Newgrange, Ireland. The “Jewel in the Crown of Ireland's Ancient East,” as it’s referred to—and for good reason.
This massive passage tomb is more than just a tomb. It’s an epic, spiritual marvel; it’s an intricately designed feat of construction; it’s a mystery.
Weighing in at around 200,000 tones of rock stacked 12.5 meters (41 feet) high this place is huge!
New Grange - 5200 Year Old Passage Tomb
Newgrange is a gem of megalithic art, impressively waterproof, and situated in a hauntingly beautiful location amid a grassy field.
The windswept terrain lends the site an ethereal atmosphere, allowing for the stone circle and tomb mound to appear even more prominent against the vast horizon.
Newgrange is a must-see, not only for those interested in megalithic art but for anyone at all intrigued by the spectacular.
Newgrange is a prehistoric monument in County Meath, and also known as Ireland’s most famous passage tomb.
Dating at around 3,200 BC, it’s officially older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids!
It’s an impressive site, consisting of a large mound with a diameter of around 80 meters and surrounded by a stone circle that is made up of roughly 100 kerbstones, many of which are made of engraved white quartz stones.
The mound itself is rather intricate and includes an inner stone passageway and a number of chambers that visitors can explore.
The entrance, an impressive and highly decorated stone, is widely regarded as an excellent example of megalithic art.
Amazingly, Newgrange in its entirety weighs in at around 200,000 tones of rock, and visiting really allows you to feel its power and importance.
It is massive, awe-inspiring, and truly lives up to its name as one of the most important megalithic structures in Europe.
History of Newgrange
Newgrange is yet another example of a site without a clear-cut history.
While archeologists have been able to piece together part of what they believe the site was used for, full agreement about its origins has yet to be reached.
Still, there is evidence that points towards its religious use; Newgrange’s entrance was built so that it aligns with the rising sun during Winter Solstice.
This suggests that it may have been used as a calendar of sorts, marking the beginning and the end of each year.
Though it is classified as a passage tomb, Newgrange is in fact considered to be more of a temple, considering its history as a place of spiritual and religious ceremony.
The dead were celebrated at Newgrange, and with each Winter Solstice, they were considered to be birthed into a new form of life.
Note: Photos are not allowed inside. Any photography shown in this post from inside are courtesy Creative Commons.
Newgrange was built by a farming community in the Stone Age, and its intricacy and the level of labor required in its construction points towards a connection to a respected, well-formed society.
Archeologists have been able to uncover human bones and various offerings inside the burial chambers, but to whom exactly those bones belonged remains a mystery.
What to expect when visiting Newgrange
Visiting Newgrange feels powerful, not merely because of the sheer size of the passage tomb (which covers a total area of about one acre) but because of the obvious care that went into its construction.
The position of the sun was a careful consideration that went into this, and during Winter Solstice.
It can be seen shining through the passage and chamber, both of which are perfectly aligned with the light.
For this reason, it’s recommended that visitors come during this time (although it can get crowded then, so prepare accordingly).
Tours book up years in advance for the Winter Solstice tour.
One of the most impressive parts of Newgrange is the entrance stone. It is a highly intricate piece of sculpture, carved with beautiful designs that almost look like abstract faces, along with a variety of spirals.
The long passage inside the tomb leads to a cross-shaped chamber whose roof is sealed with another large stone, about 6 meters off the ground.
Impressively, Newgrange is totally waterproof even after 5,000 years. Try visiting on a rainy day and putting it to the test!
Tips for visiting Newgrange in Bru na Boine
Though Newgrange is hands-down a must-see, visiting does require a bit of planning.
You can only access the site through a guided tour, which leaves by bus from the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Center on the south side of the river Boyne—this is also where visitors can park their cars.
There are clearly marked signs to guide you on your way, so don’t worry about the added steps needed to witness this marvel—they’re worth it!
Once you reach the site, visitors are able to crawl into the tomb with about 20 other people.
This is a significant experience, in part because it’s a collective one, but keep in mind that if you’re prone to claustrophobia, skipping this part of the tour is probably a good idea.
The tour itself takes about 40 minutes and it’s recommended that you purchase tickets online in advance—tours sell out quickly!
What to Wear and What to Bring
In terms of attire, wearing rain gear is always a safe bet, and of course durable shoes with good traction.
There are no storage lockers at the main office in Bru na Boine, so you will have to carry everything with you. The passages are tight so a small day bag is recommended.
If photography is on your radar, you won't have a lot of time. Dave and I split up and I went inside to experience the Bru na Boine tour while Dave stayed outside to capture photographs. It was the perfect time for him as the crowd was split in two while we were inside, he could freely take photographs.
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Regardless of whether or not you choose to enter into the tomb, Newgrange as a whole is a spectacular sight and, even better, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss it.
KT Browne is a writer and editor based in Iceland. Her work can be found at KT Browne.com. We are excited to have her contributing regular content to The Planet D.