On windswept hills, in green fields, or simply at a bend on the road – ancient history is never far away. To find the key that unlocks the past, you could just ask the locals…
Map with highlights of Ancient Ireland sites

Discover the story of Ancient Ireland

Discover the story of Ancient Ireland
One of these damp autumn mornings, you’ll follow directions to a coffee shop, where you’ll pick up a key, to a remote 5,000-year-old passage tomb.
There’s a delicious smell of freshly brewed coffee as you sign out the key, leaving a crisp €50 note to ensure its return. It’s a short steep stroll up through the mist: only the grazing sheep will look up, half surprised.  
One of you will hold the torch while the other clanks open the cast-iron gate to the cairn’s portal. Inside, the torch picks out the sun and leaf patterns on the back wall of the womblike cave.  
Come the Equinox, the sun’s rays at dawn will shine right into the cairn too – for this ancient structure at Loughcrew is perfectly aligned with the heavens.
Aerial view of Loughcrew
Aerial view of Loughcrew
When you re-emerge, blinking, the mist should have cleared and a pastoral view of small green fields, sheep-strewn, stretches out before you – on a clear day, across several counties. 

Even in this land of ancientness, some parts stand out as especially ancient. To the north and west of Dublin in particular, ancient sites seem to litter the landscape.
Newgrange circa 3200 BC
The Pyramids of Egypt circa 2630 BC
Left: Newgrange circa 3200 BC. Right: Pyramids of Egypt circa 2630 BC
Some are older than the Pyramids – built by Ireland’s first people, a thousand years before Stonehenge.
Some – like those in the extraordinary Brú na Bóinne valley – are organised heritage sites. Others are in the middle of working farms or simply in a field at a bend in the road.   

Whether formal or informal, locals often hold the key – both literally and metaphorically – to the stories behind these networks of passage tombs, standing stones and stone circles.

More often than not, there’ll be later history layered onto and around these sites – from the High Kings and early Christians to Viking and Norman invaders, to English rule and the struggle for Irish independence. To a visitor new to the twists and turns of Ireland’s past, the multiple layers can be confusing.
Entry way to Loughcrew Passage Tomb
Loughcrew at sunset
Stone carvings at Loughcrew
Left: Entry way to Loughcrew Passage Tomb. Middle: Loughcrew at sunset. Right: Stone carvings at Loughcrew
And yet ... the secret is to listen to the stories.
Like the one told by the owner of that site where you collected the keys.  She’s descended from the Normans and an ancestor of hers was one of Ireland’s most-famous sons – Oliver Plunkett who led the Irish Confederacy and was put to death for treason by Charles II.

With local stories like these, you’ll find past connects to present, and the rich tapestry of Ireland’s history comes vividly to life.
The Royal Stone of Tara
Entrance to Loughcrew
Stone at Hill of Uisneach
Left: The Royal Stone of Tara. Middle: Entrance to Loughcrew Right: Stone at Hill of Uisneach