Ireland has several locations where events take place for the Winter Solstice, with the focus of activity in Co Meath, most famously at Newgrange, part of the Brú na Bionne complex, where the dawn sun show is a world famous event.
The ~5000 year old Neolithic monument at Newgrange was built it so that sunlight enters the vaulted chamber at dawn at the Winter Solstice, illuminating the chamber at the end of the narrow passage. There is more about this phenomenon here.
While you’ve pretty much no chance of getting a ticket to actually see the sunlight enter the chamber at Newgrange (tickets are allocated by lottery, about a dozen people get in and 10s of thousands apply) there is always a crowd outside and an amazing sense of occasion at dawn on the morning of the equinox. It is worth going along if you’ve an interest.
Other Solstice Locations & Events
People also gather at the Hill of Tara, also in Co Meath, where although there is no sun phenomenon, the importance of the date in ancient Ireland is marked with several special events.
Much less well known, and at first sight less impressive, is the Knockroe Passage Tomb in Kilkenny. The two burial chambers here are completely exposed now as they have lost the earthen mounds that would once have covered them.There are no organised events here, and it’s unlikely to draw much of a crowd, but there is an alignment to the Sun at the Winter Solstice.
Less well known is the sun event at Loughcrew, where you can watch the rising pass over the equally old Equinox Stone within Cairn T – the oldest surviving stone building in Europe. The stone is illuminated by a beam of light at sunrise on both the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. There will be ceremonies, talks, workshops, poetry, walks and more on the days around the Equinox.
Carrowkeel in Sligo is an extraordinary place deserving of many more visitors, but while it has a lightbox and an illumination, it takes place at the Summer Solstice.
Details & Directions
For directions to each location please follow the links above.