Newgrange and Knowth are two of the oldest structures on the planet – and less than an hour drive from Dublin. It would be crazy to miss it while in Ireland
We hit the road about 11 on Saturday morning and drove directly to the Br na Binne Visitor Centre, the gateway to the Newgrange and Knowth ancient sites. Despite plenty of warnings, (normally the wait time is pretty long – it’s recommended you arrive as early as possible) we were lucky to be able to immediately join the Knowthe followed shortly by Newgrange. Tours include transport to the site, and are necessary to gain access to the megaliths, there’s no sneaking in or queue jumping possible.
Knowth has one megalith, surrounded by several satellite tombs, it has clearly been reconstructed in parts, but a lot of the original pieces are still in place. It is an impressive site, especially when you understand that these monuments were built over 5000 years ago, 500 years before the first Pyramid in Egypt. The tour guide was knowledgeable and interesting, showing us the various stages in development that had happened in and around the hill. There is also an opportunity to go inside, to a newly built display room, showing some of the more recent (but still 100s of years old) developments and the entrance to the original passageway to the central chamber that held the remains that led archaeologists to believe it to be a tomb.
Newgrange is a larger and more visually impressive site, with the quartz wall rebuilt along the front side. The carved rocks on display are the originals, and in the correct position, and are the reason for the wooden steps that lead to the internal passage. While this somewhat spoils the frontage, it protects these carvings, with the Tri-Spiral, a symbol only seen at this site. The tour guide here provides an excellent base of knowledge about the site, including the uncertainties involved with piecing together the evidence, and the variety of theories about the area. You are lead into the megalith to the very centre, a chamber which contains three large dish shaped pieces that are said to have been the first stones laid (they are too large to fit through the passageway).
There is some wonderful original carving, as well as some less historic carved graffiti from the 1800’s. Using the lights it’s possible to give you an idea of what the room is like on the morning of the shortest days of the year.
On these days the sunlight comes through the ‘roof box’, a window above the door, right into the chamber. This is only for 20 minutes maximum, and is said to be of ancient sacred significance. You can enter a lottery to be allowed to be in the room on one of these day on the Heritage Ireland website. I hope the weather is good for the winners.
If you don’t have your own transport to get to these amazing site. There are tours from from Dublin which the Hostel staff here can help you with .