We arrived at the visitor's centre just after it opened and myself and Dafydd booked ourselves onto the tour of both Knowth and Newgrange. Karen decided to stay in the centre with Sophie, drinking coffee and talking to American tourists!
We walked over the bridge and caught the 9.15 bus to Knowth. There were only two other people on the bus – two friendly Americans.
The driver was very friendly and dropped us off near the entrance where we were met by a friendly guide – who was very good throughout our visit.
The wind was terrible. Dafydd had difficulty walking and I had to carry him most of the time.
It felt odd being here. Somewhere on my 'wish list' which I had seen and read so much about over the years. It all felt a little surreal, a bit like the Passage Tombs which reminded me of giant mushrooms!
I really liked this place; the decorated stones were everywhere and were fantastic. My favourite part of Knowth was the entrance opposite the 'entrance' you go in. (As an aside, I liked the way they have left the ditch open so you get an idea of scale – pity they never did this at Avebury). I really liked the two standing 'male' and 'female' stones along with the art work.
It is a shame you can only look up the grilled passage ways but the guide explained why this had to be so. She herself had been into the tomb proper and said it was not a great place to be – I am sure there are many reading this that would care to disagree!! She stated that this was the chamber Neil Oliver was filmed in during the recent Ancient Britain TV series. She also pointed to the spot where the funeral pyre was lit.
We walked up onto the top of the Tomb but the wind was now bordering on gale force and we didn't stay for long.
It was soon time to catch the bus back to the visitor centre to catch the bus to Newgrange!!
We were taken to Knowth first as part of our "Newgrange Experience" and although the site was amazing, the whole tour side of it was slightly disappointing. Our guide just seemed really, really bored, which I can appreciate when you have to give the same talk 6 times a day to groups of barely interested tourists.... Our group consisted of a large number of people who didn't really speak English, so the whole thing was just odd. However, I would've thought that having 2 excited, squealing women, who were obviously REALLY INTERESTED may have offered a bit of a challenge to him, but it wasn't to be.
I loved the whole layout of Knowth with the excavated satellite tombs exposed so we could have a good old nosey at them. I also liked the fact that they had made an effort with re-erecting the timber circle but I was more than a little hacked off at the extent of what we got to see inside the tomb.
I did like the exposed wall, showing the depth of the tomb and the layers of construction (I think I am turning into a bloke, I am becoming more fascinated by engineering and construction!!)
I tried to engage the guide in some conversation, hoping he would suddenly become animated and tell us lots of amazing things, but he didn't. Oh well, you can but try.
The carved kerb stones really were amazing to behold though.
It's a shame you can't get into the chamber at Knowth. The artificial room that tour parties are led into might as well be in the Visitor Centre.
The view from the top really gives you a sense of the place of this tomb within the landscape and I could spend hours looking at the rock-art on the displayed kerb-stones.
The later use of the site by Celts and Normans are also of interest, in particular the creep passage east of the main mound. Children of all ages (!) can crawl through it during the guided tours.
I've posted some images of kerbstones from the NW quadrant not previously posted. The references are (1) to the K numbering system used by the excavator George Eogan to number the kerbstones consecutively clockwise starting from the break in the NE (11 is at the E entrance and 74 at the W entrance) and (2) the quadrant (NW, NE, etc) numbering system used by Martin Brennan.
I've also posted some images of inside the smaller tombs taken in 1993 shortly after Knowth opened to the public and they had a more relaxed attitude to what you could see. These smaller tombs are not now open to the public.
Knowth inhabits a kind of half way point between the mysterious beauty of Dowth and the rampant commercialism of Newgrange. The reconstruction steers away from the flagrant conjecture of Newgrange, but is ill-considered enough to be annoying. For me the worst part is a green metal bridgeway over a couple of the kerbstones, totally unsympathetic. The reason for the bridge? Because people feel it neccessary to stand inside the monument, even if it is in a brand new chamber. Add to this the concrete support over the kerbstones and you start to get an idea of the damage that has been done to the site in order to make it tourist friendly. Access to the top of the mound is at present restricted, so it was funny to be asked by an American family one evening, on the road near Dowth, the way to 'the mound you can stand on'. That is what people think about these sites. Stand on it. Stand in it. Run around it. Anything but feel it!
The site still retains an amount of dignity however, and is a must. The kerbstones alone make it worth the visit - the carvings are the best I've seen yet. At Knowth our guide (sorry I don't know your name) was pretty good. She obviously loved the site, and at one point, out of earshot of the camcordering yanks turned to me and said "this place is just fucking amazing, isn't it!" I'd have to agree, but it could have been so much better.