Monday, 20 October 2008

IAA Special Event: Bru na Boinne, LoughCrew, 2 Observatories


There are still some places left on the special IAA Weekend tour of the major astronomical attraction in Co Meath & Westmeath, on 24 - 26 October.

IAA ‘All-Island Trip’ to Newgrange, Knowth, Lough Crew, and Two Excellent Private Observatories, 24-26 October, 2008.

Since the IAA has members all over Ireland, we try now and again to organise an event which would be both accessible and of interest to members all over the island of Ireland. The last event, some years ago, was in Birr, and was very successful.

This time we have arranged a trip to the amazing World Heritage Site of Bru na Boinne near Drogheda, to include visits to both Newgrange itself and Knowth. (If any of you have already been to both those sites, I will also as an alternative conduct a private trip to the other great mound there, Dowth, which is no longer open to the public. Each of those sites has astronomical connections, as I’m sure most of you know. See: (Knowth); (Dowth);;

We will also visit another fascinating site, Lough Crew, near Oldcastle in Co Meath, which has a whole complex of hilltop mounds, at least one of which has a passage aligned with the equinox sunrise, and has some amazing interior rock-carvings, which are also thought to be astronomically significant. See:

and: for both Bru na Boinne and Lough Crew.

(I can send direct email hyperlinks to those sites on request, to save you typing them in!)

And we will also visit two superb private observatories in the area, those of Gerry Moloney at Oristown near Kells, and John Nooney at Clonkill near Mullingar. Gerry has just replaced his ‘mere’ 28-inch Dobsonian with a 32” computer-controlled Dob in a run-off shed observatory, and John has 3+ telescopes in three different domes, including an 18” equatorial Newtonian + a Meade LX200 14” Ritchey-Chrétien. He also has a small ‘lecture-room’ where we can have a talk etc if the weather is bad. We will also be able to observe at one or both those observatories, if it’s clear.

Obviously the observing is weather-dependant, and if it was raining we couldn't even see Gerry's ‘scopes, as you can't open them up in the rain. And Loughcrew is a hilltop site with fantastic views in good weather, but not so nice if it's wet & windy!  So the idea is to make some things as flexible as possible, to suit weather conditions at the time.


Friday Evening & Night:

1. Anyone who wants to, particularly those travelling some distance, book overnight accommodation in the Kells - Navan area for the Friday night. I will send details of local accommodation to all who book. We can arrange to meet somewhere locally for an evening meal, if we want to.

2. If it's clear that night, we could go to Gerry's for observing.

Saturday Morning:

3. All: Meet at Bru na Boinne at about 9.30-9.45, for tours of Newgrange and Knowth, or the alternative visit to Dowth. You MUST be at the Bru na Boinne Visitors Centre ABSOLUTELY NO LATER than 10.00, as you have to get your tickets AND make your way on foot to the departure point for the buses to the mounds. This walk takes 10 minutes, or allow longer if you can’t walk at a reasonable pace. (Sorry, but by the very nature of these sites there is no access for people with more than slight mobility disability.) These sites are accessible in all weather conditions, but you will have to spend a considerable time out in the open, so bring appropriate waterproof/warm clothing! NB do NOT go directly to either Newgrange or Knowth – you will NOT be admitted! You must obtain your ticket in advance at the Bru na Boinne Visitors Centre!

4. Approx. 1 p.m. Lunch at the B na B cafe.

Saturday Afternoon:

5. See Loughcrew. This requires a moderately stiff walk about 100 metres up a grassy hill, so bring good strong non-slip boots or shoes. It’s also usually windy on the top (it’s the highest point in Co Meath), so bring warm & preferably windproof outer wear, and waterproof too if it could be showery. ALTERNATIVE: If the weather is too bad for that, we will go to Clonkill, where we will have a lecture or a 'presentation' of some sort in John's 'classroom'. We can also at least get into John's domes to see the telescopes even if it’s raining, even if they can’t be opened up.

Saturday evening:

6. Dinner in Kells area or Mullingar, depending on where we are, followed by –

7. Observing (if clear) at Gerry Moloney's Observatory if we have been at Loughcrew, or at John Nooney's if we have been at Clonkill. ALTERNATIVE: We may have an informal event, such as a quiz somewhere local, or just stay on & socialise in the hotel after the meal.

Saturday Night:

8. B&B, GH, or Hotel accommodation in the Kells area, convenient for Loughcrew.

Sunday Morning:

9. See Loughcrew, if we haven't already done so. ALTERNATIVE: A good lie-in, devotions, or whatever suits you!

Sunday Lunchtime:

10. Lunch locally, in Kells or Mullingar, depending where we are.

Sunday Afternoon:

11. Visit John's observatory at Clonkill, if we haven't already done so. ALTERNATIVE: Loughcrew, if we haven't already done so. ALTERNATIVE 2: If we've already seen Clonkill & Loughcrew: Optional local sightseeing, e.g. the Kells High Crosses, the Kells 'Monument', Belvedere Castle & Gardens near Mullingar; Trim Castle (where part of ‘Braveheart’ was filmed), Ballinlough Castle & Gardens between Kells & Mullingar, etc. Then depart home.

Sunday Evening:

12. If it's the only clear sky we've had all W/E, a short observing session at either observatory for those who have time (if that suits you), otherwise depart home.

That programme is as flexible as possible, to suit the weather conditions. We will try to finalise it at least the day beforehand, depending on the weather forecast, and all who book will be notified by email, or telephone if you don’t have that option. But the Bru na Boinne visit has already been pre-booked, and cannot be changed, and since you will all want to book accommodation locally for either the Friday night or Saturday night or both, I suggest that you do that fairly soon. Details of accommodation in each area will be sent by return to all who book. Detailed directions and maps and GPS co-ordinates will be provided in advance for all sites for all who book.

This is an excellent chance to visit one of the most amazing sites in Europe, and probably the oldest astronomical ‘building’ in the world, predating both Stonehenge and the Pyramids by several centuries. I have been many times, and I still get a thrill every time I stand in the inner chamber in Newgrange! Lough Crew is also very well worth a visit.

And we are VERY grateful to Gerry Moloney & John Nooney for making their private observatories accessible to us, and for being flexible enough to try to accommodate our variable schedule as above.

COST: £16 or €20 per person. The cost includes admission to the Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre, and the conducted tours to Newgrange and Knowth (or Dowth), and Lough Crew, and a token of appreciati


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