Newgrange in Ireland

by admin on August 7, 2013

Newgrange in Ireland


Have you ever heard of a Megalithic necropolis? I hadn’t either, until my children and I visited the Bru na Boinne site north of Dublin, Ireland.

We took a day trip to the Boyne Valley where ancient burial tombs are found in a group called a necropolis, or cemetery. Bru na Boinne includes the sites of Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth and Townleyhall.

newgrange in ireland

The tombs are older than Stonehenge in England. Newgrange in Ireland, for example, was constructed around 3200 BC, which was 4,000 years before the Anglo-Norman castles were built in Ireland and 600 years before the Pyramids were built in Egypt.

newgrange in ireland


newgrange ireland


newgrange ireland facts





The tombs were built during the New Stone Age by the people in a wealthy farming community. They buried their people at the sites they believed contained the spirits of their ancestors. They performed rituals and celebrated at the tombs.

Newgrange was built with 250,000 tons of stone. The mound above the tomb is more than 300 feet across and more than 30 feet high. Much of the stone came from the Wicklow Mountains which are 50 miles (80 km) south of the site. How the stone was transported is still a mystery. It is estimated that it would have taken 300 workers at least 20 years to build the tomb at Newgrange.

There is a circle of 12 upright stones that surrounds the tomb. Originally, there may have been many more stones. The upright stones were placed during the final stage of construction.

The tomb at Newgrange was constructed so the light from the sunrise shines into the main passageway and lights the burial chamber for about 20 minutes on the winter solstice.

There is an opening called a roof-box above the entrance to the tomb. At 8:58 a.m. on the winter solstice in December, a narrow beam of light goes into the roof-box and hits the floor of the burial chamber. The light gradually lengthens and reaches the rear of the passage. The beam gets wider as the sun rises until the room is illuminated. After 17 minutes, the sun leaves the chamber.

When I visited the tomb, stood inside the ancient chamber and heard the story of the solstice sunrise, I had the feeling of connection with the ancient people of Ireland.

If you visit Newgrange, you can enter the free lottery drawing to try for a spot at the site during the solstice mornings. About 30,000 applications are taken each year and 50 names are drawn. Each of the fifty people can come with a guest to see this amazing event.

The images you will see at the burial tombs include the tri-spiral design often referred to as a Celtic symbol. The design at Newgrange, however, would have been carved into the stones at least 3,500 years before the Celts came to Ireland. The artwork at the site also includes chevrons, triangles and arrangements of parallel lines or arcs.

The passage tomb at Newgrange has been designated a World Heritage Site and attracts 200,000 visitors each year. You can see the group of tombs including Newgrange by going to the Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre and taking a bus tour to the four burial sites. The Visitor Centre is located near the village of Donore, County Meath.

My children and I took a bus from Dublin’s city center to see the burial tombs. This is a convenient way to get to the visitor center and makes a nice day trip. The center has a refreshment area as well as informational displays and a shop for souvenirs and books.

On your next trip to Ireland, consider a trip to see Newgrange and the other passage tombs. They are amazing prehistoric structures not to be missed from your list of sacred places in the world. Enjoy!

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