Newgrange is an ultra-touristy place and one of the most popular spots in Ireland. Located less than an hour from Dublin, it is an incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site and well worth a visit.
It is one of the largest prehistoric sites in Europe, along with Stonehenge in England (but Newgrange is even older). Imagine a gigantic tumulus structured by huge blocks of stone, concentrated on a covered corridor leading to a burial chamber dating from the Neolithic period… The place cannot fail to impress!
Here is an overview of your future visit to this place built in 3200 BC.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not an expert in prehistory. Newgrange is one of the most important national tourist sites in Ireland!
And the place has everything to amaze you! You will discover a prehistoric tomb over 5,200 years old, older than the Pyramid of Giza or the English site of Stonehenge!
Located in the Boyne Valley in Eastern Ireland, the site is believed to have been built by farmers in the Stone Age and is also known as the “New-farm of Mellifont”.
It was once used as a temple and burial ground. According to legend, it is the burial place of great deities of Irish mythology, such as Dagda and her son Aengus.
According to the researchers, this is an exceptional site, concentrating infinite information on the prehistoric period in Ireland! You can learn a lot about everything: daily life, construction methods, art, beliefs, relationship with death… In short: Newgrange is one of the jewels to know in Ireland!
As you can see, Newgrange is one of the oldest archaeological sites ever recorded in the world!
However, the site fell into disuse after prehistoric times and was completely covered by vegetation. A phenomenon that made this tomb look like a simple hill to the local Irish population!
The cairn remained completely sealed for several centuries before being discovered almost accidentally in 1699 by Edward Llwyd. From then on, Newgrange has never ceased to fascinate and to give up its secrets, still maintaining a certain amount of mystery today…
Today, the Irish Cairn is open to visitors.
However, it is strongly recommended that you book your place in advance on the Newgrange website (the current health protocol, as well as the high popularity of the site, does not guarantee you a guaranteed place without prior booking).
Please note that visitors can only access Newgrange via a guided tour from the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, located on the south bank of the River Boyne.
You will need to park on the south bank, cross the river on a footbridge and take a shuttle bus to the site.
Important: there is no direct public access to Newgrange by road, except on mornings around the winter solstice. If you are using a GPS satellite navigation system, you will need to point to the Visitor Centre at Brú na Bóinne, otherwise you will never reach the official entrance to the site.
Once there, you will discover a fascinating exhibition about the building and the research work carried out by renowned archaeologists and historians.
You will discover, among other things, that Newgrange is now considered a “prehistoric temple”. A designation that goes far beyond the simple status of a burial tomb that was initially attributed to it.
For specialists, Newgrange has a much greater significance. Its dimension is historical and religious, but it also provides information on the local way of life at the time. Indeed, the imposing size of the building suggests that the society of the time that built the monument was well organised, with specialised trades.
Then it’s time for you to visit the monument. And what you will learn once you are there is simply fascinating!
Newgrange is of gigantic proportions: the mound has a diameter of 85 metres and a height of 13 metres! It is crossed by a 19-metre long open corridor leading to a cruciform burial chamber. This chamber has a corbelled roof and access to 3 alcoves. The whole thing is intact, and was of course built by hand, at a time when tools were much more rudimentary than today!
Another feature is that the peripheral structure of the building is consolidated by 97 large megaliths (called “kerbstones”), some of which still have prehistoric engravings. The most notable of these is at the entrance, where the decoration is clear, showing both radial and circular engravings.
More than 200,000 tons of stone were transported to build the mound (it thus provides protection for the chamber and corridor). The roof is made of small smooth stones, which, by a meticulous arrangement, protected the monument from the rain and the wind: everything is waterproof, even nowadays!
The visit is fascinating, and you can be accompanied by guides who are full of humour and kindness. (Foreign visitors are not left out: there are even multilingual translations if you are allergic to the language of Shakespeare).
) Note that at the end of your visit, you can discover other cairns similar to Newgrange (but much smaller), such as Knowth or Dowth. These two sites are part of the same archaeological complex at Newgrange, known as Brú na Bóinne.
For the record, there is an incredible phenomenon that takes place every year at Newgrange.
It occurs at the winter solstice: the sun rises and passes through a notch above the lintel of the main door of the building. Thus, the sunlight passes through the colour to hit the bottom of the tomb, 19 metres away!
A phenomenon that lasts 17 minutes on average and is spread over 3 days… It is the only time of the year when this happens!
According to the researchers, this phenomenon is not the result of chance. The builders of the time would have deliberately built Newgrange taking into account factors related to astronomy. They would have used the sun and the stars to design their monument, and to enable it to see its tomb lit up on the solstice!
The phenomenon is now so fascinating that Ireland organises an annual lottery to select a small group of lucky people who can slip into the tomb to witness the event from the inside. The whole thing is filmed in partnership with the OPW, which then broadcasts the event live on its YouTube channel!
Some years are disappointing: when the weather is overcast, the sun doesn’t always manage to break through the cloud cover and light up the site. But when the weather is good, the show is worth it!
every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.