Newgrange is a much-loved attraction, and not just for visitors to Ireland, but for the Irish folks themselves. It is an attraction that never fails to amaze, no matter how many times one gets to visit this special place.
Located in Boyne Valley, County Meath, Newgrange is a prolific monument that’s believed to have been built by a prosperous farming community way back in the Stone Age (estimated time of construction is 3,200 B.C.). Given the evidence of excellent workmanship that’s still evident to this day, there’s no doubt that those who constructed the tomb were clearly highly skilled in masonry.
To describe it specifically, Newgrange is a large circular mound with a 19 metre long interior stone passageway that leads to cruciform chambers. A base of 97 kerbstones supports the monument and if you look closely, you’ll see that some of these kerbstones are decorated with megalithic drawings.
Technically Newgrange is classified as a “passage tomb” but it is more like an Ancient Temple really. Newgrange is held with the same religious and spiritual significance as churches and cathedrals are in terms of prestige and prayer. The tomb is actually part of a series of three monuments that are known as Brú na Bóinne, all of which are built along a curve in the River Boyne. Knowth and Dowth are the other two monuments in the collective, with Knowth being the largest of the three.
Newgrange is best known across the world for the illumination of its passage and chamber during the Winter solstice. Above the entrance to the 19 metre long passageway at Newgrange is an opening called a roof box. The purpose of this roof box is to allow sunlight to illuminate the chamber on the shortest day of the year – December 21st – during the winter solstice. As the sun rises each morning from December 19th to 23rd, a narrow beam of light hits the roof-box, reflects off the chamber floor and extends to illuminate the rear of the chamber. The higher the sun rises, the greater the illumination of the chamber. This illumination of the Newgrange tomb lasts for approximately 17 minutes and is truly a magnificent sight to witness. It is believed that the original purpose of the construction of the tomb was so that the people in the community could be aware that the beginning of a new year was nearing.
As you can imagine, the events at Newgrange during the Winter Solstice attract huge attention, with people flocking from all over the world to try and witness the beauty of the illumination of the chambers. Such is the demand for admission that the Visitor Centre arranges a free lottery for admission into the Newgrange chamber during the Winter solstice. It is the only fair means of offering admission really!
Access to Newgrange is available all year round – but only by guided tour. Newgrange is located on the north side of the river Boyne so visitors need to cross the river using the pedestrian bridge and take the shuttle bus to Newgrange. There is no direct public road access to Newgrange. Given its popularity among visitors and locals alike, it’s advisable to book your tour early to avoid disappointment!