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Welsh-Irish archaeologist, Frances Lynch Llewellyn, describes some of the amazing prehistoric archaeology she and her students encountered on their archaeological field trips from Bangor to Ireland.

For some 25 years I regularly took students from Bangor University to Ireland. We set off on the Friday afternoon boat from Holyhead and then settled into our lodgings. On Saturday we went south: to the south Dublin tombs, including Brennanstown, then up onto the hills to discuss the geography of the coast and the islands – Lambay and the Neolithic stone axes; Dalkey and the Early Bronze Age Beaker pots, and on one particularly clear day we could see Holyhead Mountain and discuss its Cytiau Gwyddelod ('Irishmen's Huts'). Sometimes we went to Glendalough in Wicklow, one time we climbed Baltinglass Hill, and several times we
visited Athgreany Stone Circle.

On the Sunday, it was always the Boyne Valley. Fourknocks is actually the most atmospheric of the Neolithic Boyne Passage tombs, dare I say? Because of the need to replace the entire roof, the opportunity arose to provide a subtle and wonderfully effective lighting system for the classic decorated lintels. Just close the solid door after you and wait for your eyes to adjust. If only Anglesey’s Barclodiad y Gawres had such a good answer to its light problems!

On our way to Newgrange we would visit the great Dowth Enclosure. We used to go inside the huge Dowth Passage tomb as well in the early days, before it was closed to the public. That used to be an exciting visit: a stunning chamber, a suitably awkward souterrain to crawl into, and good decoration in the smaller chamber. And then there was Newgrange where we always received a warm welcome. From Newgrange we went to the Knowth passage tomb and that was always an exciting site because excavation was on-going through many of the years when we were visiting. On many occasions we actually had the company of the excavator, Prof George Eogan, on our Boyne visits!

In some years, we even managed to fit in a visit to Tara. One year – after all the geophysics had been published – we did have a very successful visit, seeing if we could pick up any signs of the lost monuments in the low evening sun. You have to have some experience to play that game!

Monday was our day for the National Museum. This was always a splendid visit because it is closed on Mondays and so we had it to ourselves. When I was last there – this year – there had been some changes on the periphery, but not to the central core – nor to the heap of stones in the ‘Neolithic corner’ which most people probably pass with a brief glance. Not me – because in 1966 I excavated Newgrange Tomb L from which the stones come, including a large decorated slab which even appeared on an Irish stamp at the time!

I was in Ireland that day to go up to Knowth to celebrate the publication of the final volume (the 7th) of the series recording the excavations there. It was a great day, a great party, and perhaps it rounded off my active involvement with the archaeology of Ireland and especially its great stone tombs. But I’m sure I will cross that sea again.

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