Celebrate the Winter Solstice at Intriguing Sites around Northern Ireland
With people around the world preparing to mark the Winter Solstice on 21 December, it's the perfect opportunity to visit some of Northern Ireland’s intriguing megalithic sites.
Ireland's Highest Surviving Passage Tomb
One of the most impressive is located on the summit of Slieve Gullion, which lies at the centre of the Ring of Gullion Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty in County Armagh. The mountain top is home to Ireland's highest known surviving passage tomb, which dates to the Neolithic period of human settlement. This prehistoric tomb, constructed at an unknown date between 4,000 BC and 2,500 BC, is aligned to the setting sun of the Winter Solstice.
There will be a number of events taking place to mark the spectacular event when the setting Sun illuminates the passage chamber of the tomb, as part of the Slieve Gullion Winter Solstice Festival. These include guided walks to the summit and talks on the geology and archaeology of the area.
Related Sites in the Area
The events offer a great opportunity to explore this scenic and captivating area. Related sites nearby include Ballymacdermot Court Tomb, Clontygora Court Cairn and Ballykeel Dolmen. This part of County Armagh area is also home to Kilnasaggart Inscribed Stone, one of Ireland’s earliest Christian monuments, and tnearby Moyry Castle built in 1601 to secure the historic mountain pass known as 'the Gap of the North'.
More Sites Around Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland has numerous other fascinating sites to visit, if you're feeling inspired with the onset of the Winter Solstice. One of the more striking is the Beaghmore Stone Circles in County Tyrone. This impressive site, discovered during turf cutting in the 1940s, was created around 1,500 BC, perhaps as an observatory and ritual site for the people who farmed the Sperrin Mountains.
Other sites include Legananny Dolmen, in the foothills of the Mourne Mountains in County Down, and the extensive Giant's Ring, located just a short distance from Belfast City.
For more ideas of heritage sites in Northern Ireland, see here.