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Boyne Valley, Ireland- The Perfect Day Trip from Dublin

Boyne Valley, Ireland- The Perfect Day Trip from Dublin

While visiting Dublin, we relied mostly on public transport and walking to get us around to the major tourist attractions. And while we loved our visit to Dublin, we also wanted to explore special plaxces outside of the city, like Boyne Valley, Ireland.

Numerous multi-day tours of Ireland abound, but we were limited on time. Enter Irish Luxury Tours, who offered us a day trip excursion, a new offering for families from multiple cities across the country.

Spending time in Dublin? Then check out our great guide to the best things to do in Dublin with kids.

Mythical Fire and Water Tour to Boyne Valley, Ireland

Boyne Valley Ireland
The view atop Dowth passage tomb, with the Boyne Valley in the background. Photo by Katie Bodell.

What is Boyne Valley, Ireland Known For?

Just northwest of Dublin, the Boyne Valley is home to the earliest history of Ireland, dating back over 5000 years. Its lush green rolling hills were once the home of Ireland’s earliest kings, a place where high kings met together to fight epic battles, bury their dead, and celebrate solstice together. 

The Boyne Valley is home to Brú na Bóinne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest collection of Megalithic art in Europe, that takes a full day to explore and discover. Its Hill of Tara was the original seat of Ireland’s high kings.

It is also home to the spot where Halloween was first celebrated. And the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland. Ireland’s ancient past comes alive in the Boyne Valley, the setting of the Mythical Water and Fire Tour we embarked on.

Mythical Fire and Water Tour

The Mythical Fire and Water Tour 

Our tour promised to take us to explore Ireland’s Ancient East and the River Boyne, a place rich in myth and lore. With an itinerary in hand, we excitedly waited in the rain for our tour guide and driver to pick us up from our hotel.

We were picked up in a black, luxury Mercedes van by Gerry. My girls, ages 13-18, still talk about Gerry. Not only was he chock-full of entertaining stories, legends, and history about Ireland, he had us all rolling in laughter as we plowed through the tiny cobblestone-lined streets of the outskirts of Dublin and into the Boyne Valley.

Trim Castle

Trim Castle in Ireland
Trim Castle, one of Ireland’s oldest castles, features easy-to-explore grounds. Photo by Katie Bodell.

Our first stop on the day trip was Trim Castle, the oldest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland. Built in 1174, just after the Norman conquest, the castle took 30 years to build and was home to King John, Richard II, and Henry V at various times in history. 

As we toured the grounds, Gerry told us facts about the castle, notably that it was instrumental in filming the movie Braveheart, which my husband loved.

Bective Abbey

Bective Abbey
Climbing is encouraged at Bective Abbey, which my active girls enjoyed. Photo by Katie Bodell.

Just a few minutes away from Trim stands Bective Abbey, built even earlier in 1147. It was Ireland’s second Cistercian Abbey. Unlike Trim Castle, which has to be toured in a group and kept mostly untouched, Bective Abbey invites the climbing of stairs and meandering of its narrow passageways. Exploration here felt ancient and epic.

An Gobha

Blacksmith of Boyne
An Gobha, the Blacksmith of the Boyne, taught my children ancient Irish legends, myths, and hands-on blacksmithing. Photo by Katie Bodell.

After this brief glimpse into Ireland’s Anglo-Norman past, we ventured back even further into Ireland’s history with a hands-on lesson in ancient iron working from An Gobha, the Blacksmith of the Boyne

At his private home in the Boyne Valley, Tom King portrays An Gobha, a medieval blacksmith familiar with the stories, myths, and lore of Ireland’s ancient past.

Part interactive theater performance with wit, jokes, and wisdom, part blacksmith tutorial by an award-winning artist, my family watched with absolute awe as An Gobha molded and forged metal into precious ancient Irish designs. His passion and exuberance for the work and the stories of Ireland were palpable. 

The absolute highlight of the blacksmith visit was when he brought my girls up to forge and shape their own custom pendant. His hearty laugh, encouragement, and unique skill set helped each of my children become blacksmithing apprentices. He even dubbed my middle daughter a natural. We loved taking our souvenir pendants back home with us and they are proudly displayed at home.

After marveling at many of An Gobha’s private collection of art and craftsmanship, including a massive sword that my husband didn’t want to part with, we said our hearty goodbyes and got back on the road with Gerry to head to lunch.

Dowth Passage Tombs

Burial Mounds dating back thousands of years
What may look like a hill from this photograph is actually a built-up burial mound and passage tomb that dates back thousands of years. Photo by Katie Bodell.

The Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site consists of Newgrange and Knowth burial mounds, which are only accessible with a full-day tour of the site.

But just down the road, our driver Gerry took us to Dowth, a similarly-sized passage tomb that didn’t require a full-day ticket and the accompanying advance reservations required to enter the UNESCO site. Dowth is unique in that it offers the same type of passage tomb from the same era, the same Megalithic art, and yet can be accessed for free, without a tour, and takes only a short time to explore.

Dorth tombs
Once a year, on Winter Solstice, the sunset aligns perfectly into these passage tombs, illuminating the entire length of the tunnel. Photo by Katie Bodell.

After passing through a small livestock gate, the grounds are open to the public and can be climbed upon. Megalithic art dots the massive rocks surrounding the burial mound, but it takes a discerning eye to notice them.

The tunnels are closed to the public, but our guide Gerry told us how just like Newgrance and Knowth at Brú na Bóinne, the sun shines exactly through the tunnels’ passageways on Winter Solstice. The history and understanding of these ancient burial mounds, as well as their connection to the sun’s angle on the shortest day of the year, are not completely known.

Boyne Boats

Boyne Canal Boat
Paddling the Boyne Canal on an ancient Irish currach boat. Photo by Katie Bodell.

For our final adventure of the day, we headed down the road just a bit more past the rambling Boyne River to Boyne Boats, located on the Boyne canal. 

There we met Ross Kenny, founder of Boyne Boats, and creator of the boats we were to take down the river: a handcrafted in the ancient style, traditional Irish currach. 

We hopped aboard the lightweight, ancient-style boat and begin gently paddling down the Boyne canal, all the while learning about the history of these boats and how they believe that it was by this type of boat that the large stones present at Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth were brought to the Boyne Valley by ancient stone-age Irish ancestors. 

The trip down the canal and into the Boyne River was absolutely stunning, with breathtaking beauty at every turn. Ross Kenny knew the perfect times to encourage our family to paddle or to let us rest, although the current was so mild it was never much of a challenge. 

Game of Thrones fans will also be interested in this boat ride as the show used his currach boats, as well as other types of boats he created for the show, in all of the seasons. Depending on your family’s interests and age ranges, Ross can steer the conversation toward everything from the small fairy doors on the trees along the canal to ancient ancestors using the rivers as modes of heavy transportation, or to modern-day challenges with filming an international mega-hit TV show. 

We all loved it.

Paddling the currach boats

After our adventure with Ireland’s mythical and historical past, we headed back to our Dublin hotel. We said goodbye to our guide, Gerry, and enjoyed a Dublin pub dinner sharing laughs, memories, and favorites from our day exploring.

There is no way that we could have found, scheduled, and beautifully curated these experiences on our own. Having Luxury Irish Tours create this magical adventure for us was an amazing relief for our family, especially for this mom who was over-tired from researching and planning a two-week European vacation. When you are planning an Irish tour, whether it be a day-trip from Dublin like ours or a 10-day tour across the island, consider Irish Luxury Tours.

Disclosure: My family received a complimentary day tour with Luxury Irish Tours for the purpose of this review. I was not required to state any particular view; all opinions are my own.

Katie Bodell