United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has deemed many sites around the world as heritage sites and Ireland hosts three of those sites. A World Heritage Site is a property inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its outstanding universal value. World Heritage sites are places that are important to, and belong to everyone no matter where they live. It is definitely worth the visit to all three sites while visiting in Ireland.
1. Bru Na Boinne: Newgrange Neolithic Tomb, Co. Meath
This is Europe’s largest and most important concentration of prehistoric megalithic art. It was constructed almost 5000 years ago (about 3,200 B.C.), which makes it older than Stonehenge in England and the great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Newgrange was built by a farming community that prospered on the rich lands of the Boyne Valley. Knowth and Dowth are similar mounds that together with Newgrange have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Newgrange is a large kidney-shaped mound covering an area of over one acre. It is retained at the base by 97 kerbstones, some of which are richly decorated with megalithic art. The 19 meter-long inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. The amount of time and labor invested in construction of Newgrange suggests a well-organized society with specialized groups responsible for different aspects of construction.
One of the most incredible features of Newgrange is its alignment with the winter solstice. During the years shortest day, sunlight illuminates the central chamber by shining through the entrance of the mounds narrow opening. This is evidence of the Neolithic peopls’s very deep understanding of astronomy and their strong connection to the rhythms of the natural world.
2. Giants Causeway Co. Antrim
The Giants Causeway was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. The site tells the tale of giant Finn McCool. This larger-than-life character forged the unique rock formation which was the result of volcanic eruptions some 60 million years ago. Today, it is renowned as a habitat of rare plants and animals.
The Giants Cauesway lies at the foot of the basalt cliffs along the sea coast on the edge of the Antrim Plateau in Northern Ireland. It is made up of some 40,00 massive black basalt columns sticking out of the sea. The dramatic sight has inspired legends of Giants striding over the sea to Scotland.
3. Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry
The Skellig Rocks at Skellig Michael are towering sea crags rising from the Atlantic Ocean almost 12 kilometers west of the Ivereagh Peninsula in County Kerry. Located at the western edge of the European landmass, Skellig Michael was the chosen destination for a small group of ascetic monks who, in their pursuit of greater union with God, withdrew from civilization to this remote and inaccessible place.
Sometime between the sixth and eighth centuries, a monastery was founded on this sheer rock giving rise to one of the most dramatic examples of the extremes of Christian monasticism. Skellig Michael was used as the filming location for two of the Star Wars movies, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015) and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017). The filming caused some challenges because of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a fragile ecosystem so conservation authorities and the production crew worked closely to ensure the filming did not have a negative influence on the island. Skellig Michael is also one of Ireland’s most important sites for breeding seabirds both in terms of size of colonies and diversity of species. In 1996 UNESCO inscribed the island of Skellig Michael onto the World Heritage List in recognition of its outstanding universal value.