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Neolithic site of the Boyne Valley

Spiral Carved Stones Bru na Boinne photoThe legend of the Boyne River tells of a Celtic goddess named Bóann, the wife of an ancient king, who peered into a forbidden magical well of wisdom. The well burst forth and drowned her, rushing to the sea to become a river. It is not claimed the goddess and her royal husband lived at Brú na Bóinne – the Palace of the Boyne, but the people who told of the legend were buried there. Named as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1993, the sprawling collection of stone works and burial tunnels in County Meath is one of the most important and complete megalithic society sites in Europe.

Newgrange cairn photoSometimes referred as Newgrange, which is actually only the largest of the tombs and passage tunnels, the site dates back before the Egyptian pyramids, around 5,000 years, with the principal chambers built around 3,200 year ago. Despite the Gaelic name of “palace”, the Bru Na Boyne sites were not the homes of the living but the remnants of the dead. The passage tombs are formed of a central burial chamber reached by a long straight passage lined with decorated stones, deep within a vast earth mound known as a cairn. The cairns are mostly set on hilltops and grouped in cemeteries. The complex is decorated by almost 700 carved stones, mostly of distinctive spiral designs unique to the site. The most famous stone is the one marking the entrance to the New Grange.

Chamber Passage Newgrange replica photoThey were built by an agrarian society who possessed knowledge of engineering, geology, art and astronomy. At dawn on the morning of the winter solstice the main chamber at New Grange is lit by a beam of sunlight for 17 minutes. Older than Stonehenge (see Stonehenge Mystery Wiltshire), it is thought to be the oldest existing aligned structure in the world. A second mound tomb called Knowth is thought to be aligned to the equinox. The third main chamber site is Dowth. The sites were inhabited through the Iron Age and into the early medieval age, by those who did not build them, but found them. It did become a palace for a time under a the King of Brega in the early Christian period

Visiting Bu Na Boinne

Ancient Stone Roller Construction exhibit photoThe actual sites can only be reached through a shuttle bus tour from the visitor’s center located near the village of Donore and not far from Drogheda. The tours take from 2 hours to 3 hours, depending on how many of the sites are included, but plan on spending another hour waiting for the start time, even more at high summer season. The site can get very busy. The Bu Na Boine Visitor Center is worth a visit in itself, taking about an hour to explore, with exhibits of life and death in the Neolithic age, ideas of construction of the megaliths, and a full size replica of the central Newgrange Chamber.

Skeleton Exhibit at Bru Na Boinne Visitors Center photoThe Bru Na Boinne Visitors Center is open daily 9:30 am to 5:30 pm February-April, 9 am to 6:30 pm in May, 9am to 7pm June to September, 9:30 to 5:30 in October and 9 am to 5 pm November to January. Admission prices depend on the tours taken. The last tour departs an hour and 45 minutes before closing, so allow plenty of time, a good half day to really see the site. For the Visitors Center only, entrance is €3 for adults 2€ students and seniors. Including Newgrange is €6 for adults €5 seniors and €3 students and children. A visit included the visitor’s center and both Newgrange and Knowth is €11 for adults €8 seniors and €6 students/children. Family tickets are available. A visit to Newgrange and the Bru Na Boinne site can be combined with the nearby sacred site and the seat of pre-Christian kings, the Hill of Tara (see Hill of Tara - Sacred Seat of Kings) and the location of the Battle of the Boyne (see Battle of the Boyne Monument). Coach Tours from Dublin are offered through Bus Eireann and other companies. © Bargain Travel Europe

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