Sill Stone at Newgrange
Portal Stone at Newgrange

The Boyne Valley and its Megalithic Monuments

July 15-16, 1999:

Construction at KnowthThe 'Big Mamas' of Megalithic Tombs are in the Boyne Valley. About an hour north of Dublin, the trinity of Dowth, Knowth and Newgrange contain 80% of the megalithic art in Ireland and are by far the largest passage tombs known.

Dowth is closed to the public because of the excavations going on there, and Knowth is only open on the outside because the passageways have collapsed due to the millennia of construction on the hill by by Bronze Age Kings, Saxons, Normans, and Monks.


Mounds at KnowthThe complex at Knowth is a series of passage graves. The giant one in the center is unique in that it contains two passages, each over a hundred feet long.

Serpentine design at KnowthThe kerb stones which the builders put in place to hold the mound up were decorated (sometimes on both sides) with these non-linear designs.

Is this squiggle a snake (there are none in Ireland, but the ancient Irish may well have known of them) or a river? Or something else? If you've got an idea you can e-mail us, we'd love to hear.

Horseshoe shapes   

Some think these Horseshoe shapes are symbols for the sun. We wondered if it was maybe the eclipse. What about the moon?

One reader in 2003 e-mailed to suggest they are cross-sections of boats for the journey onward. 



Ubiquitous SpiralAnd spirals, spirals everywhere. Maybe this was like the generic people signs we see today and had a universal meaning for stone age humans.

Theories anyone?



NewgrangeNext stop on the tour bus was Newgrange. Unlike Knowth and Dowth, this tomb's been left almost untouched inside. The white stone facing is made of quartz and was reconstructed from the fallen stones found on site. In the sun it glistens like studded glass and to the ancients it must have looked like magic.

They risked their lives to bring these stones from sources many weeks away by dugout canoe.

Newgrange entrance stoneThis stone is famous. On the left hand side you can see one of only three known examples of the tri-spiral.

   Tri Spiral in Passageway

The second example is in the passageway that leads up into the darkness under the mound. It's on the left hand side.


And the third example is in the small chamber at the end of the passage, facing back towards the door. Though the main chamber can hold two dozen, this last chamber could only fit one or two people. Long ago, perhaps, the high priestess would stand here and pour sacred water on the tri-spiral as she waited in absolute darkness on Winter Solstice Morning.

Secret Tri-Sprial

Then, when the sun rises, a ray of sunlight shaped like a dagger slowly creeps up the chamber and strikes the panel in the back. It only happens on the five days surrounding and including winter solstice (and then only if the sun is shining).

If you want to see it, you're out of luck. The waiting list is already full till the year 2006 when they're going to do something else, perhaps a lottery. (But if you want to see it, you should become a guide. Most of them won't tell you this, but one of the five days each year is reserved for the Newgrange guide staff. They deserve it after dealing with so many tourists day in and day out. )

Entrance to the opened site at LoughcrewWhenever you can see something amazing that other's don't know about, you feel really proud of yourself. Such was the case with us at Loughcrew. The Dutch couple we met at Carrowkeel told us about Loughcrew, and we were glad we went. Not technically part of the Boyne Valley, they're not too far away by modern transportation.


Passageway at LouchcrewNobody else was there. We left a deposit for the key and walked through fields past standing stones and ring forts



Cruciform chambersWe were rewarded by time alone with some amazing cairns and rock art.

We learned at Newgrange that the right-hand chamber is always bigger and more ornate. Here you see it also has a basin stone.



Double Sprial   





Sill stone in front of Right Hand Chamber   


These double spirals are everywhere. They have that same sort of non-linear placement that seems to be trying to say something, but not loud enough for our modern ears.




Kerb stones left dry   

At Loughcrewthere's also a unique tomb that has seven chambers. It was once as big as Queen Maeve's, but now most of the covering stones are gone.

This site was used in the Bronze age as well and contains an altar stone that was a bronze age addition.



Rock artMore swirls and spirals. Could be the sun and moon, but we'll never know for sure.

There's a great site showing some equinox pictures from Loughcrew.




Decrepit tomb   

Next to the Fair city of Dublin

   Back to Ireland


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