Killowen House | Drogheda | Co Louth | Ireland

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Newgrange

Newgrange (Irish: Dún Fhearghusa) is one of the passage tombs of the Brú na Bóinne complex in County Meath, one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world and the most famous of all Irish prehistoric sites. Newgrange was built in such a way that at dawn on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, a narrow beam of sunlight for a very short time illuminates the floor of the chamber at the end of the long passageway.

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History of Newgrange

Newgrange was originally built between c. 3300 and 2900 BC, which means that it is over 5,000 years old. According to Carbon-14 dates, it is more than 500 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and predates Stonehenge trilithons by about 1,000 years (although the earliest stages of Stonehenge are roughly contemporary with Newgrange).

In the Neolithic period, Newgrange continued as a focus of some ceremonial activity. New monuments added to the site included a timber circle to the south-east of the main mound and a smaller timber circle to the west. The eastern timber circle consisted of five concentric rows of pits. The outer row contained wooden posts. The next row of pits had clay linings and was used to burn animal remains. The three inner rows of pits were dug to accept the animal remains. Within the circle were post and stake holes associated with Beaker pottery and flint flakes. The western timber circle consisted of two concentric rows of parallel postholes and pits defining a circle 20 m in diameter.

A concentric mound of clay was constructed around the southern and western sides of the mound and covered a structure consisting of two parallel lines of post and ditches that had been partly burnt. A free-standing circle of large stones was constructed encircling the mound. Near the entrance, 17 hearths were used to set fires. These structures at Newgrange are generally contemporary with a number of Henges known from the Boyne Valley, at Newgrange Site A, Newgrange Site O, Dowth Henge and Monknewtown Henge.

Solstice Event

Once a year, at the winter solstice, the rising sun shines directly along the long passage into the chamber for about 17 minutes and illuminates the chamber floor. This alignment is too precise to have occurred by chance. Professor M. J. O'Kelly was the first person in modern times to observe this event on December 21, 1967.

The sun enters the passage through a specially contrived opening, known as a roofbox, directly above the main entrance. Although solar alignments are not uncommon among passage graves, Newgrange is one of few to contain the additional roofbox feature (Cairn G at Carrowkeel Megalithic Cemetery is another). The alignment is such that although the roofbox is above the passage entrance, the light hits the floor of the inner chamber.

Today the first light enters about four minutes after sunrise, but calculations based on the precession of the Earth show that 5000 years ago first light would have entered exactly at sunrise.The solar alignment at Newgrange is very precise compared to similar phenomena at other passage graves such as Dowth or Maes Howe in the Orkney islands, off the coast of Scotland.

Hill of Tara

The Hill of Tara (Irish Teamhair na Rí, "Hill of the Kings"), located near the River Boyne, is an archaeological complex that runs between Navan and Dunshaughlin in County Meath, Leinster, Ireland. It contains a number of ancient monuments, and, according to tradition, was the seat of Árd Rí na hÉireann, or the High King of Ireland. Current scholarship based on the research conducted by the Discovery Programme, indicates that Tara was not a true seat of Kingship, but a sacral site associated with Indo-European Kingship rituals.

Tara's Significance

For many centuries, historians worked to uncover Tara's mysteries, and suggested that from the time of the first Celtic influence until the 1169 invasion of Richard de Clare, the Hill of Tara was the island's political and spiritual capital. Due to the history and archaeology of Ireland being not well-integrated, and naturally evolving, archaeologists involved in recent research suggest that the complete story of the wider area around Hill of Tara remains untold.

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Boyne Valley

Brú na Bóinne (Irish for Palace of the Boyne) is a World Heritage Site in County Meath, Republic of Ireland and is one of the largest and most important prehistoric megalithic sites in Europe. It is a complex of Neolithic chamber tombs, standing stones, henges and other prehistoric enclosures, some dating from as early as 35th century BC - 32nd century BC. The site predates the Egyptian pyramids and was built with sophistication and a knowledge of science and astronomy, which is most evident in the passage grave of Newgrange. The site is often referred to as the "Bend of the Boyne" and this is often (incorrectly) taken to be a translation of Brú na Bóinne (Palace of the Boyne). In 1690 it was the site of the famous Battle of the Boyne.

Monasterboice

The historic ruins of Monasterboice (Irish: Mainistir Bhuithe) are of an early Christian settlement in County Louth in the Republic of Ireland, north of Drogheda. It was founded in the late 5th century by St. Buite who died around AD 521 and was an important centre of religion and learning until founding of nearby Mellifont Abbey in 1142. The site houses two churches built in the 14th century or later and an earlier round tower, but it is most famous for its 10th century high crosses.

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The round tower is about 35-metres tall, and is in very good condition, although it is not possible to go inside. It is believed that it was built as a refuge for the monks against the Vikings, although this theory has been widely disputed. The passage of time has laid down layers of earth so now the doorway is almost at ground level. The monastery was burned in 1079.

The 5.5-metre Muiredach's High Cross is regarded as the finest high cross in the whole of Ireland. It is named after an abbot, Muiredach mac Domhnaill, who died in 923 and features biblical carvings of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The North and West crosses are also fine examples of this kind of structure, but these have suffered much more from the effects of the weather. Poet and historian Flann Mainistrech, Flann of Monasterboice, was lector here.

Trim Castle

Trim Castle (Irish: Caisleán Bhaile Atha Troim), Trim, County Meath, Ireland, on the shores of the Boyne has an area of 30,000 m². It is the remains of the largest Norman castle in Europe, and Ireland's largest castle. It was built primarily by Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter.

 

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