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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
Facebook pages for anti turbine campaign