Tomorrow (Thursday, 21st December) is the shortest day of the year and marks an ancient celebration known as the winter solstice. The shortest day and longest night, the winter solstice was a key date in the pagan calendar across Ireland for centuries, so if you want to discover more about this ancient tradition, here are five great locations around Ireland to enjoy the winter solstice.
5 Irish Locations to Experience the Winter Solstice
1 Newgrange, Co Meath
The daddy of all winter solstice celebrations in Ireland is Newgrange in Co Meath. This neolithic tomb dates back some 5,000 years, and a select few get to enjoy the winter solstice up close and personal every year through the Newgrange winter solstice lottery draw. This year you can watch the solstice celebrations live online via a stream, but if you can’t catch the Newgrange solstice celebrations, be sure to add the ancient site to your travel itinerary when exploring Meath and Ireland’s Ancient East.
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2 Knockroe Passage Tomb, Co Kilkenny
Known locally as ‘The Caiseal’, the Knockroe Passage Tombs in Kilkenny is dubbed by many as ‘the Newgrange of the south-east’, and while it lacks the stature and impact of the tombs of Newgrange, and indeed Knowth and Dowth, Knockroe boasts two chambers and was only discovered in 1990. The double chamber makes it perfect for catching the alignments of sunrise and sunset during the winter solstice. Knockrow doesn’t attract huge crowds for solstice celebrations, meaning you can get a real sense for the occasion of a solstice when visiting.
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3 Drombeg Stone Circles, Co Cork
Stone circles were other key sites associated with ancient rituals, and Drombeg Stone Circle in Cork’s south-west coast is one of the finest examples of an ancient stone circle in Ireland. Drombeg is aligned with the setting of the winter solstice and like many ancient stone circles, would it would have been used as a ceremonial venue thousands of years ago. Drombeg is believed to date back to the Bronze Age, but today it’s one of the best sites in Ireland to celebrate the key ancient celebration of the winter solstice.
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4 Beaghmore Stone Circes, Co Tyrone
Another set of stone circles dating back to the Bronze Age that proves popular during the winter solstice celebrations is the Beaghmore Stone Circles collection in Cookstown, Co Tyrone. Discovered during peat cutting in the 1940s, the site at Beaghmore consists of even stone circles and it is thought that Neolithic occupation and cultivation preceded the erection of the burial cairns and ceremonial circles at Beaghmore.
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5 Hill of Tara, Co Meath
While the Hill of Tara doesn’t have a lighting or alignment celebration like Newgrange, as the ancient high seat of Ireland it’s still a significant site for winter solstice celebrations. Indeed, every year the Hill of Tara attracts many visitors for winter solstice celebrations, so if you aren’t lucky enough to win a Newgrange lottery ticket, consider making the short trip towards the M3 and join the Hill of Tara celebration.
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Where Will You Be Checking Out The Winter Solstice?
Share your favourite places to experience the winter solstice with us by commenting below.
Images via Fáilte Ireland