Newgrange is best known for the illumination of its passage and chamber by the rising sun at the
Above the entrance to the passage of the mound there is a opening called a roof-box.
On mornings around the winter solstice a beam of light penetrates the
roof-box and travels up the 19 meter passage and into the chamber.
As the sun rises higher, the beam widens so that the whole chamber is dramatically illuminated.
Access to the chamber on the Solstice mornings is decided by a lottery
that takes place at the end of September each year.
All are welcome to gather outside the entrance to the Newgrange mound on each of the mornings from
December 19th to December 23rd inclusive, sunrise is at 8.58am.
Access via the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre or
directly to the actual Newgrange monument.
Dark retreats before
the calculated caress
of sun's brightness.
Winter's hand pulls back
from a small ancient chamber;
For a few minutes,
brilliance scatters kisses
before light recedes.
The night must return,
and we can draw light into
dark times if we try. Credits
Winter Solstice photographs by Alan Betson.
Seeing The Light as Solstice Hits the Net
It was new age technology combined with 5,000-year-old Stone-Age engineering.
Yesterday, for the first time, the winter sun lighting the passage tomb at
Newgrange, Co Meath, was beamed live around the world on television and the
Hundreds of people travelled long distances to face the sun as it rose over the
Boyne Valley, as locals had done thousands of years earlier.
The morning frost may have chilled fingers, but it provided perfect crisp
weather for viewing the winter solstice.
Witnessed by just a select few inside the snug burial chamber, the annual event
was transmitted live by the Office of Public Works to hundreds of thousands of
people via internet and television stations, including TV3.
It was 40 years ago that Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly first witnessed the event
alongside her father, Professor Michael J O'Kelly, who rediscovered the winter
solstice phenomenon when he unearthed the roof box.
Yesterday saw his daughers -- Helen, Eve and Ann -- return to the chamber as
part of the select group of dignitaries and
lottery winners to celebrate the
40th anniversary of Professor O'Kelly's remarkable discovery.
"It was extraordinary, I remember seeing it in around 1969 -- all alone, just me
and him. No cameras, no lights, nothing. The whole place was just illuminated.
I'll never forget it," Ms Watanabe-O'Kelly said.
"He was the first person in about 5,000 years to see it."
Outside, incense burned as some watchers saluted the rising sun, others simply
watched while the sun set the roof box aglow.
On a massive screen outside the passage tomb, from just before 9am the beam of
amber light could be seen creeping along the floor.
Inside in the small chamber was Environment Minister John Gormley, Minister of
State Noel Ahern, and a lucky few whose names had been drawn out of a lottery of
over 29,000 people for the golden tickets.
Mr Gormley, who was dashing off to see his son in a nativity play, said: "It was
a real privilege and a once in a lifetime experience."
Also present was a rather chilled Professor John Patrick O'Grady, from the
University of Sydney, who surveyed the ancient astronomical observatory as part
of his PhD Thesis work. Prof O'Grady chose the 40th anniversary to donate his
papers on the passage tomb to the State.
"The first time we saw it was a very emotional experience, it is a cultural
confirmation of a culture so old," he said.
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy Principal from St Mary's Primary School in nearby Trim,
had witnessed the event from within the chamber and vowed to bring back a small
squadron of pupils to see it.
"They are learning about it in school and I thought it would be a good
experience," she said.
Other years, protestors had gathered outside in objection to the construction of
the M3 motorway close to the historic
Hill of Tara, yesterday there were no
banners but still many supporters of the 'Save Tara' campaign were present.
After venturing along the treacherously icy roads from Co Wicklow, biker, Brian
McGuinness, sat soaking up the winter sun outside the chamber. "The huge crowd
was nice to see. Maybe there is a change going on after the few years of madness
that was the Celtic Tiger," he said.
Solstice regular, Cliodhna Ryan (33) from Carlingford, Co Louth said the
television cameras had impinged upon the "moment of silence and quiet" as the sun rises.
After travelling from Chicago, James Robeson (64), quipped: "It might convert me
from being a Roman Catholic to becoming a druid."
Who were these people gathered on the hillside at Newgrange, the passage grave
built 5,000 years ago in a crook of the River Boyne in Co Meath? Why did they
build this colossal monument and what did they expect from it? More...
Immerse yourself in the rich heritage and culture of the Boyne Valley with our full-day private tours.
Visit Newgrange World Heritage site, explore the Hill of Slane, where Saint Patrick famously lit the Paschal fire.
Discover the Hill of Tara, the ancient seat of power for the High Kings of Ireland.