A few days before Christmas I came up with the idea of going to Brú na Bóinne and Newgrange in particular. Although I visited the place a few years ago, I thought it’d be nice to show it to my mother who was visiting me at that time. Brú na Bóinne (lodge of the Boyne) is the name of the area between Drogheda and Slane designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. There are around 40 Neolithic tombs in the area with Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth being the most prominent.
Newgrange is a passage tomb built around 3,200 B.C during the Neolithic period, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. Some of the 97 kerbstones at the base of the tomb are richly decorated with megalithic art. The most interesting thing for me is that the closest place in which this kind of stone appears in nature is in Co Wicklow, approximateley 80km away. It must have taken these people more than a couple of generations to bring them to the place in which they were used for the construction of the tomb. This shows how important the construction of the tomb must have been for the people who built it.
At dawn on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year (December 21st) and for a number of days before and after, a beam of sunlight enters the chamber through an opening situated above the passage entrance. My visit with my mother accidently fell on one of the days before the winter solstice. Even though it was well after dawn, we managed to witness this phenomenon. After the guide took our group into the main chamber, arranged a complicated human jigsaw and turned off the artificial lighting, the shaft of sunlight appeared on the floor of the chamber. By contrast, the first time I visited was in the middle of the summer and when the light went off the chamber was pitch dark.
Although, I can’t often say that I do the right thing at the right time, this trip was definitely one of these rare occasions.