It’s been a while, but Tiernan took me back to Brú Na Bóinne a couple of weeks ago to finish up our investigations at Newgrange.
Nice to be there on a dry day, albeit a cold one, we had time to look around the visitor’s centre before heading to the bus. On the top level on the centre is a viewing room from which you can seen Newgrange in the distance. There are also telescopes that you can sue to look into the windows of the surrounding farm houses!
Unlike our tour at Knowth, we had a full bus load of people and Tiernan and I sat in the cheap seats up the back making fun of the wicker paddy cap the chap in front of us was wearing. The sites themselves look easy enough to get to, but you must have a ticket from the visitor’s centre in order to access it.
When we got to Newgrange we were shepherded into a pen where we awaited the arrival of our guide. She left us through the tiny gate and we were like livestock escaping one-by-one into a bigger field. By this point, I’m afraid we were both in a very silly mood and having far too many laughs.
I did manage to hold on to a little of what our guide way saying, even if her name left my brain as soon as she had said it. Newgrange is over 5,000 years old. It is older than Stonehenge in England and they pyramids of Egypt. Along with the other mounts of the Boyne Valley, Dowth and Knowth, it forms a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although classified as a passage tomb, many archaeologists now agree that the site is much more than that. Newgrange probably functioned as an ancient temple: a centre of culture, society and spirituality in the ancient world.
The entrance to the inner chambers is through a long narrow passage accessed by modern stairs and lit up by modern lights. The materials used in these later additions are deliberately different to those of the original site so that it is very obvious what has been altered.
The front of the structure has been reconstructed to the best of their ability.
Inside, the inner chamber of Newgrange is a cruciform. This has no religious significance in terms of Christianity, which did exist yet, but refers to the three recess and entrance tunnel forming a cross-like shape. The corbelled ceiling is further testament to some brilliant stone age engineering as it is bearing the load of tonnes of soil and remains water-tight today. Photography is not permitted inside the chamber and I think this is uncalled for an a real shame as the feat of engineering is probably the only thing worth converting to celluloid!
The winter solstice is the most important time of year at Newgrange. For a week in December the inner chamber is lit up by the sunrise. If you want to be inside for this splendid event you can put your name into the hat at the visitors centre or on the heritage Ireland website. With 30,000 entrants last year being their smallest ever, your chances are greatly improving.
Climbing steadily upwards, the 19 metre long passage eventually reaches level with the lightbox seen at the entrance. This lightbox provides floor lighting during the solstice.
Outside, stones with megalithic art encircle the mound. 97 kerbstones in all. Their geometric shapes allow us to make our own interpretations. Tiernan and I are convinced that this on is an owl!