Newgrange is a megalithic passage tomb. It consists of one passage about 18 meters long (about 60 feet) that leads to a main cross shaped chamber. Passage and Chamber are protected by a construction of rock, wood and earth which make the Newgrange tomb. The whole construction is circular and about 250 feet (76 meters) in diameter. It is perhaps Ireland’s foremost ancient monument, and one of the most famous megalithic monuments in the world. It has been restored to an excellent state and makes for a memorable visit. It is located close to the river Boyne in County Meath in the Republic or Ireland close to the main M1 motorway that connects Dublin with Northern Ireland and Belfast, making it easily accessible from both Dublin and Belfast.
Newgrange has been dated to as early as 3,000 years BC. It functioned as a tomb. During excavations recesses were discovered in the main chamber to contain cremated remains. Newgrange must have also been related to sun worship of some sort. It is constructed in such a way that during the winter solstice at sunrise the sun shines directly through the passage its rays reaching and illuminating the dark chamber.
The event is re-enacted using electric lights. When a group of visitors enter the edifice the guide will explain the different elements of the tomb. Then he will turn off the lights and a special electric light at the entrance will simulate the rays of the sun during the winter solstice. It is an interesting experience, almost like traveling back in time. Furthermore, during the winter solstice Newgrange is open for a sunrise visit. Don’t rush to go there, though. Only a special few are permitted to attend and these are usually chosen by lot from amongst the many visitors who visit during the year.
Newgrange Ireland – Plan Your Visit Well
If you plan to visit Newgrange there are two important things to keep in mind. First, entry into Newgrange is only by guided tour. The number of people who can visit during a day is limited. During the busy summer months and also during popular holidays there is a possibility that some visitors may not be able to enter. Therefore try to arrive at the Visitor Centre as early in the morning as possible to avoid disappointment.
Second, to enter Newgrange on a tour a visitor must go to the Visitor Centre which is on a different location to the site itself. While Newgrange is on the north side of the river Boyne, the Visitor Centre is on the south bank. The distance is not great, but the closest bridge over the Boyne is closed to traffic and only the Visitor Centre tour buses are allowed to cross it. Which means that if a visitor arrives at Newgrange hoping to enter the site (as we did) he/she will be re-directed to the Visitor Centre over a circuitous route, buy a ticket, enter into the tour bus and be brought back to where he/she started. It seems odd, but this is how it works. To avoid delay and disappointment, therefore, visitors who want to enter the site should head not to Newgrange, but to the Visitor Centre on the south bank of the Boyne, 2 km west of Donore Village. Mind you, the Visitor Centre has plenty of useful information nicely arranged including audiovisual presentation so a stop over there is worth it.
All in all, Newgrange makes for a highlight in a tour across the border from Belfast or anywhere else in County Down/County Armagh.
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