Tomorrow, December 22nd is the winter solstice and shortest day of the year when the inner chamber at Newgrange, a World Heritage site, is flooded with light for just a few minutes at sunrise.
Pre-dating the pyramids this Irish megalithic structure is that precisely aligned and has stood the test of time as just that, a finely tuned highly accurate, despite the subsequent slight tilting of the earth’s axis, instrument of time.
The rising sun gradually illuminates the carved standing stones of the passage eventually reaching the innermost chamber, for what sacred rite or purpose nobody knows for sure.... I was lucky enough to witness this once upon a time.
The moment seemed to stand still - it was like seeing and breathing liquid gold, not something you would ever forget and a great privilege.
Nowadays to be present on the solstice, you have to apply to the national lottery to be in with a chance. Daily public access to the monument is through the excellent Bru na Boinne exhibition centre on the far side of the river. There is a simulation of the solstice but it’s not the same.
While weather is always a factor, it has to be perfectly clear for the sun to illuminate the chamber, those in the know, stalwart hippies and archaeologists have noted that while it may not happen perfectly on the exact day it will happen on one of the days either side of the solstice. This was hugely important back then as it marked the end of the winter or darkness and the return to longer days and brightness as the sun starts to broaden its path on the horizon.
There has been a huge return to these ancient customs and celebrations in Ireland with many people hosting solstice gatherings of their own as we have literally thousands of other less known monuments with solar and or lunar alignments even though Newgrange inevitably grabs the limelight sorry sunlight on the world’s media stage.
Still it's special, and very much part of our rich, ancient culture and heritage which you really should come and see for yourself.
For more travel stories visit www.irelands-hidden-gems.com.
For more information on Newgrange visit www.newgrange.com.