Newgrange is a Stone Age (Neolithic) monument in the Boyne Valley, County Meath,
it is the jewel in the crown of Ireland's Ancient East.
Newgrange was constructed about 5,200 years ago (3,200 B.C.)
which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza.
Newgrange is a large circular mound 85 meters (93 yards) in diameter and 13.5
meters (15 yards) high with a 19 meter (21 yard) stone passageway and chambers inside.
The mound is ringed by 97 large kerbstones,
some of which are engraved with symbols called megalithic art.
Newgrange was built by a farming community that prospered on the rich lands of the Boyne Valley.
Knowth and Dowth are similar mounds that
together with Newgrange have been designated a World Heritage Site by
Archaeologists classified Newgrange as a passage tomb, however Newgrange is now
recognised to be much more than a passage tomb. Ancient Temple
is a more fitting classification, a place of astrological, spiritual, religious
and ceremonial importance, much as present day cathedrals are places of prestige
and worship where dignitaries may be laid to rest.
Newgrange is a large kidney shaped mound covering an area of over one acre,
retained at the base by 97 kerbstones, some of which are richly decorated with
megalithic art. The 19 meter long inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber
with a corbelled roof. The amount of time and labour invested in construction of
Newgrange suggests a well-organized society with specialised groups responsible
for different aspects of construction.
Newgrange is part of a complex of monuments built along a bend of the River
Boyne known collectively as Brú na Bóinne. The other two principal monuments are
Knowth (the largest) and Dowth, but throughout the area there are as many as
35 smaller mounds.
to Newgrange is only by guided tour from the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre on the
south side of the river Boyne. Newgrange is on the north side of the river Boyne, visitors cross the river by pedestrian
bridge and take a shuttle bus to Newgrange. There is no direct public access to
Newgrange by road, except for mornings around the Winter Solstice,
so if using a GPS Satellite Navigation System, your destination is Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre.
Pick up and return to your accommodation or cruise ship. Suggested day tour:
Newgrange World Heritage site, 10th century High Crosses at Monasterboice,
Hill of Tara the seat of the High Kings of Ireland and the Hill of Slane where St. Patrick let a Paschal fire in 433
is best known for the illumination of its passage and chamber by the
winter solstice sun. Above the entrance to the
passage at Newgrange there is a opening called a roof-box. This baffling orifice
held a great surprise for those who unearthed it. Its purpose is to allow
sunlight to penetrate the chamber on the shortest days of the year, around
December 21st, the winter solstice.
At dawn, from December 19th to 23rd, a narrow beam of light penetrates the
roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear
of the chamber.
As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber so
that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17
minutes, beginning around 9am.
The accuracy of Newgrange as a time-telling device is remarkable when one considers
that it was built 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years
of the Stone Age farmers who build Newgrange was undoubtedly to mark the beginning of the new year. In
addition, it may have served as a powerful symbol of the victory of life over
Each year the winter solstice event attracts much attention at Newgrange. Many
gather at the ancient tomb to wait for dawn, as people did 5,000 years ago. So
great is the demand to be one of the few inside the chamber during the solstice
that there is a free annual lottery
(application forms are available at the Visitor Centre). Unfortunately, as with
many Irish events that depend upon sunshine, if the skies are overcast, there is
not much to be seen. Yet all agree that it is an extraordinary feeling to wait
in the darkness, as people did so long ago, for the longest night of the year to end.