Ireland Calling
Ireland Calling Store

Brú na Bóinne – older than the Pyramids

Brú na Bóinne is one of the most ancient social and spiritual sites in Ireland. Some of the monuments are 5,000 years old, which means they pre-date Stonehenge in England and the Egyptian pyramids.

Attractions in Ireland

It is a World heritage site that contains Neolithic monuments and tombs, built for the leaders of the prehistoric societies.

It gets its name from the Irish words meaning ‘Palace of Boyne’ after the River Boyne where it is located. The graves are at the end of passages and some contain ancient art.

The largest of these tombs are Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

Only 700 tourists allowed each day

It is not just the ancient monuments that qualify Brú na Bóinne for National Heritage status. The islands in the river are made up of a rare form of alluvial wet woodland and are protected by the EU Habitat Directive.

Brú na Bóinne, Newgrange - Photo copyright Shira CC2.5

Brú na Bóinne is in Donore, County Meath and most of the sites are only accessible through guided tours which are available at the visitor centre. Only 700 visitors are allowed at the sites per day and it gets crowded in the summer months so make sure you get there early.

Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre

The Visitor Centre at Brú na Bóinne is where you need to start to access most of the sites. It’s on the south bank of the River Boyne. The building has been blended into the landscape. To get to the sites you take a shuttle bus over the bridge and then walk.

At the visitor centre you can take part in an interactive exhibition, and there are visual presentations. The exhibition includes a replica of the chamber at Newgrange. The centre has good parking and a nice picnic area. They also provide tourist information, tea rooms and a gift shop.

Newgrange – ancient passage grave

Newgrange is the best known monument at Brú na Bóinne. It is the central mound of the passage grave cemetery. It is famous for its awe inspiring Winter Solstice in which the chamber is lit up by a beam of light as the sun rises.

The Winter Solstice sun at Newgrange Chamber photo _-Przsak_CC3

At the time of the Winter Solstice, (18th-23rd December) the sun rises at such an angle that it sends a beam of light bursting through an opening above the entrance to the mound.

The opening is known as the ‘roof box’ and when the sun beam comes through it travels through the 19 metre passageway into the chamber. As the sun rises, the beam of light coming from the roof box gets bigger and it eventually spreads and lights the entire chamber.

Knowth – biggest collection of megalithic art

Knowth gets its name from the Irish Cnoc Bua or Bui meaning ‘Hill of Bui’. Bui is the name of the ‘hag’ of Beare. According to Irish tradition the hag was associated with death.

The tombs at Brú na Bóinne contain the largest collection of megalithic art in Western Europe. Knowth contains the most art of the three main tombs. The art from the era is in the form of inscribed stones.

Knowth is open from Easter to October 28th and is accessible via the Visitor Centre. There are only 48 people allowed on any one guided tour so get there early to avoid disappointment. The tours last about an hour.

Dowth and the mound that could reach the heavens

Another word for Dowth is ‘Dubad’ or darkness and according to legend this is how it got its name:

Dowth was built by Bressal Bodibad, a former king of Ireland. He wanted a mound that could ‘reach the heavens’ and every man in Ireland had to work for one day to build it. His magical sister didn’t think that would be long enough so used her powers to stop the sun going down until the work was done.

However she and the King committed incest and infuriated the gods who took away her powers. The hill became dark and the workers went home.

Tourists can access tombs from visitor centre

The public are able to access the Dowth site directly from the road. However you do not have access to the tombs unless you go via the visitor centre.

Sign up to our FREE newsletters

Please click on your confirmation email,
Check your junk mail folder in case it gets sent there.

On the Winter Solstice you can witness the sun setting alignment at Dowth. You do not need tickets for this and the people are expected to politely take turns to go into the chamber.

Brú na Bóinne is one of the world’s most fascinating and important historical sites and attracts thousands of visitors every year. Just remember to get there early – the places on the guided tours are limited and they fill up fast.

Visit IrelandMore on Irish holidays

Tourist attractions in Ireland

Celtic Symbol Bags at Ireland Calling store The Blarney Stone
Bru na Boinne
Bunratty Castle
The Burren
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
The Cliffs of Moher
Croagh Patrick
Dingle Peninsula
Garnish Island
The Giant's Causeway
The Guinness Storehouse
Hill of Tara
Lakes of Killarney
The Peace Bridge
Ring of Kerry
Wild Atlantic Way
Personalised Celtic prints. Ireland Calling store

Irish cities


Tourism articles

TripAdvisor's top 10 destinations in Ireland for 2015
Top holiday destinations in Ireland - as voted by the Irish
Top holiday destinations in Ireland - as voted by tourists

Ireland's favourite heritage site
The most romantic city in Ireland
Hidden gems in Ireland

The top ten Irish beaches
Where would Irish people take overseas guests?
Tips for first time visitors to Ireland

What not to do when visiting Ireland
Ireland's top sacred pilgrimage sites
Eight reasons why Irish pubs are Ireland's top attractions

What do you like about Ireland?
Local Irish pubs number one attraction for tourists
Tourists happy with 'value for money' on visits to Ireland

Video - initiative to promote 'Ireland's Ancient East'
Ireland can boast the best 'cliff view' in the world
Most visited tourist attractions in Ireland in 2014?

Industry warned not to 'repeat the mistakes of the past'
Dublin 'favourite worldwide city' for young travellers
Which tourist attractions in Ireland made the Lonely Planet's ultimate guide?

Dublin is one of the world's top three cities say Lonely Planet
Ireland has three of the world's four friendliest cities

XSLT Plugin by Leo Jiang