- Hill of Tara (County Meath): Of ritual significance from the Stone Age to the early Christian period, Tara has seen it all and kept it a secret. This mostly unexcavated site was the traditional center and seat of Ireland’s high kings; it’s a place to be walked slowly. Although the hill is only 154m (512 feet) above sea level, on a clear day you can see each of Ireland’s four Celtic provinces from here.
- Newgrange (County Meath): One of the archaeological wonders of Western Europe, Newgrange is the centerpiece of a megalithic cemetery dating back 5,000 years. Its massive mound and passage tomb are amazing feats of engineering. But the question remains: What was it all for?
- Knowth (County Meath): Another great passage tomb, Knowth’s awesome presence is matched only by its inscrutability. Hundreds of prehistoric carvings were discovered here when the site was first excavated in the 1960s. And yet, nobody seems to quite understand it to this day.
- Loughcrew (County Meath): At this little-known site, not far from Newgrange, a series of cruciform passage tombs crown two hills. Guided tours of the cairns are offered during the summer, but we prefer to come in the off season, when you can borrow a key and make your own imaginative reconstruction.
- Lough Gur (County Limerick): This lakefront site will convince you that the Neolithic farmers of Ireland had an estimable sense of real estate. Inhabited for more than 4,000 years, the ancient farming settlement offers a number of prehistoric remains. The most impressive of these is the largest surviving stone circle in Ireland, made up of 113 stones.
- Dún Aengus (County Galway): The eminent archaeologist George Petrie called Dún Aengus “the most magnificent barbaric monument in Europe.” No one knows who built this massive stone fort or what year it was constructed. Facing the sea, where its three stone rings meet steep 90m (295-feet) cliffs, Dún Aengus still stands guard today over the southern coast of Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands.
- Carrowmore and Carrowkeel (County Sligo): These two megalithic cities of the dead (Europe’s largest) may have once contained more than 200 passage tombs. The two together—one in the valley and the other atop a nearby mountain—convey an unequaled sense of the ancient peoples’ reverence for the departed. Carrowmore is well presented and interpreted, while Carrowkeel quietly awaits those who seek it out.
- Navan Fort (County Antrim): There is no longer much remaining here to reflect the great past of this fort, though it was once the ritual and royal seat of Ulster. Thankfully, the interpretive center here is nothing short of remarkable, and it offers a great introduction to the myth and archaeology of the fort, known in Irish as Emain Macha.
- Corlea Trackway (County Longford): The amazing thing about this simple wooden trackway in a remote bog is just how unbelievably old it is—people were walking its well-preserved planks well over 2,000 years ago.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.