Winter Solstice at Knockroe Passage Tomb 2015

Knockroe Passage tomb is located close to the Tipperary/Kilkenny border in Co Kilkenny, near the village of Ahenny. The tomb dates to circa 3,000 BC .  For a nice synopsis of the history and significance of the site  check out this article by the time travel Ireland blog written by Abarta Audio Guides.   An important feature of the site  is a midwinter alignment of two tombs  in the east and the west within the main mound with the rising and setting sun on the 21st of December.  This alignment runs a day or two either side of the main solstice. Unlike the Newgrange passage tomb,  the Knockroe passage tomb  is uncovered, so to see this event properly one needs a clear sky without clouds.


View of Knockroe passage tomb. Image is from Abarta Audio Guides.

The winter solstice  is normally on the 21st December of each year but occasionally it can be on the 22nd.  This  year in Ireland it fell on the  22nd of December.  This has to do with a number of things like  leap years, the wobble of the earth,  and  time zones – so in the US this year it was the 21st while in Ireland on the 22nd.   This articles 10 Things About the December Solstice  explains it all quiet nicely.

21st of December at Knockroe

For many years now  while most people flock to Newgrange to experience the  solstice,  a large gathering of people  local to the area of Knockroe  and  the surrounding counties come to Knockroe to see   either for the  sun rise or  sun set alignment.  For many it is an annual event and a well established tradition.  This year the morning of the 21st was very wet and windy but as the day went on it cleared and the sun came out. I hopped in my car and  arrived for the sunset solstice at the western tomb.  This was my first time at the Knockroe solstice, as I walked down the long bohereen that leads to the site I meet many people on their way to the tomb.  A really large crowd had turned up  and it was a really nice social occasion with  mince pies, and mulled wine.  I also ran into some archaeology friends of mine which was great. While we waited for the solstice Prof Muris O Sullivan who excavated the site gave a brief history of the site and the results of  the excavation.


People crowded around the western tomb listening to Murris O’Sullivan talk about the tomb.

At  3.45 am of light run along the passage and hit the back wall of the tomb  lighting up the back stones and  a number of people saw a beam of light shine through the back of the tomb on to the grass behind it.

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 Following the solstice the group was addressed by the Caiseal Conservation Committee.  We were told that the local community  are  trying to raise awareness and fight  a proposes development of a windfarm running from  the  shoulder of Sievenamon back along the ridge  opposite Knockroe. The turbines would be visible from the passage tomb  and some of the turbines are proposed to be built  in the area where the sun sets and aligns with the tomb. The photos below provide details of the development and contact details for the community groups fighting this development Caiseal Conservation Committee and the Suir Valley Environmental Group. For  anyone who wants to find out more  contact this email

22nd of December the day of the Solstice

As the official solstice was the 22nd and I was at a loose end  I decided to  head back to Knockroe.  As on the 21st the morning was particularly wet but the day did clear up although there was a lot of cloud in the sky.   I arrived at the site at about 3pm by 3.30pm  I was part of a group of  four, one of whom was a film maker and had placed a small camera inside and outside the tomb, I have added his video of the event at the end of the post.

At roughly  3.45pm the clouds  suddenly cleared  enough to allow a  beam of light run along the passage and hit the back wall of the tomb highlighting the rock art carved on the back stones.


Beam of light on the 22nd of December as it hits the back wall of the tomb

I know my prehistoric  archaeology friend who often tease me alot I might add about my interest/obsession with all things medieval and pilgrimage,  will be delighted to know  that I found this an amazing experience and I feel very lucky that the weather conspired to allow us to experience the magic  of the solstice and for me to see the light enter the tomb two days in a row. Brilliant what an amazing way to spend an afternoon.

This is a video by the film maker I met. I’m not a fan of the music but images are very cool and give a real sense of the event.

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Facebook pages for anti turbine campaign

4 comments on “Winter Solstice at Knockroe Passage Tomb 2015

  1. Reblogged this on historicaltoursireland and commented:
    Winter Solstice at Knockroe Passage Tomb 2015

  2. Hi

    The application for 8 wind turbines on Carrigadoon and Curraghdobbin Hills is now in with Tipperary County Council. It was submitted only a few weeks before Tipperary County Councillors are due to vote on closing the area to wind, primarily to protect Knockroe.

    The planning application can be seen here:

    We now have an online fundraising campaign. More info about that and about our campaign to keep the area turbine free can be found here:

    Pete Smith,
    Faugheen Environmental Group and Suir Valley Environmental Group.

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