Your driver will pick you up from your hotel in Dublin on the morning of your tour and you’ll make your way to Newgrange, a prehistoric passage tomb that predates Stonehenge in England and the Egyptian pyramids. Access to the monument is by bus and official tour only, and your driver will take you to the visitor centre where you can join a shared guided tour.
Newgrange dates back to the Neolithic period (approximately 3,200 BC), but archaeologists are unsure of its purpose. The huge circular mound is ringed by a stone circle, and the entrance to its inner chamber was blocked by a massive and intricately decorated boulder.
Inside, a long, narrow passage leads to a central chamber that’s aligned with the rising sun on the winter solstice, when light floods in through a shaft above the entrance to illuminate the inner chamber. It’s thought the site might have been some sort of astronomical calendar or a royal burial site, or have some ritual significance. These theories are discussed in the exhibition at the visitor centre, which also has displays on what life might have been like in Neolithic times and Newgrange’s prominent position in Irish folklore.
There’ll be time for lunch either in the cafe at Newgrange or at the village of Slane, close to your next stop. The Hill of Slane is situated just outside the village and offers commanding views over the surrounding landscape.
You’ll meet a local guide here and walk the short distance to the top of the hill, where you’ll find the ruins of a Christian church and friary, including an early Gothic tower. There are several stories associated with the ruins here, and both are interesting to explore, not least to find the numerous carvings of monsters that are dotted about the friary’s ruins.
Your final stop is a visit to the ruins of an early Christian monastery at Monasterboice. The site is known for its atmospheric graveyard, intricately carved Christian crosses and 28 m (92 ft) tall round tower. You’ll meet another local guide here, who’ll explain all about the history of the site and point out some of the best carvings on the crosses, which are among the finest in Ireland. At the end of your time here, you’ll return to Dublin with your private driver.