A perennial traveller across the Irish Sea, Justine Halifax believes there's always something new to discover when you go west.
Despite being a seasoned visitor, Ireland is somewhere I never tire of returning to discover more of its welcoming delights.
And the Boyne Valley proved to be yet another feather in its cap. Situated in the North East of Southern Ireland, it is steeped in history having once been Ireland’s ancient capital.
To mention just a few of its cultural and historic highlights it was the site of the Battle of the Boyne.
One of the most significant events in Irish history, it was fought in July 1690 between the Protestant King William III (William of Orange) and his father-in-law, Catholic King James II.
The battle of rival claimants to the English, Scottish and Irish thrones resulted in the largest ever assembly of troops on an Irish battlefield.
And the Battle of the Boyne visitor centre recounts the tale in a recently restored 18th Century Oldbridge House, which is on the battlesite itself. But that’s not all it boasts.
The Boyne Valley is also home to Bru Na Boinne, one of the largest and most important prehistoric megalithic sites in Europe as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It features three passage tombs, including the longest in Western Europe, at three sites, including Newgrange, constructed around 3,200BC making it 500 years older than the pyramids of Giza in Egypt and 1,000 years older than Stonehenge.
Visitors can access Newgrange and one of the other sites, Knowth, with guided tours from the Bru Na Boinne Visitor Centre at Donore, which features a full scale replica of the Newgrange tomb if you haven’t time to explore it in situ.
But if history is not something that floats your boat, then there’s a wealth of other attractions, including children’s farms and theme parks, at your fingertips here too.
And the beautiful, five star luxury Decoy Country Cottages at Garlow Cross, County Meath, proved to be a great springboard to explore the best the Boyne Valley has to offer.
Just a 45 minute drive from Dublin Airport, the site, accessed by coded electric gates - features eight adjoining cottages in an oval shaped courtyard.
Ranging in size from one to four bedrooms, our home for a wonderful, relaxing week was the Forge, a beautiful three bedroomed house, which boasted geothermal underfloor heating.
On arrival we were delighted to be greeted with a complimentary bottle of wine and a basket of treats. The first floor had two large bedrooms, one with two single beds, and the other with a double and single, adjoined by a bathroom . Other houses featured jacuzzi baths.
In each bedroom there was more than ample wardrobe and drawer space and the bedrooms overlooked nothing but fields. The site itself also had a communal and games room, along with a well equipped gym.
Outside there was a children’s playground, including a sandpit and swing, a BBQ area with picnic tables, and a boules alley. Children were also invited to pick freshly laid eggs from the coup on site.
There is also an on site spa called Revive Day Spa, to tempt you to ease away your tension. Therapist Barbara gave me an amazing full body massage – one of the best I’ve ever had, and a thoroughly relaxing and in depth, individually tailored facial. I can highly recommend both. As well as the historic sites mentioned, Decoy Country Cottages were also close to a host of other attractions, including Slane, Trim and Malahide castles.
Balrath Wood was also just a 15 minute drive away and featured a range of different walks.