Friday 3rd June 2022
Donore, Co. Meath, Ireland
The first place I wanted to visit when arriving in Ireland was Newgrange. It’s a prehistoric site and tourist attraction. Planning my journey looked easy, but it ended up being a 3 hour trip each way.
From my hostel in Dublin, I walked half an hour to get a bus to Drogheda. Once in town I took a taxi through the Free Now app to Brú na Bóinne visitor centre.
There was a short walk through the car park, and it appears I arrived right on time as I was offered the last slot on the next booking. The ticket included the museum in the visitors centre, and a guided tour around the Knowth and Newgrange monuments, (but not Dowth) plus bus rides to the sites.
I was in a group of roughly twenty people, and the bus took us to Knowth first. A tour guide greeted us with a ten minute talk, then we were free to roam the area for half an hour. After that we watched a short film on the monuments, and headed back to the bus. I was very impressed with the satellite mounds at Knowth, I especially enjoyed the ancient artwork depicted on the stones, and the viewing platform at the top of the largest mound. The whole site had been excellently preserved and restored, and there was evidence of later architecture in the vicinity, such as abandoned farm house structures.
The next stop was Newgrange. We could see the huge monument as we approached the site, where we were greeted by another tour guide who split the group in two. The first group went inside the chamber and the second group explored the grounds, then we swapped over. The passage was a tight squeeze, but fascinating. We got to see the ancient chambers, and a brief demonstration of artificial sunlight illuminating the interior. I also enjoyed taking in the outdoor scenery and observing the monument from all angles.
Personally, I preferred Knowth to Newgrange. While it was an amazing opportunity to explore inside a Neolithic chamber, I thoroughly enjoyed finding my way through the maze at Knowth and taking in the higher views. Each site had its own toilet facilities and there was also a café in the visitor centre. This was one of the most intriguing historical walks I’ve been on and I absolutely loved this tourist attraction!
Brú na Bóinne is the encompassing area that contains Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. The complex was constructed over 5000 years ago, before the pyramids of Giza. Its builders were Neolithic Stone Age farmers. While it’s hard to be sure of its exact function, there are some clues to give us ideas. Some human remains, both burnt and unburnt have been found on the site, suggesting at least one purpose was burial tombs. The ancient stone artwork is a point of fascination, depicting lunar imagery among other things, which suggests a purpose of astronomy. The winter solstice sun, which shines through the roof box at Newgrange looks like the structure was built with ceremonies in mind, probably of a religious nature. During the Bronze Age and Iron Age, the use of this site slowly declined toward ruin.
These monuments are also linked to Irish mythology. An interesting one involving Dowth, is about king Bresal who ordered his men to build a tower to heaven. His sister cast a spell to make the sun stand still, so they could complete this task within a day. The pair committed incest, therefore breaking the spell. The sun went down, the builders left, and Dowth was in darkness. Coincidentally, some remains found at Newgrange are that of a man who was born out of an incestual union. While some believe this man was proof of ‘pure’ royal bloodline at that time, he could be viewed as a real life myth.
Website links below