Most people now know about the winter solstice at Newgrange, when a shaft of light at sunrise beam into the inner chamber. This marks the year's shortest day and the start of the sun's return to its high point, the summer solstice.
Fewer people know that the spring and autumn equinoxes are marked equally dramatically in a chamber in the Loughcrew Hills in Co. Meath, a discovery made seven years ago.
The equinoxes are the points between the sun's passage from the solstices when the hours of daylight and darkness are equal. The spring equinox fell yesterday, 21st March, and the autumn equinox will be on 22nd September.
The photograph of the spring equinox taken by Toby Hall shows the sun shining down the passage of the mound known as Cairn T in the Loughcrew Hills, illuminating the ancient inscribed stones in the back recess of the 5,000-year-old chamber.
Loughcrew is a hilltop scheme which at one time comprised over 50-chambered cairns, many left unroofed after the wear and tear of five millennia and various excavations.
The importance of the sun to our ancient ancestors living in the Boyne Valley and the Loughcrew Hills can be gleaned from St. Patrick's confession where he states that "the splendour of the material sun which rises every day at the bidding of God will pass away and those who worship it will pass into dire punishment; the true sun, Christ, whom we Christians worship, will endure forever."
Boyne Valley Private Day ToursPick 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 More ...