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Top 10 Megalithic and Prehistoric Sites of Ireland

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Many visitors to Ireland are drawn towards the megalithic and prehistoric monuments on the island. Built a few thousand years ago by persons unknown with an intention we know nothing of they still hold a certain fascination today. Be it because of the sheer impact of the building works necessary or the (supposed) mystical background. But what actually are the best monuments to visit?

1. Newgrange

Newgrange - Entrance to the Passage Tomb

What is Newgrange?
Newgrange is a reconstructed passage tomb with a cruciform inner chamber.

Where is Newgrange?
You find the tomb between Slane and Drogheda in County Meath - access is via the Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre and by guided tour only.

Why is Newgrange important?
This tomb represents the megalithic builder's art at its zenith.

What will you see at Newgrange?
The visitor center will explain most of the historic and astronomical background in detail, the actual tour will take you into the inner chamber for a simulated winter solstice.

Why should you visit Newgrange?
It is Ireland's most important megalithic site.

2. Carrowmore

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery (County Sligo)

What is Carrowmore?
A megalithic cemetery, actually the largest in Ireland.

Where is Carrowmore?
Just a few miles out of Sligo and forming a a triangle with both Queen Maeve's Grave and Benbulben.

Why is Carrowmore important?
The size of the megalithic cemetery is reason alone.

What will you see at Carrowmore?
Tombs of all shapes and sizes can be found. The small visitors center gives some background information while a self-guided tour takes you to the most important tombs.

Why should you visit Carrowmore?
If you are at all interested in "earth mysteries" you will immediately notice several impressive alignments.

3. Knowth

What is Knowth?
Knowth is a reconstructed passage tomb with a two passages.

Where is Knowth?
You find the tomb between Slane and Drogheda in County Meath - access is via the Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre and by guided tour only.

Why is Knowth important?
This tomb has two opposing passages, both with a solar alignment.

What will you see at Knowth?
The visitor center will explain most of the historic and astronomical background in detail, the actual tour will then take you around the site.

Why should you visit Knowth?
Though less known than neighboring Newgrange, Knowth is actually more interesting for many visitors.

4. Poulnabrone Dolmen

What is the Poulnabrone Dolmen?
A massive erection in the middle of nowhere, this is the prototypical dolmen.

Where is the Dolmen?
Located right in the middle of the Burren (County Clare).

Why is the Poulnabrone Dolmen important?
This is one of the most impressive monuments in the area and simply a typical example of a dolmen.

What will you see at Poulnabrone?
Some standing stones with a capping stone resting on them. Sounds like not much, really - until you realize that the capping stone weighs as much as a tank.

Why should you visit the Poulnabrone Dolmen?
You won't see a better dolmen in a more fitting landscape.

5. Dun Aenghus

What is Dun Aenghus?
Dun Aenghus is a promontory fort - surrounded by walls on three sides, with a sheer drop into the ocean forming the rest of the defenses.

Where is Dun Aenghus?
You will find it on the southern cliff-face of Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands.

Why is Dun Aenghus important?
The impressive choice of location makes Dun Aenghus a sure winner. Unless you suffer from vertigo.

What will you see at Dun Aenghus?
Stone walls sturdy enough to keep armies at bay - and a sheer drop down to the ocean discouraging any attacks from behind.

Why should you visit Dun Aenghus?
You will know when you are there ...

6. Navan Fort

What is Navan Fort?
We do not know for sure, but it sems to have been some sort of ceremonial place in its heyday.

Where is Navan Fort?
Near Armagh.

Why is Navan Fort important?
Navan Fort must have been one of the most important (royal) sites in the north of Ireland and might well be one of the "palaces" mentioned in old Irish epics.

What will you see at Navan Fort?
Mainly earthworks and a modern visitors center.

Why should you visit Navan Fort?
This is one of the lesser-known prehistoric sites of Ireland, but full of mystery and certainly a rival to many other (better known) sites.

7. Loughcrew

What is Loughcrew?
Ireland's second largest megalithic cemetery.

Where is Loughcrew?
Just south of Oldcastle (County Meath).

Why is Loughcrew important?
Loughcrew has a number of passage tombs with solar alignments and intriguing rock-art.

What can you expect at Loughcrew?
Several tombs in complete or incomplete states - the keys to the main tomb are available (see local signs). The rock-art is amazing ... but the climb from the car park is steep!

Why should you visit Loughcrew?
The tombs are accessible for free and simply spectacular. The breathtaking view makes up for the equally breathtaking climb.

8. Fourknocks

What is Fourknocks?
A passage tomb with a difference - the inner chamber is far larger than others in relation to the size of the mound.

Where is Fourknocks?
You will have to search for Fourknocks near Clonalvy (County Meath).

Why is Fourknocks important?
Because it is unusual - similar passage tombs are usually only found in Portugal!

What will you see at Fourknocks?
From the outside a steep grassy knoll - fetch the key to the tomb locally to see how different Fourknocks really is.

Why should you visit Fourknocks?
Because it is different, unique ... and maybe a hint at ancient overseas contacts.

9. Queen Maeve's Grave

What is Queen Maeve's Grave?
Sorry - but nobody knows! It is an artificially erected heap of stones on top of Knocknarea, reputed to be the grave of legendary Queen Maeve.

Where is Queen Maeve's Grave?
Just south of Sligo.

Why is Queen Maeve's Grave important?
As one of the few well-known but unexplored megalithic sites in Ireland it continues to inspire legends and fringe theories.

What will you see at Queen Maeve's Grave?
An impressive heap of stones on a mountain top. And all of Sligo Bay.

Why should you visit Queen Maeve's Grave?
Location location, location - no other prehistoric site has such scenic appeal.

10. The Hill of Tara

What is the Hill of Tara?
Reputed to be the site where Ireland's High Kings held court.

Where is the Hill of Tara?
Northwest of Dublin.

Why is the Hill of Tara important?
Tara was an important place for ages as a royal seat (or ceremonial place), closely connected to Saint Patrick.

What will you see at the Hill of Tara?
Apart from the visitor center in a disused church there are extensive earthworks to be explored.

Why should you visit the Hill of Tara?
As it played such a central role in Irish history and has many legendary and mythical connotations, Tara us a must for anyone interested in Ireland's past.

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