Brú na Bóinne, Ancient mansions of Boyne!
Since we Sisters have a teeny tiny obsession with visiting the UNESCO World Heritage sites, I couldn’t let myself go out of Ireland without visiting Brú na Bóinne. When I was doing my research on UNESCO World Heritage sites in Ireland I came across ample of them but what caught my attention was this 5,000-year-old prehistoric monument which is set on the banks of river Boyne and it said that these were older than the pyramids in Egypt (400 years older). Although I have not visited the pyramids yet, I thought let’s start with the older one, the Brú na Bóinne.
Brú na Bóinne means a mansion or a palace on the bend of the river Boyne, which is well-known for its three prehistoric burial sites and megalithic art at Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. Structures such as large passage tombs, mounds, standing stones, henges were found from Neolithic (5,000 years old) or late stone age period along with additional 90 monuments around this area, although traces of human settlement has been recorded here since 6,000 years. These structures not only display their knowledge in architecture and rituals and beliefs but also shows their interest in engineering, art and astronomy. Hence, these sites have archaeoastronomical significance where passage tombs of Newgrange and Dowth are built to have winter solstice solar alignments and one at Knowth was built oriented towards spring and autumn equinox.
With all these information from the Google, my husband and I set off early morning from Dublin as it was mentioned in their website that the tours have limited tickets, which cannot be purchased online and is sold only at the Visitor center on first come first served basis. Like I had mentioned in my earlier Ireland posts, we were blessed to have beautiful sunny days throughout our trip. Call it our luck or not, even though it was a busy summer day at the Visitor center we got the tour tickets for that early afternoon and we had to wait only for 60 mins for it to commence. So, we opted to walk around the Exhibition center and it had an excellent collection of information about the sites and gave us a brief insight into the place.
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The guided tours are conducted by taking the visitors in the shuttle buses, accessible only from the Visitor center which takes us from here to Newgrange and Knowth which are kilometers apart. There is a short walk from the Visitor center towards the shuttle bus and its one the most scenic views I had walked where we pass over a pedestrian bridge on river Boyne surrounded by nothing but lush greenery.
Since we choose to visit only Knowth, we arrived at our destination in about 15 minutes and we were ushered to walk inside a compounded walk. And there I got the first glimpse of the historic tombs. We followed our guide around this site till the end of our tour.
The excavation work at Knowth started in 1962 by the archaeologist George Eogan and his team who discovered the great works and the charms of an ancient civilization which once dwelled here. The excavators also discovered that this site was only used by the original builders to perform their religious and other rituals.
Knowth has one large mound (measuring 12 m (40 ft) in high, 67 m (220 ft) in diameter), which has two passage tombs one with the entrance facing east and the other west and 18 smaller satellite mounds around it. The two passageways on the bigger mound are built in astronomical alignment with the sun on equinox days. This larger mound is surrounded by 124 kerbstones and some on these has ancient inscriptions with circular and spiral chiseled markings on it.
Over the millennia Knowth has gone through enormous changes, during the 8th century it was the protected settlement for the royal residence for the Brega kingdom. Sometime during 10th and 11th century small villages emerged around this under this kingdom and it continued until the arrival of the Cistercians and the Normans in the 12th century. But, during the earlier years of Christianity, Knowth was used as a defense site where the residents had dug two ditches around the mounds.
After a brief touring and imparting information by our guide we were allowed to enter the bigger mound through the eastern entrance and we walked through the narrow tunnels till we reached a small hall. I couldn’t stop myself from getting that eerie feeling as we were standing inside an ancient tomb.
After exiting this mound we climbed on top of it and the area on top looked shockingly humongous and the view was absolutely stunning. We spent few minutes on top before we left back to the Visitor Center.
Visiting one of Ireland’s ancient, ritual landscape was absolutely an awe-inspiring experience and I would highly recommend it. This would be an ideal day trip from Dublin as it is only 50 kilometers north-west from the Dublin city
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