Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Newgrange ~ Visiting Ireland’s Ancient East!

Newgrange in Co Meath is somewhere I’ve wanted to bring my kids for a long time, as I remember really liking it when I went on a school trip many moons ago. We tried to visit a few years ago but only got as far as the visitor centre to be turned away as all the tickets were sold out. They limit the amount of tickets sold per day for conservation reasons. 

Tickets are not available to purchase online so it’s first come first served, we needed to be there early if we wanted to secure a place on a tour. That meant booking an overnight stay in the area and in the hopes that there wouldn’t be too many people visiting Ireland’s Ancient East we went off season.

What is Newgrange?

Newgrange is a 5,200 year old passage tomb in the Brú na Bóinne complex, it predates Stonehenge in England and the Pyramids in Egypt. The structure is made using rocks and earth with grass growing in a mound on the roof. Newgrange was constructed using stones from a few different counties some as far away as 50km. 

These stones and rocks were transported to the site over land and water, an amazing feat considering the size of some of the boulders. Archaeologists are still at odds as to the exact reason for Newgrange being built but they do agree that it has some religious significance. 

One of the most intriguing features of Newgrange is that the inner chamber is lit by the sun entering through the roof box on the shortest day of the year, winter solstice and for a couple of days before and after. There are two similar passage tombs in the same area Knowth & Dowth. I’ve always loved the Neolithic curvilinear artwork that’s carved into the entrance rock and kerbstones; so much so that I had my husband’s wedding ring handmade using these designs.

Where is Newgrange and how can I get there?

Newgrange visitor centre is located in County Meath on the south side of the River Boyne overlooking the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Driving is by far the easiest way to visit using directions from HERE or you can get a private bus.

Collins Coaches that leave Irish Life Mall in Dublin every hour costing about €7pp each way alighting at The Brink Stores and getting a taxi for the last 7km or you could join one of the many tour companies that run tours to Newgrange and other heritage sites along the way.

Where to stay near Newgrange?

As we’re a family of 7 it’s difficult to get a place to stay that doesn’t involve booking at least two rooms and spending a fortune so we usually rely on Airbnb to source accommodation. I couldn’t believe my luck when I came across Rathgillen Farm in Nobber Co Meath; it’s a private 3 bed house on a 125 acre working sheep farm. 

Peter our host was fantastic, so welcoming and friendly he makes sure to welcome all of his guests with hot tea & warm scones, such a lovely touch. The house suited us perfectly and was well equipped with everything we needed for our overnight stay including free WiFi. My husband went to the local chipper for our dinner while I got the kids into their pj’s. 

Peter was thrilled to hear that our 5 year old Cillian is mad about Sheep so he called over to us bright and early the next morning before we set off for Newgrange to bring us on a tour of his farm and for Cillian to go meet his sheep, Cillian was over the moon and hasn’t stopped talking about it since! We paid just €45 instead of the full price of €80 for our 1 night stay as we had €35 credit from referring someone to Airbnb. BOOK HERE.

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Visiting Newgrange:

As I mentioned tickets are only sold at Newgrange so get there early. There’s plenty of free parking available on site. The interpretive centre is fantastic; it’s a state of the art facility with exhibitions showing what it would be like to live in the Neolithic period complete with a full scale replica of the inner chamber of Newgrange. Unfortunately during our visit Knowth was closed for the season but we did get to go visit Newgrange, we had to use the foot bridge to cross the Boyne before we got on a shuttle bus to drive us the 3km to the ancient site. 

We all had a magnificent time, the kids they particularly loved seeing the winter solstice sunrise being replicated by high power lights in the inner chamber. Photography is permitted everywhere bar inside the passage tomb likewise with buggies, everywhere is accessible just not the passage into Newgrange itself. 

Once we were back at the visitor centre we stopped for tea and hot chocolates in the restaurant to warm up and bought some souvenirs in the gift shop including an ornament for our Christmas travel tree. As we were just visiting the exhibition and Newgrange a family ticket would have cost us €16 but we have an annual OPW Heritage Card which covered the cost of our visit. For more information visit their website HERE

Have you been to Newgrange? What did you think? 

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