Newgrange Stone Circle and Barrow

County : Meath

Newgrange is an outstanding monument with a whole host of features - effectively a large passage grave surrounded by a ring of stones, some stones with excellent carvings too. Inside there is an unequivocal astronomical alignment - the main passage is aligned such that only the midwinter sunrise illuminates the central chamber.

Newgrange - front view

Newgrange has been the subject of enthusiastic 'renovation' by the Irish office of public works - whether these are exactly to your taste is up to you. Newgrange - back viewCertainly it is striking to see strong architectural lines imposed upon the structure - while accepting that the surface of the barrow was probably faced with white quartz I am not so sure that the magnificent 20th century facade is entirely true to form. I find something appealing about the view from the back (smaller picture, right) of the monument which has been left more in its state as originally found.

The enthusiasm of the renovation is also shown by the archaeological study - no minimalist principles of least affect here - Newgrange was taken apart piece by piece and then reconstructed. Sadly the central chamber, with its roof of corbelled drystone construction, now leaks in heavy rainfall, though for some 4,000 years the corbelled construction held the weather at bay... Despite some of the crassness there, one of the chamber's finest details was preserved.

front carved kerb-stone

A rock aperture in the central chamber is aligned precisely with the long passageway so that at the midwinter sunrise a long shaft of sunlight illuminates the chamber - at no other sunrise is the chamber illuminated.

The mound is surrounded with 'kerbstones' and some of these are finely decorated in whorls and cup and ring marks on a much grander scale than usual. The fine example to the left is the stone located at the entrance to the chamber. Such rock-art is also found at nearby Knowth, - the next photo shows similar detail there.

Knowth kerb-stone