JN 9 (L1601) TOWARDS DONORE
Whatever the beliefs held by the prehistoric people who fashioned the extraordinary landscape of ritual sites known as Brú na Bóinne, they expressed them ingeniously and on a stunning scale: fusing breathtaking feats of engineering, architecture, artistry and astronomy into a complex of monuments – now a World Heritage Site – across the fertile Boyne river valley. Suddenly happening upon a view of the Neolithic burial mound of Dowth as you drive country roads, or visiting the astonishing sites of Newgrange and Knowth, you can feel impressed, humbled, mystified, enlightened all at once. Immersed in their silent messages. As you stand waiting in the darkness of Newgrange passage tomb, on the very spot where people stood some 5,000 years ago, the first rays of the winter solstice sun creep in to illuminate the burial chamber. A feeling of exhilaration leaps the millennia. If you miss the winter solstice sun slipping through the cleverly aligned roof box over the entrance, an electrically powered simulation recreates the moment on a guided tour. Was it thought the sun reinvigorated the spirits of high-status people buried here? At the passage grave at Knowth you discover further striking tunnel alignments, with sunrise and sunset at spring and autumn equinoxes.
Even more awe inspiring is the unparalleled amount of prehistoric art carved in the stones – it is said that the circular and serpentine patterns represent local maps. Over the centuries, drawn by Brú na Bóinne’s aura, later people came to add standing stones and subterranean tunnels, and even into medieval times layer upon layer of new meanings were being added. As sure as the sun rises, falls and rises again, we will be coming here to be fascinated. Find out more and plan your visit Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre (Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth).