Newgrange was on my top five things to do while in Ireland. I had heard so much about it. When we got there, it was eerie to set foot on something that was built 5,000 years ago, before the pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
Knowth and Dowth are similar mounds that together with Newgrange have been designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Newgrange is best known for the illumination of its passage and chamber by the winter solstice sun. Above the entrance to the passage at Newgrange is an opening called a roof-box. This baffling orifice held a great surprise for those who unearthed it. Its purpose is to allow sunlight to penetrate the chamber on the shortest days of the year, around December 21, the winter solstice.
At dawn, from December 19 to 23, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9am.
The tour guide told us that because only a small number of people can go inside at one time, the list of people signed up to see the Solstice is full for years ahead. But seeing it at any other time is definitely worth it, too.
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Newgrange, a prehistoric site, is a must see when going to Ireland. It is older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids in Egypt. It is only about an hour or so from Dublin in the Brú na Bóinne complex in the River Boyne area. No one knows exactly what it was built for, although there are some theories. The coolest thing is that on winter solstice, the light from outside comes into a hole cut above the door and lights up the inside chamber. When you tour the site, they replicate this and it is really amazing. There are also some pretty cool carvings in the stone. If you are going to Ireland, put it on your list. I've been there twice and it was no less amazing the 2nd time around!