Thursday, June 14, 2007

Trim Castle



I had one goal when I was here in March and that was to see Trim Castle. It’s considered the best preserved Norman castle in Europe. It was originally started around 1100 AD and work continued on it for the next three centuries before the shifting political climate caused it to fall into disrepair. Now it’s simply a wonderful remnant of a world gone by.

Often I find that the mind’s eye picture one forms of something based on reading and maps is in direct conflict with the reality of the place itself. In this case, I picture the castle located on a broad plain in farm country, hard on the River Boyne. When I went looking for it last time, I found myself on a bunch of one-way streets to nowhere that culminated in a dead end street that was choked with Land Rovers disgorging children for their day at school. I remember lots of cursing and backing up and running into God Knows What was I tried to maneuver out of that mess and back onto a civilized road. You know, one of those 60 MPH two lane nightmares. I was tired, fuzzy headed and jet lagged and after trying my best to find it, I caved in and asked a young man for the quickest route out of town and he gladly obliged. I could see the Yellow Steeple ruin off to my left, and it never occurred to me that it was connected with the castle itself. I figured the ruins were on the far side of town and that I had simple taken the worst possible route. I left Trim in a huff, drove for a bit, tried to go back and finally just gave up. It was a reasonable big disappointment to me, and a major affront to my infallible sense of direction.

This time I came armed with maps and a navigator, figuring nothing could go wrong. Using finely honed dead reckoning skills, I made my way through town making turn selections based completely on what my gut told me to do. The result of this was that we found ourselves on the fast road out of town and heading in the opposite direction of our goal. A quick u-turn and a couple of strikes on the curbs and we were heading back. The Yellow Steeple hove into view but still no castle. My previous understanding of the proximity of the two had been altered this trip around and I knew they faced each other across the Boyne. But as we drove, it quickly became apparent that my original mind’s eye approximation of a castle amidst the golden barley was woefully in conflict with the reality we were facing. The castle seemed to be in the middle of town.

Driving on, again using our advanced navigation skills bolstered with a dash of Newtonian successive approximations (in simpler terms, just keep turning left) we saw what must be the castle grounds. A couple more lefts and a couple of rights and there we were at the center of the spiral – Trim Castle itself. In the local tongue, Caisleán Bhaile Átha Troim. Right down at the end of Frenchie’s Lane pay by the minute car park and across from the Trim Pizzeria. So much for fields of gold.

Despite its prosaic location, it was darn inspiring, The Yellow Steeple, a ruined portion of an old cathedral stood majestically across the Boyne at the top of a grassy hill. The castle itself was arrayed on our bank at the top of a rise. Remnants of the curtain wall surrounded the rise and towering over the entire site was the original castle keep. We wandered about taking it in and snapping a lot of photographs. Between the sounds of Rooks cawing over head and a group of uniformed schoolboys shouting “F--- all” as they climbed on the posted-no-climbing walls, the tableau was quite remarkable. We paid a few Euros to go inside and combed the ruins. The keep is closed except for a guided tour but the outside was impressive enough. To the south, the remains of the original towers that framed the Barbican Gate stood silently, recalling their past grandeur. In its complete state, prior to its absorption by Trim village, it must have been an impressive sight, much like my original expectation. In all, an experience that far outweighed the inconvenience of getting there.

Time to find the hotel and put an end to a long day’s trip that began at early morning in the New World and culminated half a world and 1000 years distant.


















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