Newgrange (a Stone Age passage tomb constructed more than 5,000 years ago)
Evidence of a pre-literate culture who told their stories through stonework can be seen throughout Ireland. Exactly what these stories are is still a mystery. Burial mounds, stone circles surrounded by grazing cows, enormous dolmens and amazing engineered passage tombs - they're all scattered throughout Ireland in abundance. And sometimes, in the most unexpected of places.
There are different types of ancient monuments in Ireland - passage tombs, wedge tombs, portal dolmens and cairns to name just a few. If you're looking for evidence of Ireland's ancient past, here's a few key destinations to explore.
Brú na Bóinne
Brú na Bóinne, which means the 'palace' or the 'mansion' of the Boyne, refers to the area within the bend of the River Boyne which contains one of the world's most important prehistoric areas. The archaeological landscape within Brú na Bóinne is dominated by the three well-known large passage tombs - Newgrange (photo on right and at top of page), Knowth and Dowth - built some 5,000 years ago in the Neolithic or Late Stone Age.
Passage tombs are one of more burial chambers covered in earth or with stone and have a narrow access passage made of large stones.
Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre has re-opened after its recently completed major refurbishment. The new state of the art, immersive visitor experience transports visitors back 5000 years to the pinnacle of passage tomb building.
Beneath the wild bogland of North Mayo lies the Céide Fields, the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world, consisting of field systems, dwelling areas and megalithic tombs. The stone walled fields, extending over thousands of acres are almost 6,000 years old, the oldest known in the world. They are covered by a natural blanket bog with its own unique vegetation and wildlife. The Visitor Centre has won several awards, including the Gold Medal for architecture. It's located beside some of the most spectacular cliffs and rock formations in Ireland and a viewing platform is positioned on the edge of the 110 meter high cliff.
Perched on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Dún Aonghasa is the largest of the prehistoric stone forts on the Aran Islands. The fort consists of three massive dry-stone walls and a Chevaux-de-frise, a dense band of jagged upright stones, surrounding the fort from cliff to cliff, designed to impede attackers. Excavations at the site indicate that the first construction goes back to
1100 BC when the first enclosure was erected by piling rubble against large upright stones. Around 500 BC, the triple wall defenses were probably built along the western side of the fort. Excavations also revealed significant evidence of prehistoric metalworking, as well as several houses and burials.
Poulnabrone Dolmen is a portal tomb dating back to the Neolithic period (3800 BCE to 3200 BCE). Excavations in 1985 found that between 16 and 22 adults and 6 children were buried under the monument. Buried with the dead were personal items that included a polished stone axe, a bone pendant, quartz crystals, weapons and pottery.
For almost 6,000 years, Poulnabrone portal tomb, built by the local Burren community of that time, has stood proud within this rocky landscape. Notice the fossils of the marine creatures that lived in the warm, shallow, tropical sea that covered this area over 300 million years ago.
Entrance to this site is FREE. Parking available.
Relive ancient Irish life ...............
Irish National Heritage Park
Located just outside Wexford Town in the cornerstone of Ireland's Ancient East, the Irish National Heritage Park is a unique heritage experience that brings to life over 9,000 years of Irish history. Take a journey through Pre-Historic Ireland, Early Christian Ireland and the Age of Invasion across 40 acres of magical woodland. Explore historic buildings and settlements to see how Ireland's earliest settlers lived, worked and fought. Forge like a pre-historic farmer, throw an axe just like a Viking, meet the birds of prey and maybe stay overnight in a ring fort like it's 2000 BCE.
A similar attraction, to this one, is the Navan Centre & Fort near Armagh, Northern Ireland.