Posts Tagged With: megalithic art history

I have visited and taken groups of people to Newgrange often, and have never lost my awe for this ancient place. the mysteries still remain about the purpose-for example- it is completely overbuilt, and much, much larger than it needs to be for the inner structure it holds. Why? The rock carvings are stunning, but also mysterious. Volumes have been written about them, trying to decipher this language we can no longer read. This article via Irish Archaeology gives us a glimpse of this magical place through the ages. Enjoy!

Images of Newgrange through the ages

Newgrange photoThe Neolithic  passage tomb at Newgrange is the most visited archaeological site in Ireland. Over 5000 years old it pre-dates the first phase of Stonehenge by 1000 years and the Egyptian pyramids by 400 years. It is a truly massive structure measuring 76 m in diameter by 12 m in height and it contains over 200,000 tonnes of earth and stone in its fabric. Indeed, it’s glistening façade of quartz is one of the country’s most memorable vistas.  However, as the images below attest, Newgrange has not always looked so pristine.

Newgrange Edward Lhywd

1699: This image shows Edward Lhywd’s survey of Newgrange (after Stout & Stout 2008, p. 98, fig. 66). It is the first known plan of the tomb and it was drawn shortly after the entrance into the mound was rediscovered in 1699. Up until that date the entrance had actually been sealed and it was only uncovered again when the local landowner, Charles Campbell,  began quarrying the mound for stones.

Newgrange tumulus1775: A view of  Newgrange from c. 1775 by the noted antiquarian artist Gabriel Beranger. It shows a large mound of earth and stone that is nearly devoid of trees. Although a number of the standing stones which surround the mound are illustrated, the tomb entrance is not visible (it is shown in a separate drawing).


Newgrange 18th century1790: This engraving of Newgrange was included in Edward Ledwich’s Antiquities of Ireland, which was published in 1790 (after Stout & Stout 2008, p. 97, fig. 65). The mound is once again shown largely treeless and in this image the passage entrance can be clearly seen. A large triangular stone, which formerly stood directly in front of the entrance is also illustrated.


Old photograph Newgrange

1892: A photo of Newgrange taken by George Coffey in 1892 (source). Unlike the earlier, 18th century depictions the mound  is now covered in a thick scrub of trees and bushes.

Old photo newgrange

Late 19th century: This atmospheric shot of the passage tomb entrance shows a man emerging from its dark  interior. It  was taken by R. J. Welch sometime in the late 19th century and it shows an overgrown and partially disturbed mound. Although the roofbox, through which the winter solstice sun rays should pass, is completely blocked, its decorated stone lintel can still be partially discerned c. 1 m above the entrance passageway.

Newgrange entrance

1910: A child standing at the tomb entrance, circa 1910 (source). The area around the doorway has been cleaned up considerably since Welch’s photo and an iron gate now controls access to the passageway. The soil around the beautifully decorated entrance kerbstone has also been dug out and cleared, although the roofbox remains blocked. The photo is from the National Library of Ireland’s Tempest collection.


1950s: This photo illustrates the mounds appearance in the 1950’s prior to the start of archaeological excavations at the site in the 1960s (source).

Newgrange tomb

1950s: A close up of the entrance into Newgrange prior to the 1960s excavations and the subsequent restoration work (photo OPW).

newgrange excavation

1967-67: These two image show the archaeological excavation underway at Newgrange (source). This extensive work was carried out between 1962 and 1967 under the expert direction of  Professor M. J. O’Kelly. It revealed a wealth of information about the monuments origins and history. However, by its very nature is saw much of the mound material removed and this had to be reinstated after the archaeological excavation was completed.

Newgrange passage

1967-74: Works on repairing the mound and its surrounds began in earnest in 1967 and were not fully completed until 1974. This image shows the  passageway being reconstructed and reinforced. Professor O’Kelly (second from the right) is pointing towards the roofbox (after Stout & Stout 2008, p. 47, fig. 30) .

Newgrange quartz

1967-74: Probably the greatest change seen during these restoration works was the addition of 3 m high quartz wall to the front of the tomb. This addition to the monument was based on M. J. O’Kelly’s interpretation of the excavation results. He had discovered a thick layer of quartz stones spreading out in front of the tomb kerbstones for a distance of approximately 7 m, which he believed  represented the remains of a collapsed wall.  Thus on his advice a quartz facade was added to the tomb. However, as the quartz wall was deemed too unstable to support the weight of the cairn on its own, a 4 m high, reinforced steel and concrete wall had to be erected behind it. The quartz stones were then embedded into the concrete.

Not surprisingly this striking quartz wall caused much debate at the time and the arguments about its authenticity still rage on.

Further reading

Stout G. & Stout M. 2008. Newgrange. Cork University Press. Cork.

Categories: Ireland | Tags: , , , ,

Walking in the Burren on the Wild Atlantic Way tour

DSCF5726-001On our tours, including the unique landscape of the Burren is always a highlight. The limestone hills hold ancient holy wells, ringforts and secrets of the past. A celtic gold torc was once found her wedged between the stones! We will be visiting Poulnabrone dolmen, Caherconnell stone fort, and many other fascinating sites.

One can’t find a better interpreter of the region than Tony Kirby, who will be our walking tour guide. Read about Tony below, and see his website at to learn more about him and the mysterious, beautiful Burren.


Tony Kirby was born in Limerick city. He has also lived in Dublin and Bologna in the north of Italy. He conducted guided walking tours in Dublin in the late 1990s. In 2002 Tony moved to the Burren in County Clare where he founded a small walking tourism enterprise which offers a wide variety of guided Burren walks.

Tony 300x300 The Guide

 Tony also works as a heritage education specialist conducting Burren classroom workshops and field trips for primary school pupils.

A new edition of Kirby’s critically acclaimed bookThe Burren and the Aran Islands A Walking Guide(Collins Press, 2009) was published in August 2014.

In 2012 he produced the short film West Cork set at St Gobnait’s monastic site in Ballyvourney, County Cork. The film was screened at the 2012 Cork International Film Festival.

Tony Kirby of Heart of Burren Walks was winner of the Burren/Cliffs of Moher Visitor Communication Award 2014.

He is currently researching a number of holy wells/sacred sites in the Burren with a view to a second publication.


Trevor Cochrane and Explore TV Australia made a film in Ireland in 2014 about the Wild Atlantic Way. The film was broadcast in Australia on 24th January 2015. You can view the Burren part of the film (3 mins 37 seconds) here as Tony leads Trevor on a walk…. (go to Tony’s website to watch the video)

0 The Guide


Heart of Burren Walks has featured in……………… Newspapers – Irish Times, Irish Independent, Sunday Tribune, Sunday Business Post, West Australia News, Guardian (UK) and Hannoversche Allgemeine (Germany) ; Magazines  – Cara (Aer Lingus in-flight) and Knack (Belgium) ; Radio –  CBS (USA) and RTE (Ireland); TV–  RTE (Ireland).


Heart of Burren Walks is strongly recommended by guide books Fodor’s, Frommers, Lonely Planet, Guide de Routard and Rick Steves Ireland (2015 edition).

THEY SAIDburrenwaycottage The Guide

I was so lucky to be a part of your tour as a participant of the Fáilte Ireland press trip this September. I really enjoyed your enthusiasm and your deep knowledge of the Burren.
Peter Kyhl Olesen, journalist, Jyllands-Posten, daily broadsheet newspaper, Denmark. September 2014.


13 Responses to “The Guide”

Thanks to Tony for making our walk in the Burren an unforgettable experience.
A Burren walk with Tony offers beauty, geology, history, nature, politics, ideas, serenity, spirituality . . . and as much exercise as you tell him you want. This is the one to take.

Freddy Rodriguez, New York City, USA on 4th of May 2010 at 6:27 pm

If you find yourself wanting more botanical guidance in the The Burren, then go no further than Tony Kirby. Experience a couple of hours of a guided walk in his company and you will learn a lot more than just the names of some exotic plants. He will amble verbally about archaeology, history, literature and art, to name but a few additional subjects other than botany! Throw in some humour, farming and eco-political arguments, ancient tales of yore and poetry and you will have experienced something highly entertaining and not to be forgotten.

David Rosair, Island Ventures, Wildlife Tours, Whitstable, Kent, England on 1st of July 2010 at 12:49 pm

Buíochas mor duitse freisin, Tony, for the quality time you shared with our international group of interested walkers last Thursday the 5th of July.

Renewed thanks for re-connecting me to my ancestral roots in this awe-inspiring landscape.

Bail o dhia ar d’obair criomhar”.
Slán go fóill go dtí an chéad uair eile ar an mBoireann,

Madeleine Mc Mahon, Dublin. Ireland. on 8th of August 2010 at 11:02 pm

Dear Tony,
I was part of the Swiss press group you guided in the Burren last Saturday.
Your introduction to the Burren was fantastic. Thank you very much!

Christian Von Arx, Der Sonntag OT, Swiss Sunday newspaper, Olten, Switzerland on 7th of June 2011 at 8:20 am

Dear Tony,

Thank you for the excellent walk you took us on in the National Park on May 31st. We enjoyed it enormously.

David and Jill Taylor, Lennoxtown, Scotland on 11th of June 2011 at 10:41 pm

I’m definitely looking to come back to The Burren at some time. Many thanks for your inspiration.

Derek Prescott, Argyll and Bute, Scotland on 24th of August 2011 at 3:44 pm

Tony Kirby’s Burren walking tour is a fascinating description of natural and human history – all the way up to the present. He really brought it to life. It was my teenage son’s favorite part of our visit to Ireland.

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News Flash!! A new “art” addition to the Wild Atlantic Way tour!

In addition to our regular itinerary, we are delighted to announce that the Wild Atlantic Way tour will now also include an opportunity to sketch and paint with Dennis Robertson, watercolor artist, who will be joining us on the tour October 8-15. We will also be encouraging frequent photography sessions in this stunning landscape! See the details by clicking below!

Wild Atlantic Way Art Tour October 8-15, 2015

Ireland's Western Seaboard

Ireland’s Western Seaboard

Culloo Rocks and St Brendans well (8)

Culloo Rocks


View from Healy PAss

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