Winter Solstice at Newgrange
Witness a dawn spectacle engineered over 5,000 years ago by spending a morning at the Winter Solstice at Newgrange. The Winter Solstice takes place on December 21 each year but Newgrange is open for visitors to witness the beautiful dawn experience from December 18 – 23. On clear solstice mornings the chamber at the end of the passage is fully illuminated and bathed in a golden glow. Visitors gathered outside the monument will witness the dawn as Newgrange’s Neolithic builders saw it thousands of years ago.
On the morning of the Winter Solstice the chamber and passage at Newgrange are illuminated by the Winter Solstice sun. Above the entrance to the passage of the mound there is an opening called a roof-box. On mornings around the Winter Solstice a beam of light penetrates the roof-box and travels up the 19 metre passage and into the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the beam widens so that the whole chamber is dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9am. The accuracy of Newgrange as a time-telling device is remarkable when one considers that it was built 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge. The intent of the Stone Age farmers who build Newgrange was undoubtedly to mark the beginning of the new year.
Many gather at the ancient tomb to wait for dawn, as people did 5,000 years ago. So great is the demand to be one of the few inside the chamber during the solstice that there is a free annual lottery. There were 32,522 entries for Solstice 2017!
Unfortunately, as with many Irish events that depend upon sunshine, if the skies are overcast, there is not much to be seen. Yet all agree that it is an extraordinary feeling to wait in the darkness, as people did so long ago, for the longest night of the year to end.
The Winter Solstice at Newgrange is a truly magical event you’ll remember for decades to come, this is one of Ireland’s most unique experiences.
Admission is free.