In Ireland, passage tombs are mysterious relics left over from 5,000 years ago. In these large tombs from 3300 BC, human remains are often found buried beneath rock formations and cairns, and at this ancient Loughcrew burial site, the graves are over 1,000 years older than the famous Egyptian pyramids. Spread out over three large hills, Loughcrew is believed to be the largest collection of passage tombs in Ireland. While some of the cairns are closed to visitors, those that are open display curious rock drawings that have survived for thousands of years. During the spring and autumnal equinox, crowds brave the early morning cold and trek in the dark to “Cairn T,” where a narrow beam of light that appears at sunrise illuminates the Neolithic art. It’s an ancient place of mystery and wonder that researchers can’t quite explain, and one of the best archaeological sites found anywhere in Ireland.
Loughcrew is located in County Meath a little over an hour from Dublin. Two miles outside of Oldcastle, a narrow road leads to a parking lot that then leads to a grassy trail. A steep climb up the unpaved trail leads to up to the cairns, and there is no admission fee to visit the site. Opening hours in May-September are from 10am-6pm, and if the gate is locked when visiting in winter, it’s often possible to obtain a key in the adjacent Loughcrew Gardens.