I wrote last week that I was planning a trip to Newgrange Co. Meath. Newgrange is one of Ireland's most popular tourist destinations and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I had never been to Newgrange so it was top on my list of places to visit in Ireland. We made the trip on Saturday and I'm delighted to report it was well worth the wait! If like me Newgrange is one of those places you've just never had the chance to see I would definitely recommend a trip. And just to give you a taste of what you have to look forward to, here's my guide to Newgrange.
Newgrange is a prehistoric passage tomb which is situated 8km from Drogheda on the banks of the River Boyne. The area is steeped in history and archaeology with Mellifont Abbey and the Battle of the Boyne site just a short drive away.
Access to Newgrange is through Bru na Boinne visitors centre. From here you can book a tour which will bring you to the site. As far as I am aware this is the only way to visit as you can't make your way to the monument yourself.
The centre is always very busy with a constant stream of people queuing for tickets. The staff are so helpful and friendly and they have a really efficient system where everyone gets a tour time. You have the option of visiting Newgrange and also the two other passage tombs on the Bru na Boinne site, Knowth and Dowth. Once you have bought your ticket and have a sticker time for your tour, you're free to enjoy the exhibition in the centre or go downstairs to the restaurant and gift shop. On the day we visited it was a two hour wait but really the time flies! If you're short on time I would advise getting there early to beat the crowds. Because of the wait we only had the opportunity to visit Newgrange and will have to leave Knowth and Dowth for another visit.
The exhibition hall has a really impressive display of the history of all three Neolithic tombs, Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. So before you ever get to see the monuments you have a really good picture of how the people who built them lived and why they chose the site. The also have an entire room dedicated to megalithic art which I found fascinating.
As you leave the visitors centre it is a short walk to a bus which will bring you to the site of Newgrange, Knowth or Dowth. The walk brings you through some wooded areas where you cross a bridge over the River Boyne.
Once you get off the bus you walk up the hill to be greeted by this view, Newgrange!
It's here that you meet your tour guide who gives you a history of the area before you approach the passage tomb. Our guide was great, she told us how Newgrange was discovered and offered a number of theories as to its function. While they can't be sure why Newgrange was built having a few possible theories allows you to draw your own conclusions when wandering around the site.
Probably the best known artwork from Newgrange is the carved entrance stone. This heavily decorated stone sits across the opening to the passage tomb. It is made up of a series of swirls and spirals, again our guide offered us a few explainations as to the meaning of these patterns. Some believe it is a drawing of the area showing the three passage tombs, the fields to the left and the the River Boyne running along the bottom. Others believe it was art for art's sake and was used to symbolize the importance of the site entrance.
I found this great photo from 1880 showing what the entrance looked like before it was excavated fully.
When we were at the entrance the tour guide drew our attention to the small opening above the doorway. This is the roof box and the space in which the sunlight enters the chamber on Winter Solstice.
What I loved about Newgrange is all the amazing carvings that you just stumble across as you walk around the site. The mound is surrounded by ninety seven large boulders many of which have been carved into. It's great to think that carvings that were made over 5,000 years ago can still be seen and enjoyed.
As the inside chamber is quite small the groups are divided up and take turns going inside. Unfortunately you aren't allowed to take any photos so you'll have to just trust me when I say it's well worth it! After going through a very low narrow tunnel you come into the cruciform chamber which has a high corbelled roof. Off of the main chamber there are three small alcoves. Each alcove has decorative carvings and the one to the East has a large stone carved basin.
When we came out into the open air you instantly feel warmer and get a real sense of how cold it was inside the chamber. It's odd because it's something I hadn't noticed when we were inside the passage tomb. Before you leave you are given an opportunity to explore the rest of the site, walking around the mound and taking in the gorgeous views. From Newgrange you can see a number of satellite mounds and standing stones, the the one in the picture below.
Once we had a good walk around the area it was time to get back on the bus for the Bru na Boinne centre.
We finished the day with a well deserved treat before we hit the road for Dublin!
Some useful sites to check out are Official Newgrange Website and World Heritage Ireland - Newgrange At Claddagh Design our handcrafted Irish Jewelry is inspired by the past Visit our homepage to view our pieces inspired by Newgrange Irish Passage Tomb artifacts & artwork