The IrishCentral vacation travel guide to mystical, mythological Ireland
The Great Mound at Knowth is the second of the three major passage tombs in the Boyne Valley. Built over 5,000 years ago, the mound is younger than Newgrange, but older than Dowth. Knowth is similar in size to Newgrange.
The mound has two passages (unlike Newgrange, which has one), with entrances on the east and west sides. Recent scientific data says suggests Knowth had a lunar function when it came to ancient rituals.
Knowth is best known for its impressively large collection of stones carved with Neolithic art, which comprises a quarter of all known Neolithic art in Europe.
It is said that a noblewoman named Bua is buried at Knowth, and a “great hill” was built up over her, creating the Great Mound at Knowth.
You can access the Knowth site through a guided tour from the Brú na Bóinne Center.
The third passage tomb site in the Boyne Valley is Dowth, or the “Fairy Mound of Darkness” (sounds appealing, eh?). It is similar in size to Newgrange and Knowth, and like the two complexes, was built 5,000 years ago.
The Dowth mound has two small passages, both located on the western side. Like Newgrange , the southernmost passage of Dowth is aligned to the setting sun of the winter solstice.
Dowth is not included in the Brú na Bóinne Visitors Center tour, and you cannot enter inside the tomb, but you can directly access it (it’s a short way from the Slane to Drogheda road) and meander around the peaceful site.
Hill of Tara
The Hill of Tara, also in the Boyne Valley, is the ancient seat of power in Ireland, and contains over 30 visible ancient monuments, including the Stone of Destiny and the Mound of the Hostages.
The Hill is said to be the actual seat of the High Kings of Celtic Ireland and the sacred dwelling place of the gods.
It is believed that St. Patrick went to Tara - the most powerful Celtic pagan site - in order to confront the religion of the Celtic pagans.
One of the most famous monuments at Tara, the Stone of Destiny, is known as the Lia Fáil. The stone, which is thought to be a symbol of fertility, once stood in front of the passage tomb at Tara, the Mound of the Hostages. High King legend says the Stone of Destiny would sing and roar in praise if it approved the inauguration of a worthy high king.
The megalithic passage tomb at Tara, the Mound of the Hostages, is the oldest monument of the site. Evidence of at least 200 individual cremations have been uncovered at the mound.
Engravings within the tomb are thought to represent the sun, moon or stars as religious symbols, and one of the stones may have been used as a prehistoric calendar.