I say pleasantly surprised not regards to the monument itself because I knew that was a pretty magnificent accomplishment to look at. My surprise was to the experience itself.
The Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre is not far from Dublin and the only thing you see really on approach is the carpark. You then wander down a covered path struck through a forested area to the centre. The centre itself is completely hidden with a grass roof and nestled into a hill.
The price worried us as we were pretty short of cash after our weekend and had envisioned marching back to car without even a glimpse. Jumping in front of an American tour (there were lots) we were beckoned by one of the staff members to come forward. She let us know the family price was only a mere €15. I was seriously expecting €50+
Tours were hourly so we had some time to kill by eating in the cafe downstairs. Great range of food here and again within our budget.
When our time came for the tour we had to walk across a few bridges to a bus waiting for us. It took all of 5 minutes on the bus to reach the monument site and we could take it in as we approached it.
As we waited for our guide the thing that struck me most was how neat and trim everything was. Everything here looked perfect and vaguely like an architects impression if they had had such a thing back when it was built. Down in the grass area in front of the monument, a care taker was walking behind a large remote controlled grass mower which was quite bizarre to see.
When our turn came to enter the monument I had visions of having a slight panic attack like I did when I visited and went down into a pyramid in Egypt. Especially when the tour guide related tales of tourists becoming trapped or trying to run out and knocking their heads. But it was fine. It was only a slight distance into the central chamber.
The guide tried to recreate the solstice using artificial lights which was pretty cool to watch. Our 2 year old then proceeded to sit down in middle of chamber and have a poo in his nappy which kinda ruined to moment for most people!
He told us 29,000 people apply every year to become one of the 2 groups of 20 that can be in the chamber when the sun hits it. Some people travel thousands of miles to be there and see nothing but fog. I would love it however. The chance to witness something that couldn’t be captured on my phone, something that couldn’t be retold in pub, something that would make would look dismal being hashtagged, something you just had to be there and experience with your own eyes.
Kid friendly, budget conscious, bit of Irish history so if you are in the area, go visit Newgrange.