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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.

Newgrange, Ireland - Here comes the sun

Newgrange is a Neolithic passage tomb in the valley of the River Boyne, County Meath, Ireland. Built by Stone Age farmers about 3200 BCE.

The ancient monument`s alignment with the winter solstice suggests a deeper purpose than just a tomb. Walked inside through a narrow passage - leaded into a chamber with 3 alcoves. There I got a demonstrated a truly remarkable phenomenon, the Winter Solstice illumination, and got an amazing spectacular experience. 

Photo. The entrance to Newgrange - it`s shaped so that during the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, sunlight shines directly through a specially designed roofbox. © Travel Explorations.

Newgrange is a Neolithic passage tomb in the valley of the River Boyne, County Meath, Ireland. Built by Stone Age farmers about 3200 BCE. It is older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. It may have served as a powerful symbol of the victory of life over death. This one of the world’s oldest and most spectacular light shows takes place.

There is so much history and tales around the site. For they who find their way into this massive circular tomb, might have somewhat of a spiritual experience. Especially when they experience the Winter Solstice illumination. The event has a mystic aura, as the ancient carved stones for a while come alive with the light of a sun that has shone on them for millennia. 

On 20th April 2024 I joined a guided tour to ancient passage tombs Knowth and Newgrange. A highlight on the tour was entering the chamber at Newgrange and experienceing a demonstration of the Winter Solstice illumination. 

What is exactly Newgrange? It isn`t easy to explain in few words. There are so many details. When it comes to all, I believe the tomb had a multiple purpose.  

  • Sacred burial place for kings and prominent persons
  • During the sunrise on the mornings around the winter solstice, a breathtaking alignment takes place. Marking the winter solstice: beginning of the new year (life circle), perhaps a calendar for crop and harvest, or a port to transfer dead people to their next life in another universe
  • Symbol of power and wealthiness
  • Place for sacrifice 
  • Performing of strange rituals

Photo. Sunlight shines along the floor of the inner chamber at Newgrange for the winter solstice. 

The most interesting was to get insight into solar symbolism at Newgrange and Celtic mythology. Newgrange is constructed so that during the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, sunlight illuminate the passageway whole the way into the main chamber. This remarkable phenomenon occurs around 21s December each year. 

The entrance stone at Newgrange consists of a large triple spiral engraved with double loops which decorate the left side of the stone. Above the entrance to the passage of the mound there is a opening called a roof-box. On mornings around the winter solstice a beam of light penetrates the roof-box and travels up the 19 metres passage and into the chamber. 

As the sun rises higher, the beam widens so that the entire chamber become totally illuminated. The light illuminates the inner chamber of the mound for about 17 minutes, revealing intricate stone carvings inside. Even though I didn`t experience the real Winter Solstice, I found the illumination itself very beautiful, with glowing stones by the sunrays, and could imagine how it is in late December each year.

How could people for so long time build such a huge and advanced construction? It is considered a significant architectural feat, reflecting the advanced understanding of astronomy and engineering by the Neolithic people who built it. Think of that these Stone Age people constructed a massive circular tomb that included a long passageway, decorative sculptures and three chambers as a monument and place to bury their dead.

For they who want to experience the Winter Solstice on 21st December you should be aware of that you compete with among over 30.000 people. They have to participate in a lottery: the lottery draw 12 members of the public (and five officials) to allowed into the chamber on 21st December. It`s also a lottery being lucky with the weather. For many years, it has been too cloudy, foggy, rainy or misty for the sun’s rays to illuminate the tomb inside. 

Stein Morten Lund, April 2024

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