One of only two UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Republic of Ireland, Newgrange pre dates both the standing stones of Stonehenge in England and the pyramids in Egypt.
The great passage tomb is world famous for the phenomena during the winter solstice in December when a single shaft of dawn sunlight precisely penetrates and illuminates the inner chamber of the tomb.
The Megalithic passage tomb at Knowth was built in the same period as Newgrange, around 3200 BC and has an astronomical alignment to the equinoxs occuring in March and September. The mound features two passages leading to separate burial chambers and is surrounded by 17 smaller cairns or tombs.
Knowth contains a wealth of examples of Megalithic art - many of the engravings are in spiral form like those at Newgrange plus there are a variety of other imagery including the oldest known illustration of the moon in history.
Possibly the oldest and also least explored passage tomb in the Brú na Boínne area is Dowth. The name Dowth cones from the Irish, 'Dubad' meaning 'Place of Darkness'.
The tomb has two passages, one of which has an alignment towards the setting sun on the winter solstice when a single beam enters and strikes the back of the circular inner chamber.
It is thought there is a total of 115 kerb stones at Dowth although many remain buried. The most famous is Kerb Stone 51 known as 'Stone of the Seven Suns'.
The stone features engravings of suns with rays coming from their centres. There are seven suns in total, six of which are contained within circles.
Hill of Tara
The Hill of Tara is well known in Irish mythology as the residence of the High Kings of Ireland. Tara gets its name from Teamhair na Rí, 'Sanctuary of the Kings'. It is said that one quarter of the Irish landscape can be seen from the hill.
A passage tomb on the Hill of Tara, Dumha na nGiall, 'The Mound of the Hostages' dates from 3000BC.
Another important monument on the hill is the standing stone, Lía Fáil, 'Stone of Destiny'. This was the inauguration stone of the Kings of Tara. According to legend, when a true Irish or Scottish King placed their foot on the stone it cried out to announce his rightful reign. Why not try this out when you visit? You never know, you might have royal blood in your veins!
Fourknocks Passage Tomb
A small Neolithic burial mound, Fourknocks is part of a complex of sites in the area. The name comes from the Irish, 'Fuair Cnoic' meaning, 'The Cold Hills'. It was built around 3000BC and features a large burial chamber with a short entrance passage.
The entrance lintel stone was moved into the chamber during previous excavations to protect it from weathering. It showcases a series of pristinely preserved diamond markings surrounded by zig-zags or chevrons. This type of engraving could possibly represent star fields.
Fourknocks is significant to Newgrange because it too is aligned with the axis of the winter solstice sunrise. The passage of Newgrange points towards Fourknocks and in turn Fourknocks points to the rising of an important star, Deneb, the bright tail star of the constellation, Cygnus which is cruiform in shape, just like the passage at Newgrange.
It is truly awe inspiring to think that people 5,000 years ago built Fourknocks and Newgrange as part of a great astronomical construct designed to capture a very specific moment in time.
As with all of our Custom Irish Tours, we are happy to recommend a lunch stop on the day (please note admission fees and meals are not included in tour prices).
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