When most people dream up a wish list of mysterious ancient structures to visit and explore, the pyramids of Egypt and the mystical rock sculptures of Stonehenge in England tend to top the list. Most travelers are unaware that Ireland is home to Newgrange—one of the world’s most impressive ancient stone structures—-which was constructed prior to Stonehenge and the pyramids. Built in approximately 3200 BC, Ireland’s Newgrange is the scene of a dazzling natural light show every December 21st, when the rays of the rising sun illuminate the interior of the stone structure.
Historians are not exactly sure why Newgrange was built, but they do know that the structure served as a tomb for humans and animals, and a place for religious observance. The annual light show on December 21st generally marks the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year. Ancient inhabitants of Ireland believed that the winter solstice marked the beginning of a season of new light, new life, and abundance. Some historians also suspect that December 21st was a day when the ancient inhabitants of Ireland believed that spirits rose from the dead.
Newgrange is a round stone structure that features a handful of stone tombs that visitors can explore. The ornate stonework that lines the exterior of Newgrange is believed to be some of the most advanced Neolithic artwork in existence. The spiral-shaped patterns carved into the rocks near the main entrance are impressive even by today’s standards.
Visitors can explore the interior of Newgrange. It is important to note that Newgrange operates on a lottery system. Thousands of people flock to Newgrange every December to witness the sunrise on the winter solstice. Only a small portion of lucky visitors are able to watch the rays of the sun penetrate the inside of the stone tomb. Even if you are unable to journey inside of Newgrange, there are plenty of impressive stone structures outside of the tomb that certainly rival the grandeur of Stonehenge.
Ireland is full of countless enchanting nooks and crannies. Newgrange is one of the most captivating destinations in a country that is celebrated for its magic and mystery. A visit to Newgrange will allow you to consider questions that have kept historians guessing for centuries. After a morning spent wandering the grounds of Newgrange, each new sunrise will have renewed significance. You will fully embrace the beauty and majesty of the sun.