15 Dec 2017
Witness the Phenomenon of the Winter Solstice in Ireland’s Ancient East LIVE on YouTube
It’s an ancient light show that has been taking place at the same time and date for over 5,000 years. It’s the winter solstice at Newgrange, and the rediscovery of the world’s oldest clock makes for quite a tale.
Exactly 50 years ago, on December 21, 1967, standing in the inner sanctum of the Newgrange passage tomb in County Meath, Irish archaeologist Dr Michael J O’Kelly watched as a shaft of pale winter sunlight shone through the roof box over the main entrance, crept along the passage and bathed the chamber in a mystical golden glow. It was the first winter solstice witnessed at Newgrange by anyone in over 5,000 years.
As the sun rises higher, the beam slowly creeps along the floor of the 19-metre passage tomb and then widens within the central chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated, revealing the ancient stone carvings inside. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9am. The passage tombs of the Boyne Valley are renowned for their abundance of rock art and have the largest concentration of megalithic art in Europe.
Newgrange’s accuracy as a time-telling device is remarkable when one considers that it was built 500 years before the Great Pyramids in Egypt, and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge in England. The intent of its builders was undoubtedly to mark the beginning of the New Year. In addition, it may have served as a powerful symbol of the victory of life over death.
Be there, wherever you are!
To celebrate this incredible rediscovery, Tourism Ireland is hosting a live stream of the event on Ireland.com/wintersolstice to share this ancient spectacle across the globe!
Everyone is invited to witness this incredible illumination and experience the festival-like atmosphere that takes place around this ancient marvel.
Don’t forget to tune into our live video stream on Ireland.com/wintersolstice between 8.30-9.15am (GMT) on Thursday on December 20 and 21. Set your 21st century clocks to this 5,000 year-old timepiece now!
1. Newgrange Facts: Located in Donore, County Meath. Entrance is strictly via the Brú na Bóinne Centre. 33,000 people applied in 2017, only 60 lucky people got tickets and each may bring a guest. The Winter Solstice Lottery is drawn in September every year. Find out how to enter here
2. Located some 50 km from Dublin, Newgrange is the largest in a group of Neolithic passage graves in Brú na Bóinne, an area located around the Boyne Valley, County Meath.
3. Newgrange is the jewel in the crown of a region Tourism Ireland promotes as Ireland’s Ancient East, an area with a rich history stretching back 5,000 years, where every cairn has a story, every castle turret has a tale, and every hill may hide a heroic saga.
4. Described by one visiting journalist as “5,000-year-old Stone-Age engineering”, the passage tomb at Newgrange is not your typical resting place. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for one. It predates both the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and Stonehenge in Britain.
5. Awareness of the solstice phenomenon at Newgrange has grown enormously since then and nowadays crowds gather outside Newgrange every year. The fortunate few who are allowed to go inside the burial chamber are chosen by lottery. People travel from all over the world to be there, if they are lucky enough to get one of the winning tickets.
6. Eve O’Kelly, daughter to the Dr Michael O'Kelly, has been one of the lucky ones. “It is a very special and spiritual experience,” says Eve. “Whether the sun shines or not, to be present at Newgrange at the winter solstice, to mark the turning of the year and the return of the sun in the same way that people did 5,000 years ago is remarkable. It is quite awe-inspiring to think that our Irish ancestors knew so much about engineering and astronomy, and were able to build something, which is still structurally sound, and where the sun will continue to shine in once a year for thousands of years to come.
For more information, go to www.ireland.com/wintersolstice
Images and videos for Newgrange can be found on Irelandscontentpool.com
Passage Images can be found here - these must be credited as follows:
© National Monuments Service
Dept. of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht.
Bru na Boinne Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI78ufzvmDQ
Watch the Live Stream on YouTube!
Need more resources? View our images and videos from across Ireland