Located in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East, Newgrange is emblematic of the Emerald Isle’s rich and mysterious prehistory.
There is a Place in the East…
The Newgrange Stone Age Passage Tomb is found in the beautiful Boyne Valley, County Wicklow. It was discovered in 1699 and has since become one of the great landmarks of Ireland. Now a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site, this remarkably well-preserved tomb attracts a whopping 200,000 visitors every year.
Older than the Pyramids of Giza…
Archaeologists have dated the tomb back to 3,200BC – placing its construction 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge! This impressive structure was built by Stone Age farmers to host ritualistic ceremonies. The site is full of intricate Celtic engravings and triskele and spiral designs abound. There is also a mysterious stone circle.
A Solstice Surprise
What makes Newgrange truly special however is the special event that takes place during the Winter Solstice… For approximately 17 minutes every year on December 21st, the passage is dramatically illuminated by the light of dawn. The light represents the end of winter darkness and signifies the beginning of a new year. The fact that this breathtaking phenomenon has taken place with astonishing accuracy every year through the millennia just goes to highlight the incredible engineering prowess of the tomb’s ancient builders.
Competition to see this event is fierce with over 30,000 applications submitted every year. The chosen few – 50 to be exact – are chosen by lottery (and are very lucky sods indeed). However, the more unfortunate among us can still experience this magical moment via live streaming online.
A Place Embedded in Irish Folklore
Newgrange has featured in many Irish folk tales and legends. The Celts believed that it was home to The Dagda (the chief God, much like Zeus in Greek Mythology) and his son Aengus – the God of love and poetry. Another legend was that the tomb housed the remains of the Ancient Kings of Tara. others considered them to be the burial mounds of the ancient high-kings of Tara.