June 30, 2007
After two days full of Dublin we headed North about an hour to see some of the oldest things in all of Ireland and to date actually in the world. Yes these structures are older than the Great Pyramids in Egypt (and no it is not Stonehenge - which is in England though everyone asked if we would see it in Ireland) and they were very fascinating.
We began our tour at the visitor center of Bru na Boinne where we could catch our tour buses out to the sites. The only way to see these sites is through the guided tours provided from the visitor center. Still the tour is worth both your time and your money and we were glad we choose to do both NewGrange and Knowth sites - you can no longer visit the Dowth site or we would have done that as well. The visitor center is well done and provides a great introduction to the area and the history of the prehistoric sites. Definitely plan to spend some time there if you go visit.
We headed to Newgrange first and we were impressed that you can still go inside these ancient tombs. Our tour guide was great and very good at admitting that all of this is prehistory so we are making our best guesses and theories about what these passages were used for and different people have different interpretations. They believe it has something to do with the solstices as the light fits perfectly into the tomb passageways during the winter solstice at Newgrange and the summer solstice at Knowth. We got to walk inside these passageways that were built in approximately 3200 BC and be amazed at how long they have lasted and how well they were built. It really is hard to express how we felt walking inside those passageways and contemplating what they were made for and who they were made by and how long they have lasted and been preserved and just how crazy it was that we could be inside them right now. It was of course raining but we did take time to walk around and see all the carvings on the stones and try to understand what it meant and be amazed at how long it has lasted and weathered through all the harsh rain and winds of Ireland over these 5000 years. Our time there was too short and we headed back to catch our next bus over to Knowth.
Knowth has a completely different feel and there are many more passageways and tombs here. The carvings are much more detailed and significant and you could spend much more time here - but you can not go down the passageways. So going to both sites is a good thing, I also enjoyed going to Newgrange first as we had more appreciation for what we were seeing at Knowth. I also enjoyed our tour guide here more - she was a bit more informative and interesting. She shared a lot of details about the different mounds and to be fair there is a lot more going on at Knowth that at New grange so she had more to talk about. The big stones has substantial carvings on them, some look like they were just recently done. There is also a big and smooth fertility stone that was interesting. Just like at Newgrange the mounds are made up of beautiful quartz that make them fascinating to look at.
Instead of going inside this passageway we were able to climb on top of it and see the views from up high. You can see several other tomb areas and the mountains. Our day was a bit rainy and overcast so our view was not as good as it could be, but beautiful still the same. We took time to walk around the site and examine the carvings and think through who built them (most likely teenagers) and how long it took them and why they did it. Again history coming alive in very real and interesting ways.
Once again we felt our time here was too short but our tour was over and the next group was arriving so we bid Knowth and Newgrange goodbye - fairly confident we will never experience something built so long ago during our lifetime - but you never know. We would definitely recommend going to see these sites if you are anywhere near or in county Meath.
We headed on to explore some other ancient sites - which did not seem so old after spending the day at sites over 5000 years old.