CONSTRUCTION OF the proposed Slane bypass in Co Meath could have implications for the world heritage status of Brú na Bóinne, the site that is home to the megalithic tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, a planning hearing was told yesterday... continues...
Ireland's Newgrange: Countdown to winter's magic moment
On the morning of 21 December, a select group of people made their way through a dark, narrow passage and gathered in a small cross-shaped chamber at Newgrange in Co Meath, Irish Republic, to celebrate the winter solstice... continues...
24,000 apply for 50 places to see Newgrange solstice
Nearly 24,000 people applied for the Winter Solstice draw in the hope of being in Newgrange on the shortest day of the year. However, just 50 names were selected at the "Winter Solstice Lottery" at the Brú na Bóinne Visitors' Centre last Friday.
At last, I get to visit the famous Newgrange – and what a fab place it is!
Now, I know a lot has been said about the reconstruction, restrictions on visiting times etc but despite all this I thoroughly enjoyed my (brief) visit.
Following out bus ride to Knowth, myself and Dafydd jumped on our allotted bus to Newgrange. There were 4 of us on the bus to Knowth – there were 60 of us on two buses going to Newgrange!! As we wound our way through the country lanes I caught my first glimpse of the famous white façade through the trees – I was getting excited! We disembarked and waited for our guide to lead us to the site.
I won't talk about the site itself as I doubt there is anything else I can add.
What I will talk about are the visitor arrangements.
I thought the visitor centre was excellent; housing a very good museum, shop and restaurant.
(Far, far better than what Stonehenge has to offer!)
The organisation of the site bookings/buses was slick and the staff friendly and helpful.
I also thought the entry fee was very reasonable (free for Dafydd)
The only down side for me was the lack of time you had actually at the site to have a good look around and try to get a 'feel' for the place. In saying that I guess with so many people wishing to visit, it is understandable that time is kept to a minimum?
I can't finish without mentioning the chamber – wow! fantastic!
The 'light show' they do is very well done and adds to the occasion.
All in all a most definite 'must see' site.
We were luckier at Newgrange with our guide than we had been at Knowth. He was far more interested and interesting, even though he had such a short amount of time to "talk the talk".
I had been so thoroughly warned about the commercialism of this site that I turned up expecting to be disappointed; a great idea, as it turns out, because it was actually less Disneyfied than I had imagined and I had a great time!
We really didn't have enough time to walk around the outside of the site though and our photos felt rushed rather than thought out - I think we just pointed and clicked, hoping we could get it all in! That evening, when I read about the site I realised that we had missed loads of interesting stuff. Ah well, good excuse for a return visit.
At Loughcrew I felt quite emotional, seeing inside the passage and into the chamber. A similar thing happened here but it was the roof which took my breath away. I just kept staring up at it, unable to comprehend the incredible feat of engineering I was witnessing. I'm not sure about the facade of the tomb, whether the quartz was indeed used as a covering, although it seems as plausible as using gypsum to cover sites. I liked the idea of it being used as a ceremonial walkway though.
All in all, I was mightily impressed with Newgrange and I have to say that, if you have to have a visitor centre, then have one like this! It was very sympathetically designed and the interpretative centre was pretty good.
Just to echo others here; as we were leaving around 2pm, they were turning people away as all of the tours were fully booked. I would recommend you get there by lunchtime at the latest (oh and the food was great too....I now have a bottle of Bru Na Boinne springwater on my shelf with Newgrange on the label; great souvenir!!)
Newgrange looks amazing from the outside, but is blatantly too good to be true. The chamber is beyond belief. I just wish I could spend some time in there without an official guide's voice as accompaniment.
As a small contribution to the winter solstice celebrations, I've posted some images of the inside of Newgrange taken during a visit in the late 80s when you were taken round the tomb at a much more leisurely pace than today and photography was permitted.
Also posted are images from roughly the same time of some art on the kerbstones. Most of these stones already appear here but the new ones are from the days before the lichen started to grow.
The identification system in the images (K for kerb, C for chamber, L and R for left and right hand sides of the passage) are those used by O'Kelly.
Myself and my girlfriend visited this site in the summer of 2001. The visitors centre was very busy and we were told there was a limited number of trips to Newgrange. Luckily we managed to get on the last-but-one bus out to the tomb. The lesson is go early especially if you want to see the other sites in the valley. It is sad that this place has been so commercialised but it is inevitable with the level of interest.
They had rigged a spotlight up to simulate the sun shining through the lintel above the doorframe which was cool, this was accompanied by a knowledgeable commentary by the guide. I can't remember if there was a ban on taking photos inside, I certainly took some pictures (sneakily mibbe). My only gripe is that the time alloted to see inside the tomb and take pictures of the artwork is only _just_ enough if you are a very quick worker. Don't expect any time to take in the 'vibes'. Still, it is worth a visit. The carvings are absolutely stunning (as you can see from the photos here) and the tomb itself is a must-see.
Our visit to Newgrange came after Dowth and Knowth. The contrast between these three sites is incredible. The white facade, is as the tour guides themselves admit pure conjecture, and was most likely chosen because it was the prettiest use imaginable. The truth is it looks way too modern in style. Too angular, too twee. Looking beyond this the decorated stones are wonderful, as is the large circle.
Our guide for Newgrange was like a slightly toned down holiday rep. She insisted on cracking jokes about Neolithic people, and at one point started making drumming sounds in order to get people to move clockwise round the chamber. I felt completely ridiculous being a part of the whole sham. Once the bored and claustrophobic tourists had left, I asked the girl a few questions. She had told us when we entered that it was possible to see the light coming through the box at the entrance if you lay on the floor. I did just that, and it turned out she'd never actually tried it herself. She didn't try it this time either. She became impatient and kind of started moving us out. Along the passage way I stopped a couple of times to look at the carvings. She let out a sigh, and said something along the lines of "come on, there's more people to come through yet". Outrageous. We were probably the only people genuinely interested in the site, and yet we were treat with contempt. We were being processed and that's for sure. It's a real shame, because this place must once have been amazing.
One more thing - You cannot take photographs in the main chamber because, as our lovely guide said, some people still respect the dead you know. There are however a series of ten postcards for sale in the security hut/gift shop which have been taken within the chamber. Did a ghost perhaps take these shots?
We went on a family holiday in about 1978 or '79 in Tulliallan, near Drogheda, and during the holiday we visited Newgrange.
I remember thinking that day that the surrounding wall looked a bit like the Battle of Bannockburn memorial rotunda which is an odd modernist, 60's stylised thing which is a few hundred yards from where we lived at the time.
I definitely remember squatting down with my Dad who was trying to explain something about the sunlight coming through a passage on a certain special day.
I want to come back here and try to see past all the touristy stuff.
Known anciently as Brugh na Boinne "Place of the Boyne" Newgrange is said to be the tomb of 'three times fifty sons of kings' belonging to the legendary kingdom of Tara (Illustrated guide to Newgrange by O'Kelly) It is also identified as the sidhe of Angus Mac Og, leader of the Tuatha da Danann- the children of the godess Danu/ Dana.
One legend "The Dream of Angus" relates how he fell in love with a swan-maiden after she visited him in a dream. After she agreed to marry him, they fly off to Newgrange in the form of swans, where they lived happily ever after. In Scottish folklore, Angus was married to the goddess Bride, who was herself a swan-maiden.
This is an interesting refernce as Newgrange itself may represent the layout of the constellation Cygnus- The Swan.
If the axial orientation of Newgrange's entrance corridor were to be extended beond where the sun rises over Roughgrange Hill... it brings you at a distance of 15 kilometers to another passage grave called Fourknocks. According to work by Murphy and Moore (The Cygnus Enigma) the "window" created by the entrance at Fourknocks would have aligned with the star Deneb in the constellation Cygnus.
"On the night of the midwinter solstice, Deneb marks the location of the sun from the time the sun sets until the time the sun rises plus or minus the time it takes for Deneb to come out into the darkening sky. So observers at either mound (Fourknocks or Newgrange) could track the position of the sun below the horizon using Deneb as their guide"
Interestingly, Newgrange itself is also observed to have a layout that resembles cygnus, with Deneb falling into its northern recess, gamma cygni positioned at the centre of the stone-lined chamber and beta cygni (the beakstar) located at the mouth of the passageway.
"Amlaibh, Imhar and Auisle (Audgisl) three chieftains of the gaill; and Lorcan, son of Cathal, King of Meath, plundered the land of Flann (North Brega).
The cave of Achadh-Aldai (Newgrange); the cave of Cnoghba (Knowth); the cave of the grave of Bodan over Dubadh (Dowth); and the cave of the wife of Gobhan at Drochat-atha (Drogheda) were broken and plundered by these same gaill."
Taken from the Annals of Ulster
The viking raids on the great megalithic tombs of the Boyne valley in 863; by Olaf (Amlaibh) Ivar (Imhar) and Audgisl, probably carried out because after all the monastic raids that had been undertaken over the previous years, 'treasure' was by now getting hard to find.
Is it true you may ask yourself, well it was recorded, and though there is some dispute about Newgrange (according to Gordon), it is a fascinating fact. The book I found this information from goes on to speculate, that one of the 'gaills' Ivar might have been the son of Ragnar Lothbrok, who spent three days in Maes Knowe because of a storm raging violently outside, and left the following scrawled on the wall...
This mound was raised before Ragnar Lothbrok's...
His sons were brave, smooth-hide men though they were...
It was long ago that a great treasure was hidden here...
Happy is he that might find the great treasure...
Be that as it may, I expect there was'nt much treasure in the great tombs of the Boyne valley either.
Information gleaned from 'The Fury of the Northmen' by John Marsden.
New budget accomodation only 5mins walk from the Brú na Bóinne centre. Very nicely decorated inside with leather sofas and plasma screen in the common room, rooms are comfortable and staff are very freindly. Has both double rooms and dormer rooms for very good prices.
Although I didn't get to visit this Passage Grave up close (in a field full of crop and not part of the Newgrange 'tour') I was able to see it out of the bus window.
Easily seen on the left (when travelling from the visitors centre to Newgrange)
While we were waiting for our turn to enter the passage of Newgrange, Dafydd and myself walked (or more accurately got blown) around the remains of the stone circle.
The stones are large but not as large as Avebury/Stonehenge. They were however big enough to afford shelter from the near gale force wind!
We also walked down to the bottom of the field where a single large standing stone stood.
The stone seemed to align with the entrance to Newgrange?
Two chaps had a long tape measure and were measuring something out across the field – no idea what they were up to?
My fifth visit to this site and the first time there hasn't been livestock in the field, so giving me a bit of time here.
Site L, the one nearer the main mound, is almost totally destroyed. Four stones remain, a kerbstone and 3 chamber orthostats. None of the passage is remaining, or could it be that it is buried?
Site K is more interesting. Much of the passage is here. There seems to be a sillstone or doorstone at the mouth of the passage. Some of the passage orthostats are collapsed in on their opposite stones. Overall length is approx 15 metres, with a slight widening about midway along. It terminates in an undifferentiated chamber, the backstone of which is missing. The kerb is best preserved on the north-western arc, but there are some stones to the north. One puzzling factor is that an imagined continuation of the kerb arc would not meet the mouth of the passage but hit the 3rd or 4th stone along. Don't really know if this is significant.
The hillock that both tombs sit on is higher that any of the surrounding terrain, including the ground level of the main mound at Newgrange. Trees and shrubs block this feature when viewed from the road in front of Newgrange. Looking north-west, the main mound at Knowth can be seen in the distance.
It was very windy here today and my hands were freezing as I took photos. It would be lovely to sit here on a sunny summer's day, drinking in the atmosphere. It's hard to say what sense of place you get here, knowing that big brother is only yards away. None of the previously mentioned decorated stones were visible, though some of the passage stones seem to have very worn and vague pick-marks.