11th Stop in Ireland: Newgrange
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
Brú na Bóinne is a great place to visit if you want to connect with the past.
Ash and I drove 1.5 hours south from Belfast to County Meath to make one last stop before we dropped our car back off near Dublin. Ash had had such an incredible experience when we visited Stonehenge in England a year prior, that I felt they would really enjoy seeing Brú na Bóinne. We parked our car at the visitor's center and went inside to pay for our entrance (tickets can not be purchased online). The visitor's center, like most of the visitor center's in Ireland, had a gift shop and a small cafe, but we didn't spend too much time exploring these things. We were more interested in grabbing our shuttle out to the prehistoric tombs.
We purchased tickets to see Newgrange and Knowth, but skipped Dowth. From the visitor center we were required to walk to the shuttle. It was a pretty walk over a creek and through groves of trees. When looking closely, we could see Newgrange off in the distance. We sat at the shuttle stop and waited for our bus to come.
As always, I want to mention that the historical information we mention in our blogs comes straight from the websites we link to, so please take the time to visit them if you want more in-depth information.
The drive from the visitor's center to the site wasn't bad. Within 15 minutes we were at the entrance of the first tomb. Newgrange is the most well-known of the three main Irish passage tombs located in Brú na Bóinne. It dates back to 3,200 B.C., and is covered by a large grassy dome containing a single entrance. The cool thing about Newgrange is that they actually let you inside. The guide split our tour group in half and the first group went into the main passage while the second group explored the exterior.
Going through the passage we had to crouch, bend, and twist. It's a very tight walk, so if you are claustrophobic this might not be ideal for you. The passage brought our group into a single chamber filled with art, basin stones (believed to hold the remains of the dead), and a capstoned roof that has stayed intact since it was first built. After we all squeezed in, the guide told us about the tomb's roof box which lets in a beam of light only during the Winter Solstice. In fact, you can enter your name into a lottery that is drawn once a year for a chance to sit inside the tomb on December 21st and see this in action. But since it was far from winter, and many of us would most likely not be winning the solstice lottery, the guide gave us an idea of what this beam of light was like through an electrical demo they had set up.
We crawled out of the tomb and began our exploration of the outside. Walking around Newgrange we saw large stones carved with intricate shapes and swirls. It was incredible to think about how ancient this place really was; we were walking on the land and touching the same things that people walked and touched thousands of years ago. Rich images of ancient druids, kings, and festivals came to mind, filling my body with a feeling or mystery and wonder. Once we completed our walk of the tomb's circumference, we made our way back to the bus to prepare for our ride to Knowth.
I had visited Newgrange before, but seeing Knowth was a new thing I was able to experience with Ash. The main tomb at Knowth is 95 meters across and has not one, but two passages. Along with this, Knowth has a lot more carved stone art, and there are 18 smaller domes that sit on the land surrounding the main tomb. Unlike Newgrange, you are not able to go inside the tombs, but i was able to snap a few photos of the passageways from outside. This site is very green, and very lush. I can't explain it exactly, but it had a cozier quality to it than Newgrange did, although this may have been due to the incoming cloud coverage which created a beautiful, shadowy gloom over the area.
If you choose to visit Brú na Bóinne, I recommend seeing both Newgrange and Knowth. The experience of each site is very different, but important to take in. I would like to go back some day and see Dowth, just to get the full experience of this place, but in the meantime I would welcome anyone who has visited Dowth to leave us a description of your experience. We would love to learn from you!
I do ask that this stays a positive and safe space for readers, so please, no hurtful language or remarks about other's experiences. Thank you.