Ireland's magical Bru na Boinne


By Sid Kaplan
Travel Writer
Troy Media Corporation

BRU na BOINNE, Ireland, September 29, 2009/ Troy Media/ — What is it about Bru na Boinne that makes it so special, so much so that it’s one of the “must sees” of Ireland?

The site contains passage graves (a Neolithic tomb consisting of a passageway and burial chamber made of large upright stones capped with other large stones, originally buried in an earthen mound), standing stones, henges and other features. It’s a World Heritage site, and literature says it contains some of the world’s most historically important Neoltic passage graves, most notably Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth.

But what is it about the site that “takes your breath away”? One guess is because it’s origins are lost in Ireland’s misty ancient history. Newgrange is mentioned in several Celtic sagas.

A thousand years older than Stonehenge in England, it is a powerful and evocative testament to the mind-boggling achievements of prehistoric humans and, another reason it’s so special, it shows us what we can achieve. If ancient peoples could do THAT, just think what we can do.

To a certain extent, you need to have a fascination with ancient monuments and standing stones but, if you do, then you will certainly enjoy Bru na Boinne. The monuments at this site seem to have always been associated with “magic”. They seem tied to astronomy, in this case mostly the Winter Solstice.

Throughout the centuries, Bru na Boinne was woven into myths and legends and are regarded as the cemetery of the High-Kings of Tara and Ireland.

The main monuments are Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth.

Newgrange is a passage tomb, but that sounds so . . . ordinary. It is one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world. It consists of a mound which is 250 feet (76 meters) across and 40 feet (12 meters) high. What makes it visually so impressive is that the front is faced with a wall of sparkling white quartz stones. Close up it is the art on the stones that will impress. The burial chamber inside has remained intact for 5,000 years.

Knowth is the largest of the passage graves. Its large mound is impressive, but it lacks the spectacular white front of New Grange. There is, however, an impressive amount of megalithic art in this tomb.

Dowth is the oldest of the three, but it is the least attractive to tourists because it is less excavated. Its decorations are not as complex, though it may once have been faced with quartz like Newgrange. Newgrange and Dowth have passages that allow light in during the Winter Solstice.

So what, you may ask? It’s still a bunch of graves, right? NO . . . it is a magical site, Irish Fairies aside.

Imagine yourself transported 4000-5000 years back in time. You approach Bru na Boinne by boat on the River Boyne, through an ancient Irish landscape. There, high on a hill in the distance, you spot the sunlight dancing off the white quartz and granite facade of a monument, already ancient. Wouldn’t that seem magical?

Even now, when you approach the monuments in Bru na Boinne, you can feel the sacredness of the site if you will just let yourself. That’s the magic of it and that is why it’s so special.

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