Must See Places in Ireland: Newgrange and Knowth
We came to live in Ireland over five years ago, reinventing our life completely by moving from the United States to Ireland. We delight in the historic views of Ireland, but none more so than Newgrange and Knowth. These two megalithic tombs predate the stones at Stonehenge by 2000 years, making them one of the oldest sites opened to the public in the world. While not exactly a day trip out of Kinsale, as are most of the "must see places in Ireland" which we write about in these articles, most of our visitors to the Kinsale apartment traveled to Dublin. We highly recommend that anyone near the Dublin area take an extra day to see Newgrange and Knowth as they rate highest on our list of places to go in Ireland and everyone should see them when traveling in Ireland
A relatively easy drive from Dublin if driving on the M1 motorway. North and then the second exit after the toll. The signs will say Donore and Bru na Boinne (which is also the name of the visitor center where you will leave for the tombs). Go to the village of Donore and follow the signs for Newgrange, the visitor center is 2 km past the village on the right-hand side. You park in the car park and then go into the visitor center itself, where you will be able to get tickets according to the times the buses are leaving. No one is allowed directly to the sites, and we have found this a particularly well-run way to preserve both the ancient sites and the sanity of their neighbors. Bus Eireann also operate a bus service between the visitor center and Drogheda, which allows you to catch other buses into Dublin city center.
Built 5000 years ago, circa 3102- 2900 BC, Newgrange is a megalithic passage tomb whose inside roof has never fallen in the 5000 years of its history. The outside has been reconstructed to the best guess of archaeologists, determining what they thought it looked like from the remains of the rocks found at the site prior to the reconstruction. The passage and chamber are illuminated by the sun rise at winter solstice, and every year there is a lottery for visitors who would be able to come back to see the once a year event. 100 places are awarded, but people would have to have a high tolerance for claustrophobia as the interior of the tomb is very small.
Knowth is in many ways more spectacular because of the carvings on so many of the exterior stones and the ability to go up on top of the tomb and imagine what it was like when people lived there. Probably constructed about the same time as Newgrange, Knowth has two passages with entrances on opposite sides. Also a world heritage site, when seen together the two tombs leave visitors with an understanding that the "primitive" world was not so primitive. For anyone born and raised in the United States, as we were, it is a rare treat to stand in the place where the graffiti on the wall is older than almost anything you ever saw in your own country. Slainte'