Brú na Bóinne (Boyne Valley, Co. Meath) is a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its great cemetery of Neolithic passage tombs built around 3000BC. This rich prehistoric archaeological landscape straddles along the River Boyne from the Hill of Tara to the river mouth at Drogheda, Co. Louth. The most spectacular Boyne Valley tombs are at Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth and they all consist of massive round mounds surrounded by kerbstones, many of which are highly decorated. Smaller satellite tombs are clustered around Knowth and Newgrange. These tombs were the monumental public and ceremonial buildings of a sophisticated agricultural society with parallels from the Iberian Peninsula to the Scandinavian and Baltic regions.
Not only did they function as tombs but as demonstrated in particular by the ordering of the sun at the winter solstice (21 December) through the roof box into the main chamber at Newgrange, they were the centres of important seasonal rituals. The fertile lands of the Boyne Valley ensured that from the Neolithic onwards this was a highly settled landscape. This is apparent from archaeological evidence such as the large Bronze Age henge at Dowth, the stone circle at Newgrange and the Late Antique votive deposits discovered around the entrance at Newgrange. Such cultic activity is not surprising as these tombs, and especially Newgrange, were regarded in medieval Irish literature as sída, the residences of the gods and goddesses of the Otherworld.