Last year on my final day in southern Ireland I travelled up to County Fermanagh in the north via Bru na Boinne or Newgrange the designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in Co. Meath. I approached the site from the west and toddled a long a very quiet road, turned into the car park and was stunned to find it full of cars and coaches. Apparently from the other direction traffic comes directly from the M1 Dublin-Belfast motorway.
As there were so many visitors I only had time to visit one of the two sites – Knowth. Despite the crowds I was so impressed that I vowed to return this year and Monique was especially keen to accompany me. This time there were fewer cars and smaller crowds and we managed to book on both tours consecutively – Knowth first followed by Newgrange itself. You have a short walk and cross the River Boyne to a turning circle where minibuses transport you to the sites. We had a very pleasant surprise when we arrived. It was the 1st June and on the first Wednesday in the month all OPW sites have free entry.
The Entrance to Newgrange
Whorls and Diamonds
“The visual artistry of Ireland’s ancient civilisations remains to this day strikingly fresh and modern. Knowth’s burial chambers and satellite tombs boast the richest and largest collection of megalithic art in Europe. Whorls and diamonds, lines and dots are gathered together into compositions of startling sophistication. Looking at these images with modern eyes one is struck by their surprisingly abstract decorative beauty. And when seen with the the eyes of the ancients in the world of the passage tomb? Are they maps of the heavens, tracking the soul’s lost loved ones? Quite possibly.” [Rather flowery description taken from a leaflet that I picked up on my Irish travels.]
Read more about my previous visit to this wonderful site here.
“Newgrange is a Stone Age (Neolithic) monument in the Boyne Valley, County Meath, it is the jewel in the crown of Ireland’s Ancient East. Newgrange was constructed about 5,200 years ago (3,200 B.C.) which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. Newgrange is a large circular mound 85 meters (93 yards) in diameter and 13.5 meters (15 yards) high with a 19 meter (21 yard) stone passageway and chambers inside. The mound is ringed by 97 large kerbstones, some of which are engraved with symbols called megalithic art. Newgrange was built by a farming community that prospered on the rich lands of the Boyne Valley.”
Newgrange Kerbstone with possible Ogham script
From Newgrange it was a short drive to The Hill of Tara the former seat of the High Kings of Ireland. According to the OPW listing it was the most important centre of political and religious power in pre-Christian Ireland. The area is an open site; the famous Old Bookshop which stocks Celtic and mystical publications and the Visitor Centre in the church were both closed. But we walked up to the top of the main hill where a stumpy rock marks the spot and where mums and tots were picnicking in and around the surrounding grassy ditches.
What there is to see at the Hill of Tara
Church of Tara and would-be Visitor Centre
The Hill of Tara is best seen from above (from the Information Board)