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Amazing Places
Here we present the most exciting destinations on earth. The world is bigger than you think! Humans` explorations of earth leads to the most amazing adventures. Neither words, photograps nor films do the world`s places justice - they must been seen, heard and touched.

A deep dive into Ireland's lesser-known ancient secret sites

The feeling of being an adventurer and explorer visiting untouched ancient places is real exciting. Then you should go to Ireland. The country is definitely more than churches, medieval castles, pubs, sheeps and green landscapes. 

Photo. The 5000 year old main mound at Knowth in Ireland. © Travel Explorations.

It is also rich with lesser-known ancient sites that offer intriguing glimpses into the country's past. Here you will witness human achievement far beyond your imagination. 

Each step at Ireland`s ancient sites brings a sense of travelling back in time: walking in the steps that people once walked, admire the structures they built and wonder what were their purposes? And what secrets are hidden the beneath the underground?

This trigged my curiosity. It is interesting getting a new approach to history, and that really engage me. I used to spend hours pondering at ancient sites around the world, solving mysteries, learning about daily life, and trying to imagine how it was at that time.

Ireland is a small country in size, but huge when it comes to number of ancient sites. The more famous landmarks in the country are the Megalithic Passage Tombs of Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth, Fourknocks, Loughcrew and Tara. These are located in present-day County Meath in Ireland's Ancient East, more precisely in the valley of the River Boyne. The Boyne Valley Mounds at Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth were built around 3,200BC making them older than Stonehenge in England and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. These passage tomb mounds have been designated World Heritage Site status by UNESCO

Prepare for a stunning sunrise on earth on the banks of the River Boyne. Especially think of what sight Newgrange might has been: it is 80-metre mound, emerges out of the green earth, adorned with spiral-engraved kerbstones and white Wicklow quartzite. And think of the 5000 year old main mound at Knowth, known as Knowth Site 1. This covering a hectare contains two passages, placed along an east-west line, and has existed in the same period as the mounds at Newgrange and Dowth. In addition to the large mound (Site 1) here, the site consists of 18 smaller satellite mounds rising up in the green stone age landscape. 

The mounds are classified as Passage Tombs by archaeologists and known as the prehistoric site of Brú na Bóinne in the Irish language (Wikipedia). Built by Neolithic farming communities about 5,000 years ago, the passage tombs have clear astronomical alignments such as the Winter Solstice Sunrise at Newgrange and the Equinox Sunrise at Loughcrew.

Ireland have even more to offer for thrill seeking adventurers and explorers. Here are some of the lesser-known ancient secret sites in Ireland:

  • Loughcrew Cairns, County Meath - These ancient burial mounds, also known as the "Hills of the Witch," are older than the pyramids and contain unique megalithic art and carvings inside their chambers (ancient secrets in Ireland - BBC). 
  • Kilclooney Dolmen, County Donegal - This impressive portal tomb dates back to about 3500 BC. Also remarkable for its giant capstone resting on two portal stones.
  • Dún Aonghasa, Aran Islands, County Galway - Perched dramatically on the edge of a 100-meter high cliff, this ancient fort offers breathtaking views and a rich history dating back to the Bronze Age. 
  • Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny - Founded in the 12th century, Jerpoint Abbey is one of the best examples of a medieval Cistercian Abbey in Ireland (Heritage Ireland). The architectural styles within the church, constructed in the late twelfth century, reflect the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture. The tower and cloister date to the fifteenth century. Jerpoint is renowned for its detailed stone sculptures found throughout the monastery. A peaceful place to explore. 
  • Rathcroghan, County Roscommon - Known as the ancient capital of Connacht. This site is a complex of archaeological remnants including mounds, ring forts, and other structures, with a history that stretches back over 5,000 years.
  • The Boheh Stone, County Mayo - An intriguing example of Neolithic rock art, this stone features numerous cup-and-ring markings. It is also known for the "Rolling Sun" phenomenon, where the setting sun appears to roll down the nearby Croagh Patrick on certain dates.
  • Glendalough, County Wicklow – This monastic site with round towers was founded in the 6th century and is nestled in the stunning Glendalough Valley, located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. In the area there are many ancient sites and relics that are less explored.
  • Tara Hill, County Meath - While the Hill of Tara is famous as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, many of its surrounding lesser-known archaeological features are often overlooked, including hidden graves, earthworks, and ancient ceremonial paths.
  • Skellig Michael - an island monastery towering over the sea, one of the earliest monastic foundations in the country. The beehive-shaped huts made of stone in which the monks of St Fionan lived, prayed and slept remain intact, perched on the summit of an awe-inspiring rocky island that dominates the surrounding seascape. Recently attained a UNESCO World Heritage Site status

These sites offer a quieter, more unique experience than the more famous landmarks and provide a deep dive into Ireland's ancient history and culture.

Think about this, experiencing these places, you are not just a visitor; you are a witness to history's greatness, taking a part in the timeless human story of exploration and discovery.

For those with a deeper passion for adventure, need to spend more time searching for Ireland`s hidden gems: find breathing views, peacefully untouched places, and mysteries overlooked by the façade of ancient monuments, hills and bushes. Sometimes is just better to leave all the pondering and just enjoy your journey: the emotions are all apart of it. 

Stein Morten Lund, 
April 2024

Additional information

Note: This article is written with assistance from ChatGTP, Microsoft Copilot, and use of information sources as Wikipedia. 

Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre: Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth
Book your tour here. Pre-booking tickets is essential – all visitors including children/infants must have a ticket.

Discover Ireland’s most ancient secrets (BBC)
Exploring Ireland’s ancient east means choosing your own adventure through 5,000 years of history – with no route, itinerary or list of sites.

Brú na Bóinne - Archaeological Ensemble of the Bend of the Boyne (UNESCO). 
The three main prehistoric sites of the Brú na Bóinne Complex, Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, are situated on the north bank of the River Boyne 50 km north of Dublin. This is Europe's largest and most important concentration of prehistoric megalithic art. The monuments there had social, economic, religious and funerary functions.

Newgrange - World Heritage Site
Newgrange, a 5,200 year old passage tomb located in the Boyne Valley in Ireland's Ancient East. Newgrange was built by Stone Age farmers, the mound is 85m (279ft) in diameter and 13m (43ft) high, an area of about 1 acre. A passage measuring 19m (62ft) leads into a chamber with 3 alcoves. The passage and chamber are aligned with the rising sun on the mornings around the Winter Solstice.

UNESCO World Heritage Ireland
Two of Ireland’s most extraordinary historic places have attained UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

The pre-historic site Brú na Bóinne (Wikipedia)
Brú na Bóinne, also called the Boyne Valley tombs, is an ancient monument complex and ritual landscape in County Meath, Ireland, located in a bend of the River Boyne. It is one of the world's most important Neolithic landscapes, comprising at least ninety monuments including passage tombs, burial mounds, standing stones and enclosures. The site is dominated by the passage tombs of Newgrange (Sí an Bhrú), Knowth (Cnogbha) and Dowth (Dubhadh), built during the 32nd century BC. Together these have the largest assemblage of megalithic art in Europe. The associated archaeological culture is called the "Boyne culture".

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