Winter Solstice in the Boyne Valley

Winter Solstice at Newgrange 2022

Date: 13/12/2022

The time of year has come around again when we look forward to the phenomenon that is the Winter Solstice at Newgrange. After 2 years of live streaming the event, Brú na Boinne are happy to be welcoming people back into the tomb this year to experience the event first hand. These are the lucky few who won their places in the annual lottery. 
Newgrange kerbstone
Experiencing this phenomenon has been restricted to a lucky few since 1967. The weather plays a big part as to whether sunlight will reach the chamber at Newgrange but since the year 2000 the Office of Public Works introduced an annual lottery for those sought-after spots. Clare Tuffy, Manager of the OPW Bru na Boinne Newgrange and Knowth explained how the lottery is drawn each year (prior to Covid restrictions).

“Thirty children from our local schools - Slane, Donore and Knockcommon National Schools, come into the centre in a flurry of excitement after being collected from school by one of our Brú buses. They pick out 120 names from the large number (28,595 for Solstice 2018) of application forms spread out on the floor. The first 60 names drawn are offered the initial places on the six days we are open for dawn. The other 60 are put on a reserve list.” Read more on behind the scenes at the Winter Solstice here

Winter Solstice, Newgrange
So what is this event that attracts thousands to apply for a place? One of the principal features which sets Newgrange apart from the other passages tombs in Brú na Bóinne is the way in which the roof-box channels the sunlight along the passage in the tomb to illuminate the chamber at sunrise every year on the winter solstice. 

Have a read of this great article from Fran Power of the Irish Independent on her recent visit to Newgrange. To learn more about Brú na Boinne itself, have a listen to this Tourism Ireland Podcast with Clare Tuffy. 

Winter Solstice, Newgrange, Co Meath

In 1962 Professor M.J. O’Kelly of University College Cork undertook to carry out extensive archaeological excavations on behalf of the Office of Public Works at Newgrange. Prior to O’Kelly starting to excavate at Newgrange, it was locally known that the tomb filled with sunlight at sunrise on the winter solstice, yet no one had ever experienced it. On the 21st of December 1967 O’Kelly and his team were the first observe and experience the illumination of the passage tomb by the sun rays since prehistoric times.

Of course, the weather plays a big part in whether the tomb will illuminate around the Solstice. Have a look at the Winter Solstice 2020 here when the sun lit up the entire chamber! We are all hoping for clear skies on the mornings of the 20th, 21st and 22nd of December this year. 

If you haven’t visited yet, be sure to put Newgrange and Knowth on your bucket list for 2023. Tickets must be prebooked online and all tours leave from the Brú na Boinne visitor centre. 

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