The rivers Boyne and Blackwater converge at Navan, marking an area rich in cultural and architectural heritage. The Boyne Valley is easily the most sought-after tourism destination in Ireland. For an in depth view on Boyne Valley and its famous driving route visit www.boynevalleyroute.com .
These are the most famous attractions located in the Boyne Valley:
Ireland's passage tombs are world-famous, and none is finer than Newgrange. Calling it ancient is an understatement. Newgrange is roughly 5,000 years old, predating Stonehenge and - even more incredibly - the Pyramids of Giza. The tomb was lost for more than four millennia due to slippage and sinkage, and it wasn't until the 1600s that modern excavation began.
This passage tomb covers an acre and is built from 97 enormous kerbstones. The outermost stones were cut from sparkling white granite most likely sourced in the Wicklow Moutains, which are around 80 km from the site. Part of the wonder of visiting Newgrange is simply contemplating the scope of this 5,000 year-old construction job and the amount of manpower needed to haul so much stone over such a long distance with nothing but a Stone Age toolkit.
Many of Ireland's tombs were built with solar alignment, but Newgrange is especially impressive. It has a roofbox that allows light into the inner chamber for 17 minutes during the winter solstice. At this time, the carvings on the inner walls are bathed in light. For the other 525,943 minutes of the year, the inner tomb is cloaked in darkness.
There is a long waiting list for those who wish to attend the annual winter solstice event. Locals will tell you that it helps to know someone if you actually want to witness the astrological wonder. For the rest of us, the visitor's centre recreates the event daily. While a far cry from the bona fide experience, the recreation is worth visitors' time.
Old Mellifont Abbey
This was the first Cistercian abbey to be built in Ireland, and it dates to the 12th century. It perches about 7 miles from Drogheda on the river Mattock, which feeds into the Boyne. Highlights include the gateway, the Chapter House and the Lavabo where monks washed their hands before meals. The rest is mostly in ruins. Drop into the visitors' centre to view carvings recovered during the abbey's excavation. Guided tours are on offer from May to October.
Hill of Slane
The Hill of Slane is a natural tribute to Ireland's 5th-century Christian roots. St Patrick lit a signal fire here in 433 AD in defiance of the King of Tara's edict against Christianity. A fire is still lit here every Easter Sunday in remembrance of this event. Other religious structures have been built on the site since, and their remains are in various states of repair. The bell tower was built in the 16th century with a Franciscan friary.
Construction on the largest Norman castle in Europe began in the 12th century and was completed over a period of 30 years. The original walls would have created a 500-yard perimeter around the castle, and two-thirds of the original construction remains today. In the 13th century, these walls protected the fortress from a seven-week siege. Trim castle is open to the public daily from Eastern Sunday to Halloween. Off season, it is only open on weekends and bank holidays.
Hill of Tara
The Hill of Tara is an ancient site of profound historical importance. The on-site passage tomb dates to Stone Age, and the hill itself is known is revered as the seat of the Kings of Tara - Ireland's ancient and legendary rulers.
The Stone of Destiny is believed to be the coronation site of the Kings of Tara. The king-to-be had to complete a series of challenges, and if he succeeded, it is said that the stone would cry out at his touch, issuing a scream heard all across Ireland. It's a magical site, both for the historical ruins that remain and the legends that hang over the hill.
Those who have taken advantage of cheap car hire in Navan can make use of the nearby car park.