Newgrange is a dramatic prehistoric burial mound complex in County Meath in Ireland.
History of Newgrange
Newgrange is thought to date back around 3,200BC, making it older than both Stonehenge and pyramids of Egypt. It’s part of a wider megalithic cemetery, but Newgrange is most famous for its passage tomb, which is a ginormous 80m wide and 13m high. The white quartzite stone it was originally constructed from came Wicklow, over 70km away – in an age before the wheel or pack animals, moving it that distance was a feat in itself. A complex drainage system also means that not a drop of water has penetrated the interior in 40 centuries.
The tomb is carefully aligned with the sun at the winter solstice (a slit in the roof lets the light in), leading many to believe it’s a site of astrological significance as well as simply religious or spiritual importance. Many archaeologists believe that the site was a burial place for kings or other elites.
By the Bronze Age (c. 2,000BC), Newgrange was pretty much abandoned by the local population. Various wooden henges sprung up nearby, but there is little burial material found from this era. Having said that, by the Iron Age it seems there were still some rituals taking place here: artefacts found from this period are now in the British Museum.
Newgrange is accessed via the Brú na Bóinne Visitors Centre: there’s a good exhibition inside detailing more about the construction of both Newgrange and Knowth, and what life would have been like in those societies. Both sites are then accessed via bus from the Visitors Centre – there’s no public road up there.
Expect a visit to the visitor centre and Newgrange to take about 2 hours. Access to the tomb itself is via guided tour only – it’s not one for those who dislike enclosed spaces. Every year there is a lottery for tickets to see the illumination of the passage at the Winter Solstice: thousands of people apply so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get them. The event is now also livestreamed on Newgrange’s website, so if it’s a grey day you can feel smug watching from home.
Large tour groups tend to arrive here slightly later in the day, so if you want to make sure to experience the site at its most atmospheric, come early or late in the day.
Getting to Newgrange
Access is exclusively via the Brú na Bóinne Visitors Centre, located on the Staleen Road, about 8km south west of Drogheda. Bus 163 from Drogheda Bus Station will drop you here, but bear in mind that there are only two buses a day in either direction, so plan your trip carefully or risk getting stranded!
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