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A Guide To Visiting Newgrange: A Place That Predates The Pyramids

A Guide To Visiting Newgrange: A Place That Predates The Pyramids

A visit to the Newgrange monument is one of the most impressive things to do in Meath.

Part of the Brú na Bóinne complex alongside Knowth, Newgrange is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it dates back to 3,200 BC.

In the guide below, you’ll find everything from where to get Newgrange tickets and the history of the area to how to enter the Newgrange Winter Solstice Lottery Draw.

Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Newgrange

newgrange winter solstice

Photos via Shutterstock

Although a visit to the Newgrange visitor centre (aka Brú na Bóinne) is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Part of the brilliant Boyne Valley Drive, you’ll find Newgrange on the banks of the River Boyne in Donore, a 15-minute drive from Drogheda.

2. Opening hours

The Newgrange visitor centre is open seven days a week. The opening hours for Newgrange vary by season and, as tickets can only be booked 30 days in advance, it’s hard to tell future opening and closing times. You’ll find the hours when you go to book a ticket.

3. Admission (book in advance!)

Newgrange tickets vary depending on the tour type (we’d recommend booking them in advance). Here’s how much entrance costs (note: Heritage Card holders get in free + prices may change):

  • Newgrange Tour plus exhibition: Adults: €10. Seniors over 60: €8. Students: €5. Kids: €5. Family (2 adults and 2 kids): €25
  • Brú na Bóinne Tour plus Newgrange Chamber: Adults: €18. Seniors over 60: €16. Students: €12. Kids: €12. Family (2 adults and 2 kids): €48

4. Magic on 21st December

The entrance at Newgrange is finely aligned with the angle of the rising sun on December 21st (the Winter Solstice). On this day, a beam of sun shines through a roof-box that sits above its entrance and floods the chamber with sunlight (more info below).

5. The Newgrange visitor centre 

In the Brú na Bóinne Visitor centre you’ll find an exhibition on Newgrange and Knowth’s history. The centre also has a cafe, a gift shop and a bookshop.

6. Tours from Dublin

If you’re visiting from Dublin, this tour (affiliate link) is well worth considering. It’s €45 p/p and includes transport to Newgrange, the Hill of Tara and Trim Castle. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to pay the entry fees yourself.

The history of Newgrange

Newgrange is one of the most prominent passage tombs in the world, and it was constructed around 3,200 BC, during the Neolithic period.

It is one of the most popular places to visit in Ireland and, once you dive into its history, you quickly understand why.

Why was Newgrange built

Although its purpose is heavily debated, many archaeologists believe that Newgrange was built either to serve an astronomically-based religion, or to be used as a place for worship.

Some also believe that it was built by a society that revered the sun, which would make sense when you consider what takes place at Newgrange on December 21st (see below).

In Irish mythology, Newgrange is said to be the home of the Tuatha De Dannan (a tribe of gods).

It’s construction

It’s only when you start to look at how Newgrange was made that you really start to appreciate the dedication required to construct this magnificent structure.

There are many different theories about how Newgrange was constructed. Many geologists believe that the thousands of pebbles that were used to construct the cairn were taken from around the nearby River Boyne.

Some 547 slabs make-up the inner section of Newgrange along with the outer kerbstones. It’s believe that some of these were taken from as far away as Clogherhead Beach (19km from Newgrange).

The entrance to the tomb contains white quartz that was sourced from the Wicklow Mountains (over 50km away), while stone from the Mourne Mountains (50km away) and the Cooley Mountains were used, also.

The winter solstice

Our obsession with the Newgrange monument all began on the 21st of December 1967, when M.J. O’Kelly of University College Cork became the first person in modern history to witness one of the greatest natural feats in Ireland.

The entrance at Newgrange is finely aligned with the angle of the rising sun on December 21st (the Winter Solstice). On this day, a beam of sun shines through a roof-box that sits above its entrance and floods the chamber with sunlight.

The beam travels its way 63 feet into the chamber at Newgrange and continues through the chamber until it comes to a Triskelion symbol, illuminating the entire chamber in the process.

If you’d like to visit Newgrange on the Winter Solstic, you’ll need to enter a lottery, that often gets 30,000+ entries. To enter, you need to email [email protected]

What you’ll see on the Newgrange tour

newgrange ireland

Photos via Shutterstock

One of the reasons that a trip to Newgrange is so popular is due to the sheer volume of history the monument, and the entire Brú na Bóinne complex, boasts. Here’s what to expect.

1. The mound and passage

Newgrange mainly consists of a vast mound, measuring 279 feet (85 metres) in diameter and 40 feet (12 metres) in height. This structure was built by alternating layers of stones and earth.

Access to the mound can be found on the southeastern side. This is the main entrance of Newgrange, opening on a 62-feet (19-meter) long passage.

At the end of this, three chambers off a larger central one were found. Inside those chambers, the remains of two bodies were discovered along with other objects such as a used flint flake, four pendants and two beads. 

2. 97 large kerbstones

One of the most striking features of the Newgrange monument is the 97 large stones, known as kerbstones, encircling the base of the mound. This particular type of stone, graywacke, cannot be found anywhere near this site.

Scholars believe that they were carried all the way to Newgrange from Clogherhead, around 20 km away from the site. It’s still unclear how these were carried. Some believe that rough sledges were used while others speculate that boats transported these massive stones to Newgrange. 

3. Neolithic rock art

Many rocks, including the kerbstones, are decorated with graphic Neolithic art. There are ten different categories of carvings present on this site.

Five of these are curvilinear and include motifs such as circles, spirals and arcs, while the other five are rectilinear, such as chevrons, parallel lines and radials.

The purpose of these carvings is still unclear. Some scholars believe they were merely decorative while others give them a symbolic meaning as many carvings were found in places that could not have been visible.

Things to do near Newgrange

One of the beauties of the Newgrange visitor centre is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Meath.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the Newgrange monument (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Knowth and Dowth

Knowth

Photos via Shutterstock

The visit departing from Brú na Bóinne Visitor centre will also bring you to a second Neolithic site known as Knowth. Another less known Neolithic site is Dowth.

2. Old Mellifont Abbey (15-minute drive)

Old Mellifont Abbey

Photos via Shutterstock

Situated in Mellifont, County Louth, Old Mellifont Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland. It was built in 1142 with the help of a group of monks coming from France. In 1603, the treaty that put an end to the Nine Years War was signed here.

3. Slane Castle (15-minute drive)

slane castle

Photo by Adam.Bialek (Shutterstock)

Slane Castle is one of the more unique castles in Ireland. It’s played host to some of the biggest names in Rock and Roll and it’s also home to an excellent whiskey distillery. Make sure to visit the village of Slane along with the ancient Hill of Slane, too.

FAQs about the Newgrange monument

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘How does the Newgrange winter solstice work?’ to ‘When was Newgrange built?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What is Newgrange?

Newgrange is a passage tomb that dates back to 3,200 BC. While its purpose is unknown, it’s widely believed that it was a place of worship.

Is the Newgrange visitor centre worth visiting?

Yes. This is one of the most impressive historical attractions in Ireland, and it’s 100% worth experiencing first hand.

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