The 2023 Winter Solstice sunrise will be live streamed from inside the passage tomb at Newgrange in Co Meath on Thursday, December 21, courtesy of Ireland's Office of Public Works (OPW).

People across the world are invited to tune into this phenomenal Winter Solstice event, which can be viewed live on and on Wednesday.

Ireland's OPW, in partnership with the National Monuments Services (NMS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, said it was delighted to announce the December 21 livestream from the Neolithic site.

Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan, TD, said: “This exciting event will allow us to watch the passing of the longest night of the year from every corner of the globe.

"Experiencing this significant solar event allows us to connect with our Neolithic ancestors as we watch in awe of the skills and knowledge of a time past.”

Rosemary Collier, Head of Heritage Services and Capital Works Delivery in the Office of Public Works said: “Every year, the Winter Solstice attracts much attention at our UNESCO World Heritage Property at Newgrange.

"People gather at the ancient tomb to wait and watch the illumination of the passage tomb, just as people did 5,000 years ago.

"The OPW and NMS are delighted to welcome lottery winners in person, to join in this experience that our ancestors have enjoyed for millennia.

"We are delighted also that we can invite people from all over the world to share in this event with us, by watching the live stream online and on television.”

Newgrange. (Getty Images)

Newgrange. (Getty Images)

What is Newgrange?

Newgrange is a prehistoric monument built by stone age farmers located in the Boyne Valley in Co Meath. Along with nearby sites Knowth and Dowth, it is among the most important Neolithic sites in the world.

Dating back to 3200 BC, Newgrange predates Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza.

The structure itself lay hidden beneath the earth for over 5,000 years due to mound slippage, which effectively preserved it, until its rediscovery in the late 17th century, when men looking for building stone came across what they thought was a cave.

Restored to its former glory, the Newgrange mound is a solid structure that’s 250 feet across and 40 feet high, covering one acre of land. A tribute to its builders, the roof has remained essentially intact and waterproof for over 5,000 years.

Ancient carvings can be seen on many of the massive, kidney-shaped mound’s curbstones, including the triple-spiral design synonymous with Newgrange.

Local expert Michael Fox said in 2015: “Archaeologists have classified Newgrange as a passage tomb but it is more than that. ‘Ancient temple’ is a more fitting label: a place of astronomical, spiritual, and ceremonial importance.”

An aerial view of Newgrange in Co Meath. (Getty Images)

An aerial view of Newgrange in Co Meath. (Getty Images)

Excavations at Newgrange

Irish archaeologist MJ O’Kelly carried out excavations at Newgrange from 1962 to 1975 and became known as the father of “New Archaeology." It was O’Kelly who produced the first scientific dates for Newgrange and rediscovered the 'roof box,' which guides the light into the chamber.

On December 21, 1967, O'Kelly was the first person to see the winter solstice display at Newgrange in thousands of years.

O’Kelly’s daughter told the BBC, “He found the roof box when uncovering the roof chamber but wondered about its purpose…My mother, who worked closely with him, suggested that it might be connected with the winter solstice. And that was how he discovered it."

In his notes, O’Kelly recorded: “The effect is very dramatic as the direct light of the sun brightens and cast a glow of light all over the chamber. I can see parts of the roof and a reflected light shines right back into the back of the end chamber.”

His daughter, who experienced the solstice at Newgrange the following year, told the BBC, “Suddenly this shaft of light came into the chamber and hit the back wall. I remember being quietly moved – it was like someone was speaking to you from thousands of years before. I still see it like a picture before my inner eye – it was a golden light."

Newgrange in Co Meath. (Getty Images)

Newgrange in Co Meath. (Getty Images)

What happens during the Winter Solstice at Newgrange

On the mornings surrounding the Winter Solstice, the passage and chamber of Newgrange are aligned with the rising sun.

The light enters about four minutes after sunrise, but calculations based on the precession of the Earth show that 5,000 years ago first light would have entered exactly at sunrise. That makes the solar alignment at Newgrange very precise compared to similar phenomena at other passage graves in England and Scotland.

It is a marvel of early astronomy that never fails to amaze.

The event has become so popular that in 2000, the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre instituted a lottery system for ticketing. Each year, 60 people are selected to visit Newgrange on the days surrounding the Winter Solstice.

In 2020 and 2021, however, visitors were not permitted to visit Newgrange during the Winter Solstice due to public health restrictions amidst the pandemic. In both years, Ireland's Office of Public Works facilitated a live stream of the magical event, both of which can be watched below.

Winter Solstice at Newgrange - December 21, 2021

Winter Solstice at Newgrange - December 21, 2020

Crowds returned to Newgrange to witness the magical Winter Solstice in person in 2022.

How to attend the Winter Solstice at Newgrange

All access to Newgrange's chamber during the Winter Solstice is decided by lottery. However, everyone else is welcome to come and stand on the outside of the monument.

The lottery draw for places in the Newgrange chamber for the Winter Solstice sunrise takes place in September, and successful people are notified by mid-October.

Names are drawn for each of the Winter Solstice mornings, and each person drawn can bring a guest to attend on a specific morning. Some additional names are also drawn and placed on a reserve list. The reserve list is there in case someone whose name is drawn for the initial list is not contactable or else finds it impossible to travel to Newgrange on the date they have been assigned.

The place at Newgrange for Winter Solstice dawn is non-transferable. Lottery winners cannot offer their place in the chamber to someone else. There are typically about 30,000 entries for the Winter Solstice at Newgrange lottery.

There is no guarantee that there will be sunlight in the chamber on any of the mornings, the event is totally weather-dependent.

Members of the public are advised not to travel directly to the Newgrange site during the Winter Solstice. This year, local road closure will be in operation from 5 pm on Wednesday, December 20 until 12 pm Thursday, December 21.

All access to the Newgrange monument, including universal access, will be through Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre via buses. Buses will be running regularly from the Visitor Centre from 6:30 am until around 9:00 am (sunrise 8:41 am) and an overflow car park in operation at St Mary’s GAA opposite the Visitor Centre.

Newgrange in Co Meath. (Ireland's Content Pool)

Newgrange in Co Meath. (Ireland's Content Pool)