After breakfast we thanked our host, packed the VW Passat, turned West onto country road 125 (CR125) and drove off towards our first destination deep within the Boyne Valley some 43-kilometres away. For this international trip the wife had her nose down for at least six-months scouring resources about Ireland, the activities, the Irish heritage, histories and found her Top 10 not to miss places.
The country side was gorgeous as we traveled back and forth, turning left and twisting back to the right a plethora of switchbacks all lined with an endless abundance of stone walls. They would only end where a driveway or cross street appeared and continue onward on the other side. Twenty-nine minutes onward and tired of the switchbacks we crested a small hill, pulling over along a driveway to stretch our limbs and breathe in the countryside air.
“This sure is a nice spot for a coffee and a stretch,” she says doing side bends and gazing across the farm fields laid out before us. Then she looks at me and says, “I think if we go down this hill, then take a right and possibly a left we will be back on the actual country road 125. What do you think?” Smiling at her, I replied with a grimace on my face and love in my eyes, “it cannot get any worse then where I’ve just driven us. Why not. Maybe this is the one country where my inner GPS just doesn’t work. Probably because all the roads don’t go straight, and I can never figure out which direction we are actually headed?”
Back in the car she navigated us down the hill, through three right turns and a left miraculously directing us out of the countryside lane and onto CR125. Five minutes on the country roadway we spotted a sign Brú na Bóinne12kms.
After 55-kilometres, a cow milking and a 23-minute detour through the farmland’s of County Meath we had arrived at this historical site, or so we thought.
Pulling into the parking lot was like parking at a mountain hiking trailhead. There were cars everywhere, straight, sideways, squished between poles and hiding behind shrubbery.
Tourists here were serious. We spotted a sign with an arrow pointing down a path, which turned into a flight of stairs beneath this amazing winding pergola. Our feet carried us downward admiring the soft beauty of spring time in Ireland.
At the bottom of the hill we found Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre Newgrange and Knowth, The centre had a cafe, museum and gift shop.
During our turn to purchase tickets we learnt about this awesome card, called the Heritage Card. You pay €40.00 euros the Heritage Card provides free admission to all fee-paying State managed OPW Heritage Sites located throughout the country for one year from the date of first use. For example: Kilmainham Gaol €8, Ennis Friary €5, Charles Fort €5, Trim Castle €5, Rock of Cashel €8, Brú na Bóinne €13 , Kilkenny Castle €8, and many more. We went to them all and individually it would have cost €52+. We paid for OPW then wandered around the museum for a few minutes before making our way across the bridge to the tourist buses.
There are no words to justify how amazing this structure is and as you move about it’s circumference you become mesmerized by the people who built it, how they accomplished this feat and you come to appreciate Its tremendous size.
The structure dwarfs the humans standing beside it. You are in pure awe of the people who would have designed this magnificent structure, the cultivation of hand building at its finest, one stone at a time. Then you hear what year it was built and you cannot fathom the logistics: c. 3,200 BC.
This magnificent structure is built upon a large mound approximately 80 meters in total diameter and at its foundation is built of 1,000 pound stones called Kerb Stones. There are 97 of them. I tried counting them twice and lost count twice as my wandering eyes looked at every tumbled stone. There is an estimated 200,000 tonnes of stone covering 0.5 hectares. What’s more impressive is the Irish historians believe all of the stones were rolled in water creating smooth surfaces on each and every stone before it was placed. They believe most of these stones were removed from the nearby River Boyne.
Wait, there is more incredibleness… the white quartz stones come from veins of quartz in County Wicklow only a 110-kilometres (68 miles) from this site. We are talking about people who moved tonnes of stone from all around the Dublin region to this site Before Christ (BC)! And to build the revetment wall (black stones) above the kerbs along the front entrance to the tomb these stones came from two northern regions: Mourne 95kms (59 miles) and Carlingford 70kms (45 miles).
Like us, you are probably impressed thus far by this beautiful structure, the design, craftsmanship and logistics but wait there is one more thing which will make you want to come to Brú na Bóinne more than anything else. Its entrance and the chamber deep down inside it.
Looking at the photo above you will see a curved Kerb stone, then a large square (the entrance) and a smaller square (window). The horizontal black stone between the small square and the large square is actually a kerb stone laying on its side. As is the top most section of the small square. And there are two kerb stones on either side of the large square that act like support beams for the entrance.
At 6-foot 3-inches I ducked below the horizontal kerb stone and walked in behind my wife and seven other people including the guide. It is dark and getting darker as we descend down the slope 19m (62ft) along a southeast line to the centre chamber. Here the Irish have installed a small light source in order for people to see the three chambers which form a cross.
Then the guide flicks a switch and its darker than one imagines darkness to be, then a small light appears up in the ceiling approximately 6m (20ft) above us. The corralled roof covers the entire chamber. It was constructed with a variety of overlapping layers of very large rocks and sealed with capstone. And after 5,000 years of existence the roof is still water proof.
The small light penetrates the chamber and it illuminates the chamber it is eerie and calming until you learn this chamber may have been used for pagan rituals, burning of diseased bodies and other unknown activities. And just before you exit the chamber the guide informs every year more than 20,000 people come to Brú na Bóinne to be a part of a lottery which will allow you entrance into the chamber during the morning of Winter Solstice to learn the true meaning behind the “small window” also known as a roof-box.
For more historical information go to: World Heritage Ireland