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My Ireland

Looking for inspiration? Planning a trip? Or just want to scroll yourself happy? We'll show you an Ireland that's tailor-made for you.

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    Brú na Bóinne

    Prepare for a sunrise like nowhere else on earth at this UNESCO World Heritage Site on the banks of the River Boyne
    County Meath
    Historic landmarks
    30mins from Dublin Airport

    For over 5,000 years, Brú na Bóinne has cradled secrets borne of Neolithic ingenuity, hidden within sacred structures built of earth and stone.

    Before the Pyramids emerged from the sand or Stonehenge stood tall, this place was home to a sophisticated wealthy society intent on leaving their mark on Ireland's landscape – and oh, what a mark they made. These talented astronomers, geologists, engineers and builders organised large numbers of people to build huge monuments, leaving an enduring legacy that still astonishes.

    Sitting within the inland island known as the Bend of the Boyne, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne safeguards the largest collection of megalithic art in Europe, dotted across over 90 Neolithic monuments. Best known of these are the vale's three most spectacular sites: Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. Each holds its own unique story – but it's the confluence of all three in the heart of Ireland's richest archaeological landscape that makes a trip here simply unparalleled.

    These spaces were not reserved for the dead. They were places for the living too – for communities to gather, to observe the sun, moon and stars, to connect with ancestors and to celebrate the mystery of life itself.

    Brú na Boinne Visitor Centre, Donore, County Meath
    +353 41 988 0300

    Brú na Bóinne, County Meath

    L-R: Sunset at Newgrange; aerial view of Dowth; decorative spirals carved in stone at Knowth; Knowth 

    Newgrange

    Arriving at this iconic monument is a wow moment, to say the least. The 80-metre mound emerges out of the green earth, adorned with spiral-engraved kerbstones and white Wicklow quartzite. Inside, a narrow passageway brings you to one of the best-preserved chambers of any Neolithic structure. Three smaller recesses contain basin stones that held the cremated remains of the dead and above you, the original waterproof corbelled roof gives the chamber a cathedral-like feel.

    It’s magical to see it at any time of year but winter solstice (weather permitting) is incredibly special — a bucket-list event if you’re lucky enough to nab a ticket.

    Lonely Planet

    But it’s for a spectacular lightshow that Newgrange is best known. Each year on December 21st – the winter solstice – a single shaft of light pierces the monument through a perfectly placed “roof” box at the passage entrance, glowing in a golden path all the way to the burial chamber at its heart. That such astronomical accuracy was achieved so many millennia ago is just one of the reasons why Newgrange continues to intrigue archeo-astronomers.

    newgrange-solstice newgrange-solstice

    Newgrange, County Meath

    sunrise-knowth-county-meath sunrise-knowth-county-meath

    Knowth, County Meath

    Knowth

    While Newgrange is more famous, the massive monument at Knowth is one of the great glories of the ancient world. At one-and-a-half times the size of Newgrange with two remarkably long internal passages and surrounded by 18 smaller satellite tombs, it is awe-inspiring in scale.

    But it is for its unrivalled collection of megalithic art that Knowth is best known. Large stones decorated with spirals, wave-like motifs and geometric symbols may show details of important rituals, represent maps of the stars, or simply celebrate life in this prehistoric society. Their secrets have remained hidden for five long millennia.

    Dowth megalithic tomb Co Meathwebsize2500x1200px Dowth megalithic tomb Co Meathwebsize2500x1200px

    Dowth, County Meath

    Dowth

    Known as the "Fairy Mound of Darkness", nature has reclaimed Dowth to a much greater extent than either of Brú na Bóinne's other big names. Its original roof collapsed long ago and was replaced – though its second roof is still intact – but from the outside, the tomb looks undisturbed. Similarly to Newgrange, the winter solstice is a special time at Dowth, with sunset beaming soft golden light into the chamber in the days around December 21st. Though there are no guided tours of Dowth, visitors can explore the outside of the structure.

    But perhaps the greatest claim to fame is its name; for Dowth means "darkness", and it is said a terrible darkness once fell across this tomb when the sorceress sister of a legendary king tried to stop the sun in its tracks above this very spot. Though lights were once added during a restoration, they fell out of use and Dowth soon returned to darkness...

    Visiting Brú na Bóinne

    Access to Newgrange and Knowth is through the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre only. Here you’ll find a state-of-the-art interpretive centre where you can learn more about Neolithic life and enjoy guided tours of these extraordinary monuments. Online booking is recommended.

    The Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre in Donore, County Meath, is an information hub for the thousands of visitors eager to explore Ireland’s mysterious Neolithic monuments, Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. An extensive exhibition includes a full scale replica of the chamber at Newgrange (a World Heritage site), as well as a model of one of the smaller tombs at Knowth. Located on the south side of the River Boyne, the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre is the only access point to Newgrange and Knowth, which lie north of the river. All tours of Newgrange start at the centre, before visitors cross the river via a footbridge and are brought by shuttle bus to the monuments. Because space inside the monuments is limited, places are restricted to around 700 per day at high season, meaning the the summer months are particularly busy. A seasonal bus service runs from the town of Drogheda to the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre through Donore village. Open all year round, the centre has longer opening hours in summer. As well as a full scale replica of the Newgrange Chamber, the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre features a large interactive exhibition on the Brú na Bóinne area, an audio-visual presentation, the Brú na Bóinne tourist office, gift shop and tea rooms. A large car park and a picnic area are available outside. The mysteriously beautiful Newgrange prehistoric monument offers glorious views of the Boyne Valley. Among the finest surviving examples of this type of monument in Europe, Newgrange attracts thousands of international visitors every year. Visit the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre to start your own tour of this treasured national landmark.

    County Meath highlights

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