It used be that you could *ahem* access the site on the winter solstice to view the shaft of early morning sunlight as it entered down the main chamber and struck the back wall, illuminating the whole chamber with a soft reddish-orange glow.
There is a story in my family that we went there one year, my Mum, Dad and baby me, accompanied by some of their other hippy/student friends to witness the event.
Alas, I was far too young to remember this!
Nowadays you can only access the vault on this special day, through a lottery system – and of course the weather is never guaranteed to perform as wished either – this is Ireland after all, home of the ‘soft day.’
Newgrange megalithic passage tomb is part of a wider area of megalithic mounds to be found very close to each other in this area, which is just south of Drogheda on Ireland’s eastern coast. Knowth, and Dowth mounds each have their own story to tell, and Knowth in particular has been undergoing extensive archaeological digs and explorations in the last ten years or so. Dowth was unfortunately ‘blown up’ by an overenthusiastic mound hunter in the 19th century, leaving little for modern archaeologists to work on.
If you ever happen to be in Ireland and want to explore this area, there is a very good Interpretative Centre, Brú na Bóinne, located just across the river Boyne (plenty more legends about this river – but that’s for another day), which runs bus trips to these sites and guided tours, explaining what has been discovered about these mounds and postulating all the current archaeological theories.
I could sit here all day and come over all celtic about Newgrange, telling the legends of the area, and how the mounds came to be viewed as the homes of the Sídhe, but instead, I’ll just direct you to these other two sites: Knowth.com and Mythical Ireland and let you discover some of the jist of it. Especially interesting is all the discussion of what the highly abstract symbols inside the tombs just might mean!