Newgrange - Winter Solstice

Newgrange Winter Solstice
Winter Sostice sunbeam inside the Newgrange chamber

Newgrange is best known for the illumination of its passage and chamber by the rising sun at the Winter Solstice. Above the entrance to the passage of the mound there is a opening called a roof-box. On mornings around the winter solstice a beam of light penetrates the roof-box and travels up the 19m (62ft) passage and into the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the beam widens so that the whole chamber is dramatically illuminated.

Access to the chamber on the Solstice mornings is decided by a lottery that takes place at the end of September each year. All are welcome to gather outside the entrance to the Newgrange mound on each of the mornings from December 19th to December 23rd inclusive, sunrise is at 8.58am. Access via the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre or directly to the actual Newgrange monument.

Winter Solstice 2006
Winter Solstice Illumunation at Newgrange

Newgrange World Heritage site

Newgrange, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a prehistoric monument dating back over 5,000 years, The passage tomb features a 19m (62ft) long passage leading to a central chamber which is adorned with megalithic art. Remarkably, the monument is constructed in such a way that sunlight penetrates its inner sanctum on the mornings around the winter solstice.

The Winter Solstice Phenomenon

The winter solstice, which occurs around December 21st each year, marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. At Newgrange, during the sunrise on the mornings around the winter solstice, a breathtaking alignment takes place. The sun's first rays pierce through a specially designed opening above the entrance called a roof-box, gradually illuminating the narrow passage. As the sun ascends, it bathes the central chamber in a warm glow, lasting for just 17 minutes.

Touching the Light : Winter Solstice Sunbeam inside Newgrange
Touching the Light : Winter Solstice Sunbeam inside Newgrange - Photo by Ken Williams

The Ingenious Design

The precision of Newgrange's construction is awe-inspiring. The builders' understanding of celestial movements is evident in the deliberate positioning of the entrance and passage. The alignment of the passage with the winter solstice sunrise speaks to a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy, as well as a deep connection to the natural rhythms of the Earth. The sheer engineering feat achieved without the aid of modern tools adds an extra layer of marvel to the site.

Spiritual Significance

The winter solstice sunrise alignment at Newgrange is more than a celestial event; it holds spiritual significance for many. The fleeting burst of sunlight symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness, a theme woven into various cultures and belief systems. Visitors from all over the world gather at Newgrange to witness this ancient spectacle.

Winter Solstice Dawn at Newgrange, Co. Meath, Ireland

Newgrange Winter Solstice Archive

Newgrange Roof-box : Winter Solstice Sunbeam

Newgrange Aerial Photograph
Newgrange is a 5,200 year old passage tomb located in the Boyne Valley in Ireland's Ancient East

People of the Passage Tombs

Who were these people gathered on the hillside at Newgrange, the passage grave built 5,000 years ago in a crook of the River Boyne in Co Meath? Why did they build this colossal monument and what did they expect from it?   Read More...

Winter Solstice at Newgrange
Sun entering Newgrange at the Winter Solstice

Newgrange Winter Solstice : National Monuments Service

Boyne Valley Private Day Tour

Boyne Valley Tours
Immerse yourself in the rich heritage and culture of the Boyne Valley with our full-day private tours. Visit Newgrange World Heritage site, explore the Hill of Slane, where Saint Patrick famously lit the Paschal fire. Discover the Hill of Tara, the ancient seat of power for the High Kings of Ireland. Book Now