The passage begins immediately behind the Entrance stone. Originally, to enter the
chamber a visitor would climb over the stone to the right of Kerbstone 1. The modern side entrances with
steps were added during Michael O'Kelly's restoration project which took place in the late 1970's.
The large stone flag now standing to the right of the
entrance was originally used to seal the entrance when the interior was not in use. The dooestone was found lying with it's top resting on the Entrance stone, where it would have been levered up and down into
position when the mound was being opened or closed.
Mrs Ann Hickey, who was caretaker at Newgrange for sixty years often had to coax visitors through the claustrophobic tunnel, as recounted in this description from 1911:
We found a woman waiting for us she had heard the rattle of our wheels far down the road, and had hastened from her house near by to earn sixpence by providing us with candles; and she led the way through the entrance into the passage beyond. As at Dowth, it is formed of huge slabs inclined against each other, but here they have given way under the great weight heaped upon them, and the passage grew lower and lower, until the woman in front of us was crawling on her hands and knees. The clergyman, who was behind her, examined the low passage by the light of his candle, and then said he didn't think he'd try it.
The Newgrange passage is nineteen meters from the entrance to the mouth of the chamber. The passage rises over two meters along it's course because it is built
following the slope up the hill. An observer lying on the floor of
the chamber can look out through the specially contrived roofbox over the entry. The tops of the passage stones were finished off with neolithic dry-stone walling, with the passage ceiling rising and rising to meet the chamber corbeling
The roof-box is the opening constructed over the entrance which allows
the suns rays to enter and illuminate the inner chamber at sunrise on
the winter solstice. During O'Kelly's excavations, a quartz block was found in situ, which seems to have been used to open and close the roofbox, and judging by wear marks on the stone, appears to have been one of a pair used to close the roofbox when it was not in use. The only other example of a roofbox known in a neolithic passage-grave is at Cairn G in the Carrowkeel Megalithic Complex in County Sligo.
A huge flag three meters long covers the first three passage
stones. Another even larger flag more than four meters long, roofs the next section
of the passage. It is in this area that controversy has arisen over Michael O'Kelly's reconstruction of the roofbox structure. Certain of the carved corbels were removed to the National Museum, while substitute slabs raised the height of the roofbox by up to 50 centimetres.
are twenty-one passage stones or orthostats lining the passage, and several
of these were straightened by Professor O'Kelly, as they had begun to sag inwards.
The passage has two gentle curves along its length, and is S-shaped.
This curving passageway
is thought to be a deliberate feature used by the builders to shape and
focus the beam of light at the winter solstice. The floor
slopes gently upwards, following the contour of the hill. There is a spring of fresh water which rises in the passageway; this has been capped and the water channeled away.
roof of the passage is covered with flags, and during the excavation a number of these
were found to be carved with special grooves on their upper edges, the purpose
of which is to carry off rainwater. That the interior of Newgrange has been
kept dry for over 5,000 years is a testament to the skill of the builders.
The seams in the passage roof and corbeling were caulked with a mixture
of sand and burnt clay to help with the dry-lining. This caulking was used to date the construction of the monument, dating the construction of the passage to around 3,150 BC. As the passage approaches
the chamber, the roofing corbels rise like a flight of steps, and rises
to meet and interlock with the corbeling of the chamber roof.
is art on many of the passage stones, though it is not always easy to
see when visiting, as the passage is narrow, and you only get a few moments
to look while a tour is on. Several of the designs have been worn smooth
by the amount of visitors who have squeezed through here since the mound
Many of the carvings are of diamonds or lozenges, triangles,
wavy 'light lines' and there are a beautiful set of spirals on the left
located in a tight space two thirds of the way in, which may constitute Newgrange's
third triple spiral. Some of the roofing flags are also engraved, including
a fine example at the back of the top of the roof-box.