During Paddy’s week, a friend of mine had an American friend over, who was doing the usual sight seeing thing. Being unemployed with not much going on, I tagged along to the trip to Newgrange. Now, I wasn’t expecting much. I’m not much for sight seeing in general – I’m happy to know about the history or significance of a sight, but going to see it doesn’t hold much excitement for me. But I was pleasantly surprised on this trip.
Newgrange is about an hour from Dublin, located in County Meath, most of the trip being up the M1, so easy to get to. You first arrive at the visitor’s centre, where there is a gift shop, viewing gallery and a coffee shop. You can only visit Newgrange with a guide, and the cost of the tour is a perfectly reasonable recession proof €6. We visited on a Friday lunchtime, which we thought would be quiet enough. Not so much, as we had to wait an hour for the next tour. I imagine it is much busier during the summer, when people don’t mind visiting an outdoor monument in the middle of nowhere. You’ve been warned.
There is a mini bus that takes people from the centre to the Newgrange monument, about 5 minutes away. You are greeted by the tour guide, who gives you a 10 minute history lesson of the monument and the Boyne valley. There is only one chamber in the massive mound, and there is a very narrow passageway to take you there.
For those of you who don’t remember your Junior Cert. neolithic history, Newgrange is over 5,000 years old, making it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid. Most of you will remember the Winter Solstice event that is central to the location of Newgrange. For 17 minutes, on the shortest day of the year, 21st December, the sun box that sits above the main entrance allows sunlight to penetrate the passageway and illuminate the chamber.
The guide will give a demonstration of the event, using a 100 W bulb, which she stresses is not anything like the real thing, but gives you an idea of what happens. There is an annual free lottery that decides who enters the chamber on 21st December, but if you won you’d want to be praying for clear skies – which unfortunately aren’t that common in Ireland in December!