Visit Newgrange Ireland: : Unraveling the Enigma of Ireland’s Ancient Passage Tomb

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Located in the Boyne Valley in County Meath, Newgrange is a must-see for anyone interested in ancient history, architecture, and art.

I must admit I have a grá for Newgrange, visiting it every summer with my nanny, it was only an hour or so from the home farm and she loved the immense standing stones which surrounded the passage entrance.

Dating back over 5,000 years, Newgrange was built during the Neolithic period and is older than both Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt. The monument consists of a large circular mound with a stone passageway and chamber inside.

What makes Newgrange truly remarkable is its alignment with the winter solstice, when the rising sun illuminates the passageway and chamber, creating a stunning display of light and shadow. The monument is decorated with intricate spiral and diamond-shaped carvings, which are believed to have symbolic meaning related to fertility, rebirth, and the cycles of nature.

Key Takeaways

  • Newgrange is one of the oldest and most significant prehistoric monuments in Europe, dating back over 5,000 years.
  • The monument is renowned for its architectural details, including a stone passageway and chamber, and intricate spiral and diamond-shaped carvings and is now protected by the ancient monuments protection act.
  • Newgrange is a must-see for anyone interested in ancient history, architecture, and art, and is particularly significant for its alignment with the winter solstice.

Quick Summary:

CategoryInformation
LocationCounty Meath, Ireland
Historical PeriodNeolithic (3200 BC)
What’s ThereNewgrange Passage Tomb, Visitor Centre, and an outdoor replica of a Megalithic home
HighlightsThe Winter Solstice sunrise, where sunlight illuminates the inner chamber
SignificanceIt is one of the best examples of a Passage Tomb in Europe and older than the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge. The site is part of the Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Notable FeaturesThe tomb is surrounded by 97 large stones called kerbstones, some of which are engraved with intricate designs. The most famous is the “Entrance Stone” that contains beautiful spiral and diamond shapes.
ToursThe site can only be visited by guided tour from the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre. The tour includes a visit to the chamber of the tomb.
Nearby AttractionsKnowth and Dowth megalithic sites which are also part of the Brú na Bóinne complex.
AccessibilityThe site is well equipped for visitors with mobility issues, with a limited number of wheelchair spaces available on tours. It’s recommended to contact the visitor center in advance.
FacilitiesVisitor center includes exhibitions, audio-visual show, café, and shop. There are also bathroom facilities and a large car park.
Interesting FactThe builders of Newgrange were skilled astronomers. The tomb is aligned with the rising sun on the Winter Solstice, illuminating the inner chamber.
Archaeological FindsHuman bones, both cremated and unburnt, were found inside, along with grave goods like pottery, beads, pendants, and other offerings.

History of Newgrange Monument

Newgrange is a prehistoric monument located in the Boyne Valley, County Meath, Ireland. It was constructed during the Neolithic period, around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. The monument consists of a large circular mound, 85m in diameter and 13m high, with a 19m stone passageway and chambers inside.

Neolithic Era

During the Neolithic era, people in Ireland began to build megalithic tombs, which were used as burial places for the dead. Newgrange is one of the most impressive examples of these tombs and is believed to have been built by a highly organized society with advanced astronomical knowledge. The monument’s alignment with the winter solstice sunrise is a testament to this knowledge.

Excavation

Newgrange was discovered by local farmers in the late 17th century, but it was not until the 20th century that it was fully excavated and restored. From 1962 to 1975, archaeologists carried out extensive excavations at the site, uncovering a wealth of information about the monument and the people who built it.

The excavations revealed that Newgrange was not just a burial place, but also a place of ritual and ceremony. The chambers inside the monument were adorned with intricate carvings and symbols, which are believed to have held great significance for the people who built them.

Today, Newgrange is recognized as one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It attracts visitors from all over the world who come to marvel at its impressive size and intricate carvings, as well as to learn about the fascinating history of this ancient monument.

Architectural Details

Newgrange is a magnificent Stone Age monument located in the Boyne Valley, Ireland. This prehistoric structure is an exceptional passage tomb built around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. Here are some architectural details that you should know about before visiting Newgrange.

Originally, when it was first excavated, archaeologists classified Newgrange as a passage tomb due to its architectural style. However, in recent years, perceptions have evolved considerably and we would now consider it to be more of an Ancient Temple.

Though it does function as a burial place, experts now understand that Newgrange, with its intricate carvings, astronomical alignments, and imposing physical presence, served more than just funerary purposes. Given these complexities, Newgrange is increasingly seen not merely as a passage tomb, but as a sophisticated and multifaceted monument that played a significant role in the religious, social, and ceremonial life of the Neolithic community.

This shift in understanding highlights the fact that Newgrange likely served as a key site for seasonal gatherings, rituals, and possibly even as an ancient form of calendar or observatory for tracking celestial events. The yearly illumination of its central chamber during the winter solstice is a testament to this hypothesis.

Passage Tomb

The passage tomb at Newgrange is a large circular mound measuring 85m in diameter and 13m high. The newgrange monument primarily consists of a 19m long stone passageway that leads to a chamber inside the mound. The passageway is aligned with the rising sun on the winter solstice, which illuminates the chamber with a beam of light. The tomb was built by a farming community that prospered on the rich lands of the Boyne Valley.

Chamber

Within the heart of Newgrange lies the mystery and marvel that is the inner chamber. This room, set at the end of a 19-meter long passage, is an impressive example of ancient engineering and design. The chamber is cruciform in shape, with three smaller recesses off the main room, which each has a large flat basin stone. It is constructed of large, carefully fitted stone slabs and topped by a corbelled roof that has remained watertight for over 5,000 years.

The main feature of the chamber is the roof-box, a unique architectural invention that allows sunlight to penetrate the tomb at dawn on the winter solstice. As the sun rises, a narrow beam of light travels up the passage to illuminate the inner chamber, marking the start of the new year. This magical event lasts for just 17 minutes and is a testament to the astronomical knowledge of the tomb’s builders. Although passage graves are seen in european neolithic religion sites, the complex roofbox on Newgrange makes it much more significant.

The walls of the chamber are adorned with intricate carvings of spirals, lozenges, and other geometric patterns, providing a glimpse into the symbolic world of our Neolithic ancestors. During excavation, human remains, pottery, and other grave goods were found within the chamber, further deepening the historical significance of this site.

Kerbstone

Newgrange has 97 large kerbstones that are arranged in a circle around the base of the mound. These famous stones are made of white quartz and are engraved with symbols called megalithic art. The symbols include spirals, lozenges, and zigzags. The kerbstones are believed to have had a ritualistic purpose and may have been used in ceremonies or as markers for important events.

Significance of Newgrange

Newgrange is a prehistoric monument located in the Boyne Valley of Ireland. It is a passage tomb built during the Neolithic period, around 3200 BC, making it older than the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Newgrange is a significant archaeological site, and it is an essential part of Ireland’s cultural heritage.

Winter Solstice Sun

The Winter Solstice sun illuminates the passage and chamber of Newgrange every year, making it a unique and fascinating phenomenon. The roof-box above the entrance to the passage allows the sunlight to penetrate the chamber and light up the entire room. The event lasts for about 17 minutes, and it is a remarkable experience to witness.

Spiritual and Ceremonial Importance

Megalithic monuments displayed evidence that Newgrange has spiritual and ceremonial significance, and it is believed to have been a place of worship and ritual or a megalithic religion. The intricate carvings on the stones inside the chamber, such as spirals and other symbols, suggest that Newgrange was a place of spiritual significance. The monument’s alignment with the Winter Solstice sun and the lunar calendar further supports its spiritual and ceremonial importance.

Art and Symbols

When you visit Newgrange, you’ll be amazed by the megalithic art and symbols that adorn the site. The tomb is ringed by 97 large kerbstones or standing stones, some of which are engraved with intricate patterns and symbols. These symbols on these large stone slabs are believed to have been created by the Neolithic people who built Newgrange over 5,000 years ago.

One of the most common symbols found at Newgrange is the spiral. Spirals can be found on many of the kerbstones and inside the tomb itself. These spirals are thought to represent the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. They may also have been used to represent the movement of the stars and planets.

In addition to spirals, other symbols found at Newgrange include chevrons, lozenges, and triangles. These symbols are often found in combination with spirals and may have had different meanings depending on their context.

The megalithic art at Newgrange is truly remarkable. The intricate patterns and symbols carved into the kerbstones and inside the tomb are a testament to the skill and creativity of the Neolithic people who built the site. When you visit Newgrange, take the time to appreciate the art and symbols that surround you. They offer a glimpse into the beliefs and culture of an ancient civilization and remind us of the enduring power of human creativity.

Visiting Newgrange

If you’re planning a visit to Newgrange in Ireland, here are some tips to help make your trip enjoyable and stress-free.

Getting There

Newgrange is located about 30 miles north of Dublin, and the easiest way to get there is by car or organized tour. If you’re driving, take the M1 north from Dublin and follow the signs for Donore. There’s a large car park at the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, where you can leave your car and catch a shuttle bus to Newgrange.

If you’re not driving, you can take a tour from Dublin that includes a visit to Newgrange and the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre. These tours usually include transportation to and from Dublin, as well as admission to the site.

Tickets and Tours

To visit Newgrange, you’ll need to buy a ticket from the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre. It’s not possible to buy tickets at the site itself, so make sure you stop at the visitor center before heading to Newgrange.

There are several different types of tickets available, including guided tours and self-guided visits and you can book for the Winter Solstice Newgrange tour (where the rising sun shines directly along the long passage into the chamber for about 17 minutes). Guided tours are recommended if you want to learn more about the history and significance of Newgrange, but they can be quite popular and may sell out in advance. Self-guided visits are a good option if you prefer to explore at your own pace.

Facilities and Accessibility

The Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre has a range of facilities, including a cafe, gift shop, and restrooms. There’s also a museum that provides an overview of the site’s history and significance.

If you have mobility issues, be aware that the site itself is not wheelchair accessible. However, there are accessible shuttle buses that can take you from the visitor center to the site. The visitor center also has accessible restrooms and parking.

Opening Times

Newgrange is open to visitors year-round, but opening times vary depending on the season. During the summer months (April to September), the site is open from 9:30am to 5:30pm. During the winter months (October to March), the site is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Be aware that the last admission to the site is one hour before closing time.

Surrounding Attractions

When you visit Newgrange, there are several other nearby attractions that are worth checking out. Here are a few that you might want to consider:

Brú na Bóinne

Located just a short distance from Newgrange, Brú na Bóinne is an expansive complex of ancient tombs and monuments that are believed to be even older than Newgrange itself. The site is home to three main passage tombs: Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth. Each of these tombs is unique and worth exploring in its own right.

Hill of Tara

The Hill of Tara is a historic site that was once the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. Today, it is a popular tourist destination that offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Visitors can explore the ancient burial mounds, stone circles, and other monuments that are scattered across the hill.

Boyne Valley

The Boyne Valley is a beautiful region that is steeped in history. It is home to several important landmarks, including the Battle of the Boyne site and several ancient castles. Visitors can explore the countryside on foot, by bike, or by car, taking in the stunning views and learning about the region’s rich history.

FAQS on Newgrange

Is Newgrange the oldest building in the world?

No, Newgrange isn’t the oldest building in the world. Though it is impressively ancient (dating back to around 3200 BC), there are other structures which are older. Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, built around 9600–8800 BC, is currently believed to be one of the oldest known architectural sites.

What is the myth of Newgrange?

One of the most famous myths associated with Newgrange involves the god Dagda and his son, Aengus. According to legend, Aengus tricked his father into giving him ownership of Newgrange by asking to reside there for “a day and a night,” which, in the cyclical understanding of time in Celtic mythology, equates to forever.

What was Newgrange originally used for?

Newgrange was originally used as a tomb, with the remains of the dead placed in its inner chambers. However, given its intricate carvings and astronomical alignments, scholars believe it also served religious, social, and ceremonial purposes. The light phenomenon during the winter solstice suggests it may have been used to track celestial events or seasons.

Can you go inside Newgrange Ireland?

Yes, you can go inside Newgrange, but it’s only possible as part of a guided tour from the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre. During the tour, you can walk through the narrow passage and into the central chamber.

Is Newgrange worth visiting?

Absolutely! Newgrange is one of Ireland’s most remarkable archaeological sites. Its ancient art, architectural design, and its alignment with the winter solstice make it a unique testament to the ingenuity of Neolithic people. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Are there bodies in Newgrange?

During excavations, human remains were found within the central chamber of Newgrange. Both cremated and unburnt remains have been discovered, alongside grave goods such as pottery, beads, and bone tools, suggesting the site was used as a burial place.

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