and coffees were ordered strategically leaving just enough room for the desserts we'd spied while waiting for our table. It is no mistake that they have the dessert display right where they have you wait.

We were about a month early for the lovely golden light and long shadows that I had so easily captured in my photos last year. Wind really was the notable feature on this day, but wind really doesn't show so well in pictures!

Stone of Destiny, where the High Kings were crowned
Like I said, it was windy!

But at least there was a little shelter.

Speaking of capturing and photos, we joked about capturing Colm's soul in my digital camera. Colm is an awesome photographer, and one of the few remaining people in the world still using actual film! He did manage to hide his disdain for our use of digital cameras and phones, as we made our way around the old ring fort snapping pictures.

We took a slight detour on the way back via Dunsany castle, where a few months ago, vandals had broken the medieval pilgrim cross near the castle gate. Colm wanted to see if any progress had been made on a repair. A steel beam was now attached at the back to right the cross, but how sad is it that someone would wantonly destroy an artifact like this.

A view of the repair.

Given the leisurely lunch, relaxed pace and limited daylight, our detour today was just to see the work to restore the cross. A visit to the actual castle and grounds was not on the agenda for this day.

So many castles and churches and ruins... so little time!

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