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[caption id="attachment_2207" align="alignnone" width="448"] Newgrange tumulus entrance.[/caption] Over each winter solstice, dawn sunlight pierces into the long tunnel directly to the burial chamber itself, illuminating both the symbolic importance of the site’s position and the construction’s wonderfully precise alignment with the sunrise in conjunction with the shortest day of the year.

A national lottery is conducted annually which allows a lucky twenty or so visitors access to the tumulus for three days: preceding the solstice, the solstice and the day after, each dawn (if weather permits) opening the tumulus’ greater purpose to the lottery winners. I’m crowded into it with fewer than fifteen other visitors while we take turns exploring the graves’ positions, wall carvings and the impressive architectural design. No water has ever leaked into the inner chamber, not bad for a roof built over 5,000 years ago by craftsmen using rudimentary tools, even more impressive considering Ireland’s wet weather and harsh climate.

Hustled on to a tourist bus which transports visitors to and from the official visitor centre and the site itself, it heads to the site by the road I had mistakenly used an hour before.

If only I’d paid attention to directions indicating all visitors must report to the visitor centre to visit the archaeological site, I would have saved myself an hour of lost time.

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Since ‘The Troubles’ finished, business in County Monaghan has increased.From Newgrange I head further north to Carlingford to dine at the Ghan House hotel’s fine restaurant, sampling some of Ireland’s better country cooking at a heritage hotel in this lovely out-of-the-way town on the border.The dining room is comfortably grand, 19 century furnishings, lots of candles, warm service and a dinner far better than I’m used to eating in rural Ireland.I also visit County Leitrim and County Westmeath, two other counties virtually ignored by the majority of travellers.I’ve been led to believe that here is where the ‘real old Ireland’ still exists.

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