The Bottom Line
Visiting some the ancient monuments in the Boyne Valley is a must for every visitor to Ireland. But nowhere can the past be experienced as impressively as within the central chamber of Newgrange. The Brú na Boinne (pronounced "broo-na-boyne") site in County Meath is well managed and guided tours will provide an educational and above all unique experience. This is one of the places in Ireland that will take your breath away simply by being there. Even on a tight budget the tours should not be missed.
- Most important prehistoric site in Ireland
- Knowledgeable guides
- Very good visitor center
- Excellent organisation of tour scheduling
- Tours can fill up rapidly in summer
- Ancient passage tombs in the Boyne Valley, collectively known as Bru na Bóinne
- The passage tomb of Newgrange was erected around 3200 BC, well before the pyramids
- Natural light reaches the central chamber of Newgrange only at sunrise during the winter solstice
Guide Review - Brú na Boinne - The Passage Tombs of Newgrange and Knowth
Upon arrival you will have to decide what to see. Four options are open to you: Just the Visitor Center, the Center and Newgrange or Knowth ... or both. Prices may seem high, but you will get a good exhibition, an audiovisual show, bus transfers and a tour of the passage tombs. There may be a waiting time before your tour actually starts. Come early - if you arrive after noon in summer, you may find all tours for the day fully booked!
Your guide will meet you at the site and take you around the area, giving a potted history and some useful information on building methods. Obviously some guides are more enthusiastic than others, but none of the eight guides I have experienced were below par. All were knowledgeable and none seemed bored.
The tour of Knowth will take you into an ante-chamber created for visitor access and allowing a glimpse of the passages. You will not get to visit the central chambers. Instead you may climb onto the tomb. The tour of Newgrange does not allow this, but here you will be taken into the spectacular central chamber. Be warned: The passage is narrow and you have to stoop! Add the fact that you will be told about the immense weight of the stones above your head without any mortar actually holding the stones together. The simulation of the winter solstice requires the chamber to be plunged into total darkness. Claustrophobic visitors should definitely refrain from going inside Newgrange! For everyone else it is an awe-inspiring experience.
Note that you can actually see the Newgrange tumulus for free from the public road, but you will not be allowed entry to the actual site or the passage tomb itself. And there are parking restrictions in place. Knowth is not visible from the road (at least not in full) and you would have to trespass on private land for a free glimpse. It is a different story with Dowth - here access is free and you can explore the site on your own. If you climb to the top of the Dowth tumulus, you will be able to see Newgrange in the distance.