When you re-emerge, blinking, the mist should have cleared and a pastoral view of small green fields, sheep-strewn, stretches out before you – on a clear day, across several counties.
Even in this land of ancientness, some parts stand out as especially ancient. To the north and west of Dublin in particular, ancient sites seem to litter the landscape.
Some – like those in the extraordinary Brú na Bóinne valley – are organised heritage sites. Others are in the middle of working farms or simply in a field at a bend in the road.
Whether formal or informal, locals often hold the key – both literally and metaphorically – to the stories behind these networks of passage tombs, standing stones and stone circles.
More often than not, there’ll be later history layered onto and around these sites – from the High Kings and early Christians to Viking and Norman invaders, to English rule and the struggle for Irish independence. To a visitor new to the twists and turns of Ireland’s past, the multiple layers can be confusing.
Like the one told by the owner of that site where you collected the keys. She’s descended from the Normans and an ancestor of hers was one of Ireland’s most-famous sons – Oliver Plunkett who led the Irish Confederacy and was put to death for treason by Charles II.
With local stories like these, you’ll find past connects to present, and the rich tapestry of Ireland’s history comes vividly to life.