Brú na Bóinne is an archaeological site recognized on the World Heritage list as the largest concentration of megalithic art in Europe. In terms of visual gratification it does not compare at all to the magnificent vistas of places such as the Causeway Coast. And yet, it is the significance of the scientific and construction achievement by prehistoric humans that puts me in awe, much more so than a 50-million-years-old natural phenomenon.
The visit to Newgrange, one of the three locations that comprise Brú na Bóinne, starts at the excellent visitor center which provides plethora of information regarding early human life in the area, assisted by various artifacts and displays.
Outside visitor center, you can take in serene scenery of the river Boyne.
A bus then takes you to the main site. On top of the hill, there stands the main attraction – the Newgrange Passage Mound.
And, basically, this is it.
You have elevated views of the surrounding countryside.
You have free-standing megaliths, remains of a couple of additional structures, and art – patterns, rather than drawings – etched in stone.
And then you proceed inside the mound and get your mind blown away by what primitive people could achieve. The narrow and dark pathway will challenge those inclined to claustrophobia as well as anyone above average height, and there is a part of the presentation by your guide that starts and ends in complete darkness, so beware. But you’ll observe first-hand the ingenuity with which the structure was built. You will see up close further examples of the decorative art that people used in construction. More importantly, you’ll realize how advanced their knowledge of astronomy must have been to be able to erect a building – the feat that took decades to complete in each instance – whose deepest interior is illuminated on a straight line by a ray of the rising sun one single time a year – the day being not some random occasion but precisely the Winter Solstice.
Photography inside the mound is not allowed (and anyway, it would be challenging due to tight spaces, twenty people sharing those barely 10 square meters, and the low light). Here is the close-up of the entrance instead. The doorway is for people. The window above the doorway is for that priceless ray of sun.
Imagine how monumental this achievement was, not in our technologically advanced times, but 6,000 years ago, pre-dating even the Egyptian pyramids by a good millennium or more.
A few additional angles of the mound. Nothing else to see, only to admire the early people in your mind’s eye.
Of the three locations that are part of Brú na Bóinne, only Newgrange is open to visitors throughout the year; two others, Dowth and Knowth, are only accessible April through October. Newgrange is located about 45 minutes by car from central Dublin. Access to the actual site is limited to about 40-45 people every half an hour, so in busy times coming early or making advance arrangements may be necessary to be able to explore; access to the visitor center and its exhibition is always possible, but you would probably not want to see just that if you come. When you are lucky and the wait is minimal, the visit should last about 2 hours, of which you’ll get about 40 minutes at the actual site.