Discover The Boyne Valley Ireland: A Guide to Ireland’s Ancient East




The Boyne Valley


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The Boyne Valley is a special region because of its extraordinary wealth of archaeological sites and its significant role in Irish history. It is often referred to as the ‘cradle of Irish civilization.’

The region is dotted with Neolithic tombs, Bronze Age monuments, Iron Age fortifications, early Christian monastic sites, and medieval castles. It has been a center of human settlement for at least 6,000 years.

The region’s rich history combined with its beautiful river valley landscapes makes it truly special and well worth a visit on any tour of Ireland.

Key Takeaways

  • The Ancient Boyne Valley in Ireland’s Ancient East is a destination steeped in history and offers a wealth of cultural and outdoor activities.
  • The region is rich in historical significance, with Stone Age tombs, the seat of the High Kings, and Europe’s largest collection of megalithic art.
  • The Boyne Valley boasts a range of attractions and monuments, including the iconic passage tomb of Newgrange, making it an ideal destination for history, culture, and outdoor adventure enthusiasts.

Quick Summary

NewgrangeNeolithicOne of the world’s oldest prehistoric monuments, it’s a large circular mound with an interior stone passageway and chambers. Known for its winter solstice alignment.
KnowthNeolithicAnother remarkable passage tomb, Knowth is home to a third of all megalithic art in Europe.
DowthNeolithicThis passage tomb is less developed for tourism but holds equal historic importance, with significant solstice alignments.
Hill of TaraNeolithic to Iron AgeTraditional seat of the High Kings of Ireland, full of ancient earthworks, standing stones and a church.
Hill of SlaneChristian eraAssociated with St. Patrick, this hill houses the remains of a monastery, church, and tower.
Battle of the Boyne site17th Century (1690 AD)The location of the pivotal Battle of the Boyne, now featuring a visitor center and battlefield tours.
Trim CastleMedieval (12th Century)The largest Norman castle in Ireland, preserved in remarkable condition. It offers guided tours and panoramic views from the keep.
MonasterboiceEarly Christian eraRenowned for its round tower and high crosses, this early Christian settlement was an important center of religion and learning.
Mellifont AbbeyMedieval (12th Century)The first Cistercian monastery in Ireland, now in ruins but still providing an insight into monastic life of the period.

Historical Significance

The Boyne Valley is steeped in history, with a rich tapestry of ancient monuments, legends, and battles that have shaped Ireland’s past. Here are some of the key historical events and figures that have left their mark on this fascinating region.

Ancient East

The Boyne Valley is known as the birthplace of Ireland’s Ancient East, a region steeped in mythology and history. The area is home to some of the world’s most mythical landscapes, including the Hill of Tara, Hill of Slane, and Hill of Ward. These hills were once the seat of ancient Irish kings, and are steeped in legends and folklore.

The High Kings

The Hill of Tara was once the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, and is one of the most important archaeological sites in the country. It is said that 142 kings reigned from this hill, which was the political and spiritual center of Ireland for over 1,000 years.

Battle of the Boyne

The Battle of the Boyne, fought in 1690, was one of the most significant battles in Irish history. It was fought between King William III and the exiled King James II, and resulted in a decisive victory for William and the Protestant cause. The battle site is now a major tourist attraction, and visitors can explore the battlefield and learn about the history of the conflict.

Monastic Heritage

The Boyne Valley is also home to a rich monastic heritage, with sites such as Mellifont Abbey and Monasterboice showcasing the region’s religious history. Mellifont Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland, and was founded in 1142. Monasterboice is home to a round tower, high crosses, and other monastic ruins, and is one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland.

Anglo-Norman Influence

The Boyne Valley was also heavily influenced by the Anglo-Normans, who arrived in Ireland in the 12th century. The region is home to Ireland’s largest Anglo-Norman castle, Trim Castle, which was used as a filming location for the movie Braveheart. The town of Drogheda also has a rich Norman heritage, with sites such as St. Laurence’s Gate and Millmount Monument showcasing the region’s Norman history.

Exploring the Region

When you visit the Boyne Valley, you’ll find an abundance of history, culture, and natural beauty to explore. The region is located in the northeast of Ireland and is home to two counties, Meath and Louth. The Boyne River flows through the area, providing a scenic backdrop for your travels.

The Boyne River

The river Boyne is a major waterway in Ireland, and it has played a significant role in the region’s history. The river is approximately 70 miles long and flows through both Meath and Louth. It is known for its salmon fishing, and you can try your hand at catching some of these prized fish if you’re so inclined.

One of the most famous sites along the Boyne River is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne. This site includes the ancient passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth, which date back over 5,000 years. These tombs are some of the oldest and most significant megalithic sites in Europe, and they are a must-see when you visit the Boyne Valley.

The Boyne River is not the only waterway in the region. The Royal Canal Greenway is a popular cycling and walking route that follows the course of the Royal Canal. The route takes you through beautiful countryside and charming towns and villages, and it’s a great way to explore the region.

The Blackwater River is another waterway that is worth exploring. It flows through County Meath and is known for its fishing and scenic beauty. There are several fishing spots along the river, and you can also take a leisurely stroll along its banks.

Attractions and Monuments

The Boyne Valley is full of ancient sites and heritage sites, and is a really important part of Ireland’s ancient east. Here are some of the top attractions and monuments you won’t want to miss:

Trim Castle

Trim Castle is one of the most impressive castles in the Boyne Valley. Built in the 12th century, it is the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland. You can take a guided tour of the castle and learn about its history and architecture.

Brú na Bóinne

Brú na Bóinne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the most impressive prehistoric monuments in Europe is situated in the heart of Ireland’s Boyne valley in Co Meath. The archaeological site includes the famous Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth tombs, which date back over 5,000 years. Go to the brú na bóinne visitor centre to enter these prehistoric sites.


Newgrange is one of the most famous monuments in the Boyne Valley. It is a prehistoric tomb that was built over 5,000 years ago. The tomb is famous for its intricate carvings and the way the rising sun light enters the chamber on the winter solstice.


Knowth is another prehistoric tomb in the Boyne Valley. It is the largest of the three tombs at Brú na Bóinne and is known for its impressive collection of megalithic art.


Dowth is the third tomb at Brú na Bóinne. It is smaller than Newgrange and Knowth, but still worth a visit. The tomb is known for its impressive carvings and its alignment with the winter solstice.

Battle of the Boyne Site

The Battle of the Boyne Site is a historic battlefield where the famous battle took place in 1690. You can take a guided tour of the site and learn about the history of the battle and its significance.

Slane Castle

Slane Castle is a beautiful 18th-century castle that has been home to the Conyngham family for over 300 years. You can take a tour of the castle and learn about its history, or attend one of the many events that take place on the castle grounds throughout the year. Many famous people have played Slane including UK and the Rolling stones.

In Slane village, you will notice four Georgian houses built in the 1700’s which face each other, known as the four sisters. The hill of Slane is famous for where St. Patrick lit the first Easter fire in ireland, when he came to the Hill of Tara to confront the ancient religion.

Travel Tips

The Boyne Valley is located in the northeast of Ireland, about 50 km north of Dublin and 120 km south of Belfast. The easiest way to get there is by flying into Dublin International Airport and then renting a car or taking a bus to the Boyne Valley. Dublin Airport has buses outside which take you to most of the North East of Ireland. Alternatively, you can take a regular train service to Drogheda or Navan and then rent a car or take a taxi to your accommodation.

If you’re driving, there are several motorways that connect Dublin to the Boyne Valley, including the M1, M2, M3, and M4. If you’re coming from the north, you can take a ferry to Belfast and then drive south to the Boyne Valley.

FAQs on The Boyne Valley Ireland

Where in Ireland is the Boyne Valley?

The Boyne Valley is located in the eastern part of Ireland, spanning across counties Meath and Louth. This region is only a short drive north of Dublin, Ireland’s capital.

Is Boyne Valley worth visiting?

Absolutely, the Boyne Valley is a must-visit. Rich in history and archaeological sites, it’s known as the birthplace of Ireland’s Ancient East. It is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Bru na Boinne complex (which includes Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth), the Hill of Tara, and the historic town of Trim. Additionally, it offers stunning natural landscapes, so it’s not only a history buff’s dream but also a treat for nature lovers.

What ancient sites are in Boyne Valley?

Boyne Valley is home to numerous ancient sites. The Bru na Boinne complex, comprising Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth, is perhaps the most famous. These are passage tombs that date back to the Neolithic period. The Hill of Tara, once the seat of the High King of Ireland, and the ancient monastic site of Monasterboice with its round tower and high crosses are other notable ancient sites. The historic Trim Castle, the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, is another significant site in the Boyne Valley.

Which is older Stonehenge or Newgrange?

Newgrange is older than Stonehenge. Newgrange was constructed around 3200 BC, during the Neolithic period. On the other hand, Stonehenge was built in several phases starting around 3000 BC, with the unique stone circle erected in the late Neolithic period around 2500 BC.

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