|The Hill of Slane. Slane, Ireland. March 2011.|
Traveling to Ireland was the first trip my husband and I ever took together just the two of us. We were 22 years old and had been married a grand total of 2 months and 2 weeks. I've posted before about Ireland, but this entry is perhaps the most exhilarating to remember.
Part of the excitement of our Ireland adventures was renting a car and making day trips. Driving on the other side of the road was endlessly terrifying and fun, and we felt incredibly accomplished as we followed our (sometimes faulty) GPS named Julie across the windy countryside. One of these day trips was to see the Hill of Tara, which was fairly high on Dusty's to-see list. Unfortunately, we weren't that travel savvy, and ended up getting there too late. All of the tours were booked! We had completely botched our chance. Feeling a bit lost and bummed, we walked around the Hill of Tara gift shop a bit, grabbed a snack from the cafe, and then just decided to just explore. Off-roading with the sheep is the best way to see Ireland anyway.
The scenery is gorgeous around there. In preparation for our trip, Dusty had read about several hills in the area, one of them being Tara and another was in Slane. Our GPS was hopeless at this point, so once we found Slane we just explored. We even happened upon a castle. The village was tiny and charming, and eventually we discovered the criss-crossed wooden signs, one of which pointed up the road and read "The Hill of Slane". We finally found ourselves driving up a steep little roadway that was completely deserted. As we reached the top, the hill was splayed out before us like a bright green game board, the only pieces being intricate grey ruins at its crest. It was cold and overcast, and we were the only ones there. We just gaped for a good ten minutes, and once we realized there were no "KEEP OUT OR ST. PATRICK WILL CURSE YOU" signs anywhere, we ran helter skelter up the hill. We already knew this was the greatest off-roading of our entire lives.
The legend goes that the daring St. Patrick lit a fire on the Hill of Slane in 433 CE in honor of Easter. It was a strong Christian symbol in direct defiance of the High King Laoire, who forbade any other fires to burn while a festival fire was burning on the Hill of Tara. Although Laoire could see the fire from his palace, he was impressed by St. Patrick's devotion. The king remained a pagan, but allowed St. Patrick to convert many of his subjects to Christianity.
The Slane ruins are that of a friary church and college, which was abandoned in 1723. The traditional Christian hymn Be Thou My Vision is set to an early medieval Irish folk song named Slane, inspired by this location.
Wikipedia served us well in learning more about the Hill of Slane once we returned to the states, but at the time, we were simply in awe of St. Patrick's statue and the insanely gorgeous day. It began to sprinkle a bit, and as the sun set the sky was a myriad of golden colors and the horizon was crowned with the most fortuitous Irish rainbow. It was stunning, all of it. We climbed the ruins for hours, just the two of us, losing track of time and reality as our cheeks grew rosy and our souls were filled to the brim.